Here’s the common scenario: It’s the usual busy day in the dental practice. The phone is ringing. Patients are flowing in and things are moving along smoothly. Sure there’s a cancellation or two, maybe an emergency, etc. As the doctor passes the front desk, she hears Linda, the Business Assistant, wrapping up a conversation. “No, I’m sorry, we don’t.” We don’t what? What don’t we do that someone wants to know about? The doctor makes a mental note to follow-up with Linda. She’s overheard her give similar replies in the past, and meant to ask her about it before. This time she will.
Here’s what the doctor didn’t hear:
Linda: “Good morning, Dr. Stanton’s office, Linda speaking.”
Caller: Hello Linda, my name is Carolyn S. I was just calling to find out if the doctor is accepting new patients.
Linda: Yes, she is, although the schedule is pretty full right now. Without even realizing it, Linda is sending a message to this prospective patient that she might not be welcome in the practice. It’s already a busy place and Linda doesn’t know how the office is keeping up with the patients it has, let alone encouraging any new patients to join. That comes through loud and clear to the caller.
Caller: Do you offer any Friday evening appointments?
Linda: No, I’m sorry, we don’t.
(silence) The caller waits for another option from Linda, but none is offered.
Caller: Ok, thank you. Click.
To Linda, this is just a routine inquiry – nothing special, and she doesn’t think much about it. After all, there’s no established protocol. She’s just answering questions as they come in.
No, the practice doesn’t offer Friday night appointments, but perhaps the practice offers Wednesday evening appointments or Saturday morning appointments. Or perhaps the practice sees new patients at a specific time of day, so that the doctor can spend quality time with the patient and is less likely to be interrupted with emergencies or oral hygiene exams. But Linda makes no effort to offer possible alternatives or to educate the patient on the options and why they would be worth considering. She simply answers the questions the prospective patient asks and feels she’s done her job.
How many new patients are lost every month because your business employees are handling new patient calls as routine inquiries rather than potential sales opportunities? If ever there were a perfect occasion to sell the practice and the services offered, it’s when the prospective new patient calls your office. They are interested, ready, and willing to learn more.
However, dental teams routinely underestimate the value of phone inquiries from potential new patients and doctors are paying mightily for it. The prospective patient wants to schedule an appointment but is told they’ll have to wait three, four, six weeks/months to get in. Forget it. You’ve lost them. The prospective patient calls and they want to learn more about your practice from your website but you don’t have one. It’s likely you won’t have that particular patient either. More and more patients want to learn about you via the Internet before they commit to a relationship with your practice. Today, word of “mouse” is as important as word of mouth.
The prospective patient calls and asks for information on a specific procedure, such as implants or veneers, as well as information on the office in general. The Business Assistant plans to fulfill the request later on when she’s not so busy, but that not-so-busy time never arrives. The potential patient moves on to another practice.
The doctor, meanwhile, is none the wiser but all the poorer.
Next week, keep practice growth from tripping over your frontline.
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