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5 Phone Habits to Increase New Patient Yield

5 Phone Habits to Increase New Patient Yield
Dr. Christopher Phelps

Improving staff phone habits can dramatically increase your new patient yield. Here’s where to start.


How do you get new patients in the door? You may try to attract them with ads and outreach, or with an excellent website. However, if prospective patients can’t book an appointment quickly and easily, you’ll never see them in the office. For many people who haven’t been to the dentist in a while, making an appointment is a spur-of-the-moment decision. If you don’t book them on the first phone call, their resolve will fade and you’ll never get them into the chair.  Here are five phone habits that your staff needs to increase your new patient yield.


1. Avoid putting new patients on hold. Industry sources have found that 15% people hang up after 40 seconds of hold time. These are most likely to be the people least invested in making an appointment- new patients. If you get a new patient call, give them priority, and get them booked for an appointment.


2. Avoid transfers. Make sure your front-line staff can handle a new patient call from start to finish without pauses or hand-offs. You have a limited amount of time to persuade a new patient that it’s time to get treatment. Otherwise, he may decide the scheduling process is too much of a hassle, hang up, and forget about you until he has an abscess and can’t bear the pain any longer. Getting him in sooner is better for his oral health.

3. Encourage staff to be friendly, but on task. You want your phone staff to be friendly, so that new patients see that your office is not an intimidating place. However, if they get too chatty, they’ll lose focus. Roleplay friendly-but-focused scheduling conversations with distracted, rambling patients. That way, your staff will be in practice when these situations crop up.


4. If you have an in-house savings plan, offer it. You’ll get a number of new patient calls from people unsure about the cost and who lack standard dental insurance. If you have an in-house savings plan, give them a run-down. They’ll be more likely to book an appointment if they know they can afford it.


5. Offer, don’t ask. Don’t ask the new patient if he’d like to book an appointment. That gives him a chance to hesitate, hang up, and forget about treatment until he’s in serious pain. Instead, offer him a choice of appointments: “Would you prefer Monday at 10 am, or Wednesday at 6pm?” Even if he’d prefer a third option, the phrasing gets him thinking about when he’ll be in, not if he’ll be in.



Remember, even in the internet era, the phone is still one of the main ways for new patients to contact you. Your staff needs to develop the habits that take new patients from the call to the appointment. If you need more insight into where you’re failing with new patient calls, my Call Tracker ROI service can help you pinpoint weaknesses and train your staff to book more new patients.



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  • Chris Barnard

    Great points, way too many (potential) new patients are lost on their first phone call. It’s ridiculous, and dentists should take some time to record & review how their incoming calls are handled.

    What are your thoughts on callers asking for prices?

    How do you recommend dealing with those financial questions when pushed beyond the pat answer of “there is no way of knowing without an exam.” (or some derivative thereof)

    • Christopher Phelps

      Great question Chris! In my opinion, and from tracking 1000’s of “price shopper” questions for clients all over the US, I recommend a strategy that should allow your team to convert 2/3 of these callers into appointments.
      1. The first line of defense is that you try to NOT quote them any fees over the telephone. “Well Mr. X, we can’t really know for sure what the fee for that would be b/c we are not really sure that’s what you need or to what extent. Tell you what we can do, let’s schedule you to come in, and we’ll take a complimentary X-ray and it won’t cost you anything to talk with the Dr. about what your specific needs are. We’ll review all your options and relative fees so you know exactly what you are getting into before you do anything?” Then we attempt to set up the appointment. Believe or not, offering the free x-ray and exam gets them to schedule in about 1/3 of the cases. This is the ONLY time I offer a free x-ray and exam by the Dr. b/c for these people, price is an issue in their mind and their is no way of convincing them otherwise on the telephone. You don’t have enough time to do that.
      2. For those patients that keep pressing your for a fee. “No seriously, how much is your extraction cost?” We offer these patients our “Starting At” price ONLY. So take your lowest cost option in the category of what they are asking about and give that to them. “Well, our extractions cost $75 and go up from there, depending on the type of tooth, difficulty in extraction, etc. To help, we can offer you an complimentary x-ray and exam by the Dr. so you’ll know what your specific options are and pricing.” Then we attempt to make them an appointment. The $75 in this case is our Pedo Tooth Extraction fee. Have you ever taken out a Pedo tooth on an Adult? I sure have. How does our team know what kind of tooth they need extracted or if they need it extracted at all? They don’t so let’s stop prejudging what we think the person needs and let’s get them in to find out. I’ve never had anyone complain when their extraction was $175 or a surgical one for $250 when we show them their x-ray, photos, etc and detail why this is the extraction type they need. You can do this with any category if you think about it. Use this approach and you’ll schedule another 1/3 of the callers. (2/3’s in total now).
      3. The last 1/3 are not going to schedule no matter what you say or do. Their goal is to call 4-5 offices first and then make their decision. The good news here is that when they called your office, they got your “Starting At” price so when they call the other 3-4 offices and here their standard approach of throwing out 3 or 4 different fees, your office will sound better in contrast and many are likely to call and schedule back at your office. Provide them with great service, educate them on why the need what they need and you’ll have a patient for life.
      I hope that answers your question. Ultimately it comes down to getting the data on why you are not scheduling your appointments. The truth for your office is in the data but if you’re not getting it then you don’t know what you don’t know. Good luck! If we can help, let us know.