A fresh look at the difficult new patient phone call

March 7, 2012
Kerri Ingwersen offers a solution, including sample conversations, for those patients who try to shop around for their complex care. It all starts with that first difficult new patient phone call.

By Kerri Ingwersen

Have you had potential new patients call your office and ask about your fee for implant services? Some people must think dentists and their staff can diagnose and treatment plan over the phone. Or, perhaps more likely, they think dental treatment is a commodity that can be shopped around for.

How does your team handle this situation? Your office team must successfully turn a new patient phone call into an actual appointment with you. Your first line of contact with potential patients is a key factor in their decision to make an appointment. Who answers the phone in your practice? Make sure it is someone who understands the importance of making the person on the phone feel valuable. Train your team to always answer with a smile; the person on the other end can tell.

So your team member answers the phone with a pleasant greeting. What if the first words out of the potential patient’s mouth are a request for fees? Your team member must regain control of the conversation. Here’s how ...

I would love to help you obtain the information you need; may I ask with whom I am speaking?

Now we have a name. Great start! The team member reintroduces herself and gathers some patient information ...

Mr. Jones, thank you for calling our office. My name is Kerri, and I am happy to help you. I want to give you an accurate answer so I just have a couple of quick questions. When was the last time you went to a dentist?

The team member has started a dialogue and should be engaged in the conversation, listen, and take notes. Why does the caller think he needs an implant? How did he learn about your office? It helps to have a call sheet for new patients so the conversation can also stay on target with regard to information you need. Your team member should connect with the person and empathize.

Mr. Jones, I am sorry you feel that you need a lot of work, and I agree with you, dental work is expensive. May I make a suggestion? I would like to make an appointment for you to come in to meet Dr. Root. The visit would be an information-gathering appointment. I do not want you to feel overwhelmed with the work you need. Meet with the doctor and we can review what you need and together we can make a road map of your treatment. It does not need to overwhelm you; we are here to help. Once we get this road map for your mouth, we can go over the fees and make the financial arrangements in your investment that you are comfortable with.

The question for your office is whether there is going to be a fee for this appointment. Consider that if you charge, you may lose the patient. A policy decision must be made on this point. What is best for the practice? What will retain the patient? Will a free consultation and examination be adequate? Perhaps you may charge for the radiographs with the fees being applied to future treatments? Never be afraid to experiment and discover the policies that will work for your practice. If something doesn’t work, change it.

Whether the patient has committed to a comprehensive exam or just a consultation, he will have an opportunity to meet the dentist in person and fall in love with your practice.

Mr. Jones, I have reserved two o’clock on Tuesday, January 8th, for you. I will send you information about our office and our new patient forms to complete. I look forward to meeting you on the 8th, and if you have any questions prior to your appointment, please call. Again, my name is Kerri and I am always here to help you.

Author bio
Kerri Ingwersen has been in the dental field for more than 15 years focusing on management and case presentation. She obtained her bachelor's from Western New England College and is currently studying for her master's degree. She is an active member of the AADOM (American Association of Dental Office Managers) and is a CareCredit trainer on Long Island. She can be reached at [email protected].