Optimizing Phone Conversations to Book More Patients
In the competitive world of dentistry, it’s crucial for your team to be skilled in effective phone communication. How your team talks on the phone can greatly impact your dental practice’s success.
In our recent webinar, we discussed essential steps to improve your phone conversations, specifically tailored for the dental field.
Step 1 - Start with a Warm Welcome
When it comes to answering phone calls at a dental practice, it’s essential to recognize the significance of the initial impression you make. The way you greet patients can significantly impact their perception of your practice. Therefore, follow these key principles to ensure a warm and effective phone interaction.
Begin by extending a warm welcome that conveys friendliness and professionalism. This can be achieved by offering a pleasant greeting, such as “good morning” or “good afternoon,” immediately followed by stating the name of your dental practice, thereby confirming to the patient that they have indeed reached the right destination.
Furthermore, it’s equally crucial to introduce yourself by sharing your name, which adds a personal touch to the conversation. This introduction not only humanizes the interaction but also allows the patient to address you by name, making the conversation more engaging and personable.
Initiating the conversation, instead of leaving it entirely up to the caller, is another important aspect to consider. By doing so, you ease any potential discomfort the patient might feel and create a more welcoming atmosphere for them to express their needs or concerns.
Additionally, remember the power of maintaining a friendly and warm tone throughout the conversation. Smiling while speaking, even if the patient can’t see it, can convey a sense of warmth and professionalism. This simple action can help build trust and rapport with the patient.
Lastly, avoid using gimmicky or condescending phrases in your greeting, as these can come across as insincere or even off-putting. Stick to clear and effective openings, such as “this is ABC Dental,” which provide all the necessary information without any unnecessary embellishments.
Step 2 - Shift the Power
Shifting the power during phone conversations is a vital aspect of ensuring effective communication, especially in the context of a dental practice. It involves taking control of the conversation without overwhelming the patient. When you leave the patient to ask all the questions, it can make them feel like they’re carrying the weight of the conversation, which is far from an ideal scenario.
Consider a typical situation where a patient inquires about a dental service, like dental implants. They might ask something like “Do you guys do dental implants?” In some instances, the receptionist may respond with a curt “Yes, we do,” leaving the patient to figure out what to say next. This approach often leads to misunderstandings. It’s important to realize that when someone asks about the cost, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re just price shopping. More often, it’s because they don’t know how else to initiate the conversation.
Now, let’s delve into the psychology behind these interactions. If a receptionist responds with a simple “Yes, we do” and leaves it at that, the caller might perceive it as dismissive or uninterested. This is one of the primary reasons dental practices believe that potential patients are merely price shopping, not genuinely interested in their services.
In reality, patients seek answers to various questions, but the cost inquiry is a common starting point because it feels safe and straightforward. However, what follows next is crucial. If the receptionist immediately assumes that the patient is not serious or feels irritated, it can negatively impact the conversation. The receptionist’s tone may change, and they might hurry through the interaction, leaving the patient unsatisfied and less likely to choose their practice.
Alternatively, some receptionists might insist on an in-person consultation before providing any cost information. While this approach is intended to ensure a thorough evaluation, it can come across as a barrier to potential patients. The patient might interpret it as an unwillingness to provide straightforward answers or an attempt to delay the process.
So, how can the power dynamic in these conversations be shifted to create a more positive experience? It’s surprisingly simple yet highly effective. Instead of instantly diving into cost details, the receptionist can acknowledge the cost question and gently say, “Can I ask you some questions so I can better assist you?” This simple phrase signals to the patient that their inquiry is taken seriously, and it shifts the responsibility of guiding the conversation onto the receptionist’s shoulders.
By asking a few relevant questions, the receptionist can better understand the patient’s specific needs and concerns. For example, if a patient inquires about dental implants, the receptionist can ask about their dental history, the reason for their interest in implants, and whether they’re already a patient at the practice. These questions not only provide valuable information but also show the patient that the receptionist is genuinely interested in helping them.
Step 3 - Use Effective Discovery Questions
The concept of “Discovery questions” in phone conversations involves asking specific questions to understand the patient’s situation and needs better. These questions go beyond basic information and help receptionists tailor their responses effectively. While some common questions like patient status and contact information are important, “Discovery questions” aim to uncover unique details about the patient.
Examples of effective “Discovery questions” include asking about the patient’s recent dental history, whether they are experiencing pain, if they have specific treatment preferences, and how long they’ve been considering treatment options. Additionally, inquiring if the patient has contacted other dental practices and what those practices told them can provide valuable insights.
Furthermore, questions like, “Do you need this for something special?” can help receptionists connect with the patient on a personal level and understand the urgency or motivation behind their inquiry.
“Discovery questions” in dental phone conversations are designed to gather essential information about the patient’s situation and motivations, enabling receptionists to provide more personalized and effective assistance. These questions enhance the overall patient experience and improve the chances of converting inquiries into appointments.
Step 4 - Build Rapport
Building rapport with patients over the phone is essential to create a positive connection and make them feel valued and cared for. When patients feel comfortable, they are more likely to trust your dental practice and follow through with appointments. Here are some tips on how to build rapport effectively during phone conversations:
- Show empathy: Patients often call with dental issues, pain, or anxiety. Express sympathy and understanding for their situation. A simple “I’m sorry to hear that” or “I understand how you feel” can go a long way in showing empathy.
- Acknowledge anxiety: Dental anxiety is common, so let patients know it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous. Reassure them that your team is experienced in handling anxious patients and that their comfort is a priority.
- Personalize the conversation: Ask open-ended questions about their situation or interests. For example, inquire about their family, kids, or any special events like weddings. Showing genuine interest in their lives helps create a more personal connection.
- Be patient-friendly: If a patient has to reschedule due to a family emergency or similar situations, be understanding and accommodating. Offer alternatives and make the process as smooth as possible.
- Laugh and engage: If patients crack jokes or use humor to cope with their anxiety, don’t ignore it. Laughing and acknowledging their humor can help ease tension and make the conversation more pleasant.
- Compliment and congratulate: Celebrate special occasions or milestones mentioned by the patient, such as weddings or anniversaries. Offer genuine compliments and congratulations to make them feel valued.
Overall, building rapport is about making patients feel heard, understood, and respected. It fosters trust and enhances the patient experience, increasing the likelihood of successful conversions and long-term patient relationships.
Step 5 - Promote the Practice
Promoting your dental practice during phone conversations is an effective way to attract and retain patients. Here are some strategies to incorporate into your conversations to highlight the positive aspects of your practice:
- Mention Amenities: Bring attention to any special amenities your practice offers. For instance, mention that you have Wi-Fi in the waiting room, a toy box for kids, or free parking. These amenities can make the patient’s visit more comfortable and appealing.
- Highlight Expertise: If you have experienced dentists or specialists on your team, emphasize their expertise and years of experience. For example, you can say, “Our dentist, Dr. XYZ, has over 20 years of experience, so you’re in capable hands.” This reassures patients about the quality of care they can expect.
- Comfort and Care: Reiterate your commitment to patient comfort and care. Mention that your hygienists are known for being gentle and ensuring patients’ comfort. While all dental professionals prioritize patient comfort, stating it explicitly reassures patients.
- Family-Friendly: If your practice is family-friendly, let patients know. For example, mention that you have a dentist who is excellent with children and even has a toy box. Parents will appreciate this information, making them more likely to choose your practice for their family’s dental needs.
- Flexible Hours: If you offer extended hours or weekend appointments to accommodate busy schedules, communicate this to patients. Saying, “We know people are busy, so we stay open late on Thursdays. Does that work for you?” can be very appealing.
- Pre-Appointment Information: Before ending the call, provide essential pre-appointment information. Confirm the appointment date and time, mention that a confirmation email and text will be sent (with a link to a new patient information form if applicable), and provide your practice’s address. Highlight any unique landmarks that make your location easy to find.
- Duration of Appointment: Provide an estimate of how long the appointment is expected to take. This gives patients a clear idea of what to expect and helps them plan their schedules accordingly.
By incorporating these elements into your conversations, you not only promote your practice effectively but also create a positive and reassuring experience for patients. Patients are more likely to choose and stick with a practice that goes the extra mile to make them feel comfortable and valued.
Remember that people typically call a dental practice because they are in pain, anxious, or in need of dental care, not for fun. Being empathetic, professional, and promoting the benefits of your practice can make a significant difference in the patient’s decision to choose your practice for their dental needs.