Dental Phone Training: Is Your First Impression the Worst Impression?

Begin rant about enthusiasm and passion on the phones…

Today, I set out to find a new primary care physician. I found an office in our area that had relatively good reviews and had nice photos of their office and services on their website. Excellent!

Not so excellent…

I called the office, and a friendly-but-less-than-excited team member answered. I quickly discovered, from her interaction with me, that she was just going through the motions. Where was the excitement for a new, potentially long-term patient? The enthusiasm for a caller who had chosen their office from among literally hundreds of qualified medical professionals? The passion she had for serving her patients?

Excitement? Enthusiasm? Passion? Not there… at… all…

The smallest things affect the outcome of a call – whether it is a physician, dental office, or cable company customer service line. It wasn’t enough my new favorite receptionist (sarcasm…) was saying somewhat nice things… the sound of her voice was flat and reflected her disinterest. Studies show that “words” only account for 7% of communication; the other 93% includes things like tone and tonality, pacing, matching and mirroring, and other elements. This medical practice receptionist’s 93% was saying loudly that she just didn’t care. My three-year old son likes the Emoji movie where the main character’s emoji is supposed to be “Meh” all the time. Perhaps that is what she was going for?

Dental Phone Training: Is Your First Impression the Worst Impression?, All-Star Dental Academy

Doing better?

There are little subtleties in a phone call interaction that seem benign but really can either help or hinder a conversation. Here’s an example… I often hear dental team members (with whom I work quite a bit), when asked a question or a request, reply, “Sure.” For instance, a caller says, “Hi there, I want to know if you are accepting new patients to your office?” The staff member replies in a monotone voice, “Sure.” How does that make the caller feel… I am not “sure” if this is an office that is going to roll out the red carpet for me, let alone answer the phone when I call during office hours. They “sure” sound boring!

Treat them like Friends from the Start

I have heard quite a few calls where the team member sounds so disengaged and robotic with the patient until they find out they know the patient somehow. Perhaps the patient was referred by a friend or they know a mutual person. Then, when the caller and team member discover a familiarity, the staff member’s voice and inflection changes. It’s like someone turned the “happy light bulb” on inside and it’s like a different team member’s personality emerges. I point this out to team members often and say, what if we pretended that every new patient is a long lost friend or family member? How different would your call sound? Treat every person that you speak to with excitement and enthusiasm. We are in the service industry, so why not aim to make someone’s day better?

Be prepared

A great way to start the conversation is by being prepared, practicing how you answer the phone and consciously picking up the call ready to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the call. So many calls come into a dental office each day that team members can become complacent if they don’t stay aware of themselves. Now, instead of sounding “meh” and disinterested on the phone, we can sound happy.

Listen to Your Dental Office Phone Calls

Another great way you can improve how you sound on the phone is to listen to your own calls or listen to your team members calls. This doesn’t mean doing sneaky and demoralizing mystery calls. Instead, take a proactive approach to the calls by partnering with the team members and being transparent with them. Make it a common to practice new patient calls, role play, and listen to real calls with patients to gain more confidence and uncover areas that need improvement. This is how I improved my own calls!

Greet them on the Phone the Right Way

Now, let’s see how that call could go when using these tips and techniques: (friendly, energetic voice), “Thank you for calling Dr. Smith’s office! This is Heather! How may I help you?” Make sure you smile when you answer the phone. People CAN sense it! “Hi there, I want to know if you are accepting new patients to your office.” “Why yes we are! I am so happy to help you! Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?” “My name is Brenda.” “Well, hi Brenda! Let me be the first to welcome you to our practice!”

Now, do you see the vast difference here? It’s like night and day. In the first scenario (my calls to the physician’s office), the caller will likely feel unwelcome and unimportant. In the other scenario, where the team member (Heather) answers the call with energy and enthusiasm, it’s like a red carpet is rolled out. The caller will feel like they are staying at a 5-star bed and breakfast, or a loving family member’s home who has just welcomed them. This is an excellent first impression to make for your patients.

Upgrading your language

Some words such as “alright,” “ok,” “ummhmm, yeah, no problem,” and similar are what I call “lazy” language. They make you sound lazy and unexcited when you use them with patients. They also make you sound uncertain and lacking confidence, which will break trust with a patient very quickly.

I mean, if you work in the office and you don’t sound like you enjoy being there, why would a new patient want to come there?

I tell team members all the time that if you don’t believe in your dentist or what you do, that will come across to your patients. Therefore, think about positive words you can use. Try to upgrade your language to use phrases like, “my pleasure,” “yes,” “I am happy to,” “I would love to,” “I can help you,” etc. You will make a much better impression on potential new patients that call into the office.

Also, look into various books and audiotapes that teach conscious or positive language. Look around outside of dentistry and you will see other companies implementing positive language. Politics aside, Chik-fil-a is a good example. Whenever you ask them for something they always reply “my pleasure.” Now, granted, just saying “my pleasure” isn’t always enough. As you learned earlier, you have to say the words AND have the meaning and emotion behind them

And, in case I left you in suspense, I found a different office nearby that made me feel special and valued in our conversation, and have an appointment for next week.

Get more details on how All-Star Dental Academy’s Phone Success training program can supercharge your phones. Please register for our free educational webinar Dental Practice Excellence: 3 Steps to an All-Star Practice, or call our office at (844) 631.7575

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"The five-star reviews are rolling in and the phones are ringing off the hook!" - Dr. Jennifer Wayer

1. Get QUALITY patients without selling

2. Banish broken appointments

3. Reduce turnover by 25%

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