Despite the digital advancements of email, websites and social media, the importance of phone calls remains. When first contacting a dental office, our data shows nearly 75% of patients would prefer doing so by phone. Therefore, you must make sure you take advantage by making the best first impression you can during that call. With this knowledge, it is obvious you must choose the right staff members to be answering the phones. They must be friendly, personable and be trained thoroughly so they impress your potential patients. In fact, 64% of patients agree friendliness and tone of staff on a first call is the main factor in deciding whether to move forward with a practice or not.
However, what might not be as obvious regarding the initial phone call to a practice is the importance of having a prompt and personal response as opposed to an automated one. We have all experienced the frustration of making a call and being met with an automated response menu that forces us to choose from a list of set options, oftentimes with no options that perfectly fit our purpose for calling. This could lead to irritation and the patient eventually terminating the call before ever reaching an actual staff member to speak with. With the busy lives that so many of your patients lead while balancing work, family and other duties, they do not have the time to sit through a list of options when they simply have a few questions or wish to book an appointment. This is shown in our data when approximately 50% of patients responded saying a non-automated response was a factor in their decision on looking further into a practice or not.
With this in mind, it is crucial to have someone at your front desk to not only greet the patients that visit your practice, but also to be answering the phones. In a lot of cases, and especially for larger practices, you may want to train multiple staff members to ensure someone is always available to attend to your phones, along with your in-office patients. This will help ensure no potential or existing patients are being discouraged from your practice when they call. Therefore, no income will be lost—only gained.
As we have established in previous Data Driven Dentistry articles, trust is extremely important for patients when choosing a dentist. It is hard to build a trusting relationship when you are not able to speak with an actual person but are met instead with an automated, non-personal response. Patients want to get to know the staff at your practice so they can judge whether your office will be a good fit for them. The purpose of communicating by phone rather than email is to have the personal connection with another person and to have an instant response, so why take that away from the initial phone call to your practice?
As seen in the print issue of Oral Health April 2020
*In late October and early November, 2019, Bramm Research, a third-party independent research consulting firm, conducted an online survey on behalf of Oral Health. Based on a sample of 1,000, the margin of error is +/- 3.2%.