I think that it is safe to say that most people – especially dental patients and team members – have a less-than-ideal relationship with dental telephone scripts.
How many times have you called a company and the agent who answers sounds a bit off – maybe even robotic? Certainly not personable and friendly. Chances are good that agent is reading off of an “officially approved” call script. Unfortunately, you are less likely to get the quality of service you expect from that agent. And dentistry is not immune from the reasons you won’t get the service you expect from that call and that agent.
We’ll cover those reasons, and tell you about how to answer the phones more effectively.
Watch Alex Nottingham JD MBA and Heather Nottingham, VP of Training discuss using scripts when answering the phone:
The Allure of Dental Telephone Scripts
From the business owner’s perspective, it is easy to understand why scripts seem to be useful. You have the ability to manage what is said to the caller. You can “guarantee” that everyone who answers the phone says exactly the same thing, If you lack confidence in your team, then this would appear to be helpful.
This can appeal to a manager because it simplifies a thorny problem – how to ensure that the team is giving the best performance on the phone.
Unfortunately, the reality is that choosing to use scripts is a truly lazy way to overcome this challenge. It’s really just a short cut – because most managers don’t choose to invest in training the team to be effective on the phone.
No Silver Bullet
Despite appearances, working with callers is definitely NOT an easy thing. There may a person or two out there that has the innate ability to jump on the phones and convert callers to appointments. “Call conversion percentage” is the rate at which your team can book a patient appointment per inbound call.
For most of us, it is challenging and training-intensive to develop the skills needed to create a warm and friendly tone for the call, building up the value of the practice, and establishing a strong relationship with the potential new patient.
There are really no short cuts to developing those skills.
Top performing practices convert 75% of calls to appointments. But if you neglect that training for your front office team, you end up with the industry average of 45% call conversion. That 35% difference adds up to a tremendous amount of potential revenue being lost in the first phone call into the office.
So when it comes to training your front office team, ask yourself a timeless question first posed by the great college basketball coach John Wooden – if you don’t have time to do it (training) right, when will you have the time to do it again?
Why Dental Telephone Scripts Don’t Work
There are some simple reasons that scripts are not the most effective tool to use when working with callers. I’ll go over just a couple of them here.
The first reason is that 99% of people using a script sound scripted when they are speaking. That may seem obvious, but when was the last time you wanted to interact with someone who was just reading off a script? Call nearly any big company for an example of this. Their agents just don’t have the skills to sound like anything other than reading from a script. There just isn’t any personality, warmth, or friendliness (unless it is scripted friendliness!). Just a robot serving up what someone else wrote. I just can’t imagine that any patient would choose to speak with a robot over a human.
No room for Adapting to a Call
Another reason that scripts fail is that there is very little room for the front office team to react dynamically to the caller.
Most scripts are developed by some outside organization (we’ll come back to this in a moment), and they tend to be very strict about “sticking to the script.” But a big part of the role of the folks who pick up the phone is determining exactly what the patient needs (or as close as possible without an exam). This ensures that the practice is the right place for the patient – that their health needs will be met. But how can you act as a detective if you are not allowed to deviate from a script? Where is the conversation? Where is the back and forth that will help your team zero in on exactly what the patient needs? Scripts just don’t allow for that.
The last weakness of scripts is what I mentioned a moment ago – they are crafted by outsiders who know very little about you, your practice, and your patients.
How can you develop a script for people that you don’t even know? Well, they default to the basics and lean heavily on sales tactics to make the script work. This is dangerous to the patient experience!
What to use Instead of Dental Telephone Scripts
The antidote to relying on scripts is training.
Train your front office team in the skills needed to work effectively with everyone who calls into the practice. Teach the team the tools to set the right tone when answering a call, and how to establish a warm and friendly relationship with the potential new patient.
Choose to train your team in “verbiage.” Verbiage is simply the vocabulary and process that will enable the front office team to be most effective with callers. All-Star’s Training Program gives you verbiage to use in just about every situation, but the suggestions are not scripted. Instead, we encourage the team to take the suggestion and tweak it so that it is unique to your practice and comfortable for the team to use.
We also know that using a system to support the team in their work is more effective than just a script. All-Star developed The GREAT Call(R) Process to provide that support. Just like a recipe for booking a new patient appointment, the GREAT Call (R) Process steps the team trough each interaction with a caller and helps them establish a relationship with the caller. This rapport – the warm and trusting relationship – is the foundation for every single aspect of the patient experience, so don’t ignore it!
I can imagine that a business manager that doesn’t trust the front office team would feel really nervous about transitioning away from using scripts. But the payoff of training your team is massive.
First, ask yourself what your end goal is for your dental practice? What does success look like? Once you know the answers to those questions, you can begin to develop a process to get there.
Focus on a systematic approach to working with callers, and emphasize the concept of verbiage – language that you customize for your practice – over scripted responses.
Finally, work hard to create a culture of excellence in your practice, and realize that a commitment to training is a critical component of that excellence.
Dental office phone training can prove an effective means of enhancing the patient experience and directly affect patient satisfaction without relying on dental telephone scripts. Provide your front office staff with the necessary training and ensure that they are contributing as much as they can to the success of the practice. For more details on our training program, please register for our free educational webinar “Dental Practice Excellence: 3 Steps to an All-Star Practice,” or call our office at (866) 280-1343.
Heather is also an accomplished writer in the world of dentistry, having her articles, press releases, and blogs featured in various publications including Dental Practice Management, Dentistry Today, The Progressive Dentist Magazine, Dentistry IQ, and more.