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How Your Front Desk Can Convert More New Patients

March 2018
Marketing New Patients/Treatment Acceptance

If you’re not as busy as you want to be, your knee-jerk reaction may be to ramp up your marketing efforts, or managed care participation. In many cases, that proves to be a costly mistake. Before spending any more marketing dollars, first determine how effective your front desk is in converting potential new patient calls into exams, and invest in training to dramatically improve the results.

Our recent doctor survey revealed that only 5% of dental practices across the country are operating at full (100%) capacity. Doctors that aren’t as busy as they wish will normally boost the time, energy, and money spent on marketing, or worse yet, sign up for increased managed care participation, in order to get the phone ringing with prospective new patients calls. While that’s the right solution for some practices, it’s treating the symptom, not the problem, for many others. That’s because while the phone may be ringing “off the hook” with potential new patient calls, their front desk is flunking the sales process of converting those calls into actual new patients. 

Tracking New Patient Calls

This area is the “last frontier” of practice building, largely because doctors are consumed by their clinical activities and have little idea of what’s going on at their front desk. Good practice management requires that you track your practice’s vital statistics on a regular basis. 

Unfortunately, most doctors are “in the dark” about their front desk performance as only 5% track the number of new patient calls coming into their office each month. Thus, the first step in improving your front desk performance is to begin tracking the number of new patient calls. Once this is accomplished, you can compare the new patient calls to the new patient exams each month. Your practice’s goal should be to convert at least 85% (and preferably 90%) of those calls into new patient exams that are actually scheduled and completed. If your practice is below that level, it’s likely costing you thousands of dollars annually in lost profits, so it’s time to take action! 

Recording the Calls 

Do you know how your phones are being answered? There’s no way to “inspect what you expect” unless you begin consistently recording all incoming phone calls, and then reviewing them on a regular basis. But isn’t recording calls illegal? 

No, not if done properly. When was the last time you called customer service at a large corporation and did not hear: “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes?” As long as you provide notice that the call is being recorded, and the patient provides implied consent by not hanging up, you’re good to go. 

You can buy the necessary equipment to record the calls on your own, begin reviewing them on a regular basis, and training your staff yourself. One of our clients, Dr. Alan Curtis, an orthodontist in Tempe, Arizona, did so and achieved outstanding results. You can learn how to do it by reading our online-only article this month. 

For orthodontists, there’s another option. OrthoYES* is a fine consulting firm teaching orthodontic teams the necessary business skills of case acceptance. Their services include the off-site recording of incoming calls into your office, saving doctors the time, money, and hassle involved in buying and installing the equipment necessary to record the calls. 

Analyzing the Results 

Many doctors are shocked at what they hear when they begin reviewing the calls. Front desk staffers whom they thought had excellent customer service skills were, in fact, short and sometimes rude to prospective patients. Doctors are typically overwhelmed by the amount of negativity, as front desk staffers just keep saying “no” to patient requests. In other cases, staffers asked potential patients so many questions it sounds like a police interrogation. As a result, the patient is turned off and never bothers to visit the practice. 

Training for Improvement 

Knowing these disastrous results isn’t good enough, says Amy Demas, who has joined Landy Chase as Director of Front Desk Training at OrthoYES. She’s encountered 3 major front desk problems in her work. First, most staffers have never received proper training on the business fundamentals of customer service and phone skills, and don’t understand the reasons behind them. Furthermore, most front desk staffers don’t know how to determine who the decision-makers involved in case acceptance are, and how to properly invite them to attend the new patient consultation. Finally, most doctors do not know how to provide proper feedback and coaching to front desk staff. Demas notes that their well-intentioned efforts often backfire, decreasing staff morale and further damaging performance. 

Getting Results

Training the staff requires teaching them the importance of improved language and customer service skills so that they will actually implement what they learn, says Demas. This leads to improved confidence and self-esteem for the staff, which translates into higher conversion rates of calls into exams. Getting more new patients through the door, and getting them to accept needed treatment, can result in thousands of dollars in increased profits to your practice annually! 

* OrthoYES, formally Yes to Treatment, specializes exclusively in improving conversion rates by providing business skills to front desk staff, treatment coordinators, and doctors. For more information visit www.orthoyes.com, or call 800.370.8026.


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