If you want to be inundated by new patients, advertising free exams and x-rays will bring folks flocking, but be careful what you wish for. My experience indicates that among the unfamiliar names on your schedule, many won’t show up, and the majority of those who do will not be interested in quality care. They’re just looking for a deal. A steady flow of individuals who keep appointments, accept and value treatment, pay promptly, and refer enthusiastically comprise the lifeblood of thriving dental practices. Let’s consider how to maximize the occurrence of this blessed event.
In the rural Iowa practice where I’ve whiled away 40 blissful years whittling on teeth, most referrals are word-of-mouth and none please me more than those coming from a patient our entire staff enjoys. Your primary source of advertisement may be your website, direct mailers, newspaper ads, radio spots, or television commercials. Whatever actuates an initial response, for weal or woe, a relationship begins when your practice receives that call. Maintaining a commitment to excellence at this critical moment of contact is paramount.
I usually worked with an associate, sometimes two, and a team of six to 10 (varying by how many dentists and hygienists we employed). Based on the sheer number of people involved, inconsistency was a constant concern. However, even in an office where only one person answers the phone, reliability is far from a given. A call could come to an already-exhausted front desk person while three people in the reception area impatiently tap their toes and glance at their watches. Unless the person taking the call knows exactly how to proceed (and can summon help or is astute enough to return the call at a more propitious time), this critical opportunity may not be handled ideally. Consistent quality in every venue is made possible by a clearly defined and wholly understood system. Our new patient call slip is a great example.
First, we record the date the call is received—I insist every new patient be seen within two weeks. Using a block appointment system, we reserve one 40-minute interval per day for exams. When our wait time passes a fortnight, we allocate more preblocked slots.
We documentwho took the call as consistency in contact is vital to establishing meaningful rapport. (Staff always offer their names when answering the phone, as one speaks to a person rather than an office. Not “This is Dr. Wilde’s office,” but “Good morning. This is Carol from Dr. Wilde’s office. Can I help you?”)
The patient’s name is spelled correctly and phonetically. We also ask how she prefers to be addressed. Nothing sounds sweeter than one’s name unless it’s mispronounced. (Mine is “wild,” not “wild-ee.” Most people can handle “John.”)
We ask whorecommended usand record that name on our call slip and a second time on a separate list of people who referred. Carol will then mail a handwritten thank-you note, sugarless hard candies (which are delicious and enhance oral…