Kevin Rose explains the importance of preparing your staff to answer the inevitable ‘Are you taking new patients?’ question and how your response to this could affect the amount of patients coming to your practice.
‘Are you taking new patients?’ is one of the most commonly asked questions, and one that everybody within your dental business should be prepared and confident in answering. After all, when you think of all of the money and time that has been invested in your marketing to encourage enquiries from potential patients, surely answering their enquiries won’t be left to chance… or will it?
I make mystery shopper telephone calls and even mystery patient visits on a regular basis. Frankly, it never ceases to amaze me just how poor the response can be. If your new patient enquiries are handled badly then it is no longer a reception desk, it’s a business prevention unit (BPU). Sadly, there are BPUs in most businesses, inside and outside of dentistry. The question is, what are you doing about your BPU?
To demonstrate the point, this is a typical new patient enquiry:
New patient: ‘Hello, I am looking at moving dentist, are you taking new patients?’
New patient: ‘Well, could you tell me about how I join?’
Receptionist: ‘Well, we are a private practice.’
New patient: ‘Right ok, erm well how do I become a patient?’
Receptionist: ‘You just need to make an appointment and that will cost you £xx which doesn’t include any x-rays, they are extra but we do have a plan which is £xx per month and you get a discount. Are you in pain?’
New patient: ‘Do you have a website I could look at?’
Receptionist: ‘Yes… it’s www. Oh wait a minute, its abcdental.co.uk’
New patient: ‘Ok, I will have a look.’
Receptionist: ‘Ok, thanks, goodbye.’
As shocking as it may seem, it is none the less typical. No attempt to build rapport, ask questions, get a name, source of enquiry and of course at this point, there is no way at all of following up the enquiry. What a waste! However, before we even get to that, what about the very first part of the ‘conversation’. Almost without fail, there is for some reason an ingrained and habitual need to get the ‘we are private’ statement in which is often delivered in a demeaning and condescending way.
The majority of your callers will visit your website, be it before or after initially enquiring with your practice, therefore mentioning that your practice is private is a pointless thing to mention so early in the conversation.
Can you imagine calling up a privately owned gym to ask about membership and being told that ‘we are not run by the local council’ or a restaurant to be told ‘we are not a soup kitchen’. This need to somehow either apologise or gloat at being private is outrageous and it is losing patients left, right and centre. The simple reality is that our reception teams have got so used to receiving calls from people that are looking for NHS dentistry; however, we need to remember not to assume that every caller expects the same. These expectations are wrongly being passed on from one generation of the reception team to another!
The solution is simple. You need to ensure everyone within the practice is aware that your website contains the factual information your patients need to know so it’s less important to cover the areas that are already available unless the information is requested. Otherwise, it’s crucial to understand that if a potential patient calls it’s because they want to ask questions for further details, so make sure your staff are trained to answer these. But, even more importantly, make sure they ask your potential patient questions too to understand what it is they need – after all, they want to feel like you care for them.
If you’re looking for some more guidance on how to communicate more effectively with your patients, take a look at some of the other interesting articles in our Resource Library.