In a dental practice the reception is where all the important first impressions are made. Every phone call could be a potential new patient. Every new patient could become a life-long patient. Every regular patient can tell his or her friends about you.
Why is it then, if the reception is so important, do we see, in the majority, a reception area that is jammed with patients, has two or three at the desk waiting to be checked in or out and the phone ringing?
Even an experienced receptionist cannot handle all this at once!
A well-handled phone call can be worth an awful lot in terms of potential income to the practice. Not just in what the individual client may spend over the years, but also in how many other new patients they may bring in. A good first impression is vital.
Perhaps consider having the telephone in an office, away from the front desk? If you are going to have great telephone conversations, you need to be able to concentrate and not have a patient at the desk glaring at you.
If this is not possible due to space or cost restrictions, take callers’numbers and ask when is the best time to call them back. Then call them back from a phone in a private, quiet area.
The following example shows what a good, focused telephone conversation by a person with brilliant communication skills can do:
Amy: Hello, this is Smiles The Limit Dental Practice, my name is Amy, how can I help you?
Mike: Hello, yes, I wonder if you can tell me how much an implant would cost?
Amy: The costs will vary depending on each patient’s requirements, everything we do is bespoke to each patient, but they start at around £2,500 for a single tooth. May I ask, is the treatment for you?
Mike: Yes. I lost a tooth recently and my wife says I need to get the gap sorted.
Amy: Oh, I see! What made you think about having an implant?
Mike: I Googled tooth replacement treatment and found loads of stuff about them. Seemed like a good idea.
Amy: Yes, implants are very effective at making your smile look completely natural. How did you hear about our practice?
Mike: Again, Google. You were the closest practice to my home that said you offered implants.
Amy: Thanks, it’s good to know our website is working. How near to us do you live?
Mike: About 2 miles away, in Boscombe.
Amy: Great! That makes it easy for you. For us to be able to tell you if we can help or not, we’d obviously need to have a look in your mouth and take some x-rays. When would be the best time for you to come and see us?
Mike: Any Thursday is good for me, as I work from home on Thursdays. How much will the appointment cost?
Amy: Well, I can offer you two options.
Option 1 is to have a 20-minute free appointment with one of our team.
This would involve a detailed conversation about what you want to achieve and give you a chance to meet the team, see the practice and find out what other options may be open to you.
Option 2 is for a 1 hour appointment and includes the same detailed conversation with one of our team, a full clinical diagnosis with one of our dentists, any x-rays that may be needed and a full, written treatment plan showing all your treatment options and costs.
That appointment costs £150.00.Which one would be best for you?
Mike: I think I’d better go for the second one. At least my wife will see that I am actually getting something sorted.
Amy: Probably a very good thing! What time of day would be best, morning or afternoon?
Mike: Either is fine with me.
Amy: OK. The next appointment we have available on a Thursday is next week at 2 o’ clock. How does that sound?
Mike: Yes, that’s perfect, thanks.
Amy: Great, I’ll book that in for you. We usually send our patients an email or text to remind them of the appointment 24 hours before, which one would you prefer?
Mike: Oh, a text would be great. My mobile number is: 07790 484477
Amy: Thanks for that, Mike.
I’d also like to send you out our welcome pack and some details of the practice, what’s your full name, and the best address to send it to?
Mike: My name is Mike Brown and my home address is: 17, Ravenhead Drive, Boscombe, BH5 2RS
Amy: Thank you. That’s all booked for 2 o’clock on Thursday 15th. I’ll send out a confirmation, along with our welcome pack and we look forward to meeting you then.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call.
Mike: Thank you, you’ve been really helpful. See you next week.
Amy, in this interaction has been superb. She has found out where the patient heard about the practice, so she knows the website has worked.
She has Mike’s name, home address and a mobile number, so follow ups can be made easily and she has got a little bit of personal information that can help start a more detailed conversation when he comes into the practice – he’s lost a tooth, his wife is pushing him to get it fixed and he is interested in implants.
What more do you need from a receptionist?
This, as I have said before, takes skill and practice. Like any skill, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
All Amy has done is listen carefully, respond in relation to the client’s questions or answers and behaved in a polite and professional manner. Anyone with a positive attitude toward customer service and a little confidence can do this.
Grab one of your colleagues or friends and role-play the above, as if you were in a play reading a script. You’ll get a feel for how it flows, naturally, and how little time it actually takes.