The All Important New Patient Telephone Call
How do you know if you like someone you meet at a party? My experience has been that I can determine within the first five minutes if I “like or don’t like” someone after an exchange of a few words. It is the same with potential new patients calling your office. Your business team answering the phone has to make an instant connection with the caller to increase the probability of the new patient keeping their appointment.
Have you ever found yourself either in a new town or in need of care from a different doctor? You make the phone call, the office asks about your insurance benefits, they give you an appointment and hang up. Did you feel that you established a “relationship” with this office during that call? My guess is no.
Why is establishing a relationship so important? First, as I mentioned above, people determine early on in a conversation whether they like you or not. Your business team is an extension of you, your personality and the atmosphere of your practice.
Second, a potential patient is much more likely to extend the courtesy of calling to cancel their appointment should they have a conflict, as opposed to simply not showing up, if there is a relationship established during that initial call. If the patient liked your front office team member when they called for the appointment, they will now feel obligated to reach out again regarding the change. Would you really care whether or not you called if the person you spoke to was not interested in you as a person? Probably not…why should you? If they treat you like a number, they probably have plenty of patients and you don’t really matter.
How should you establish a relationship? Below are some very important points that I would encourage your business team to incorporate into their new patient call script. Implement a “New Patient Telephone Form” to help establish a call routine and avoid forgetting to ask or give valuable information to make the visit more pleasurable.
• Answer the phone by thanking the caller for taking the time to call YOUR office, opposed to another office in the area. Remember, they have more than one option!
• Always introduce yourself. Example: “Thank you for calling Jones Street Dentistry – Dr. Brown’s office. This is Nancy. How may I help you today?” Don’t forget to smile when you are on the phone. The caller can “hear” your smile.
• Ask for the caller’s name if they do not offer it initially so you can refer to them by name throughout the 5-minute conversation.
• After the introduction, ask the caller how they heard about your office. Not only is it vital to the marketing of the practice, but it also assists in creating rapport with the caller based on their referral source. Example: “I just moved here from Florida and a co-worker gave me one of your cards.” Your response might be something like: “Mrs. Jones, how nice to have you here in our beautiful town/city. We appreciate your co-worker recommending us. We value all of our patients and their referred friends.”
Business team members, say it like you mean it, because you should! Dental offices across the country are scrambling for new patients. Every time that phone rings, you should be happy. If you want to see your dentist concerned, watch what happens when the phones stop ringing.
Continue your conversation with the caller by asking about their “chief complaint.” Obtain information for contacting them (home, work, cell, email). If you don’t need their address, avoid asking this question. It is important that the call lasts around 5 minutes, so don’t ask questions you don’t need the answer to. If you distinguish the length of time for the initial appointment by age, then ask the age of the patient. If you need if for insurance eligibility, ask permission to check the patient’s eligibility as a courtesy to them.
Please remember to save all the insurance questions for later in the conversation. Avoid implying that your primary concern is what kind of insurance they have. You may argue that your office doesn’t take HMOs, and you don’t want to spend 3 minutes establishing rapport only to discover they only have HMO benefits. But in this situation, all is not lost. You made a friend and you never know who they know!
Conclude the call by inviting the caller to visit the practice website for directions, new patient information and forms, and to learn more about the practice. The website should have current photos of the doctor and team, as well as other “inviting” photos of the practice without clutter, handpieces and other “scary” items. Make sure that the call is friendly, inviting, informative and welcoming, and thank them for choosing your office!
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