8 Aug 2016  •  Practice Management  •  6min read By  • Ashley Latter

Eight tips for converting enquiries into new patients

Here’s a question, how much is a new patient worth to your practice?

If a patient stayed with you for ten years, joined your plan and just had a little bit of treatment during this time, would it be fair to say that this patient could be worth at least £4,000 – £5,000 to you? If that’s the case, as a practice, do you think about that sum of money when you answer the telephone?

This blog from Dental Sales Trainer Ashley Latter will give you some simple tips and proven strategies, so that your receptionists become world class on the telephone, stand out from the competition and ensure that all new enquiries turn into booked appointments. The following principles work well whether you’re on the telephone or face to face with a prospective patient.

Tip 1 – Answer the telephone within four rings

My view is that your front desk team need to answer the telephone within four rings maximum, as I believe people start getting impatient after four rings. They need to answer the telephone enthusiastically, stating the name of the practice, their own name and end with a statement on how can they help the patient. Don’t forget, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Often I ring up practices and all I get is ‘Good Morning Dental Practice’. I also think using his or her own name gives an opportunity to build rapport with the patient.

Tip 2 – Ask the patient for their name and use it in conversation

If a patient enquires about the services of the practice, the receptionist should immediately thank the patient for phoning them and ask the patient their own name and use it in the conversation. Most people’s favourite name is their own and of course, you are starting to build a relationship with the patient. It is so mush easier to get the patient’s name if the receptionist uses his or her own.

Tip 3 – Ask the patient how they heard about the practice

There are many advantages. If the practice is investing in marketing then they can see what is working or not; the owner of the practice needs to know if they are getting a return on their investment. If it is a referral, you will have the chance to thank the referring patient and you will also know that you have a red-hot client, who is genuinely interested in making an appointment with you. You can then send a thank you card to the introducer, or maybe a small gift as a thank you. Another quick tip here – if the patient says “I saw your website”, again thank the patient and ask them what it was about the website that they liked. This is important information and will help you establish what part of the website is working and, in some cases, not.

Tip 4 – Ask the patient how you can help them

Not only do you need to ask the patient how you can help them but also ask them what aspects of treatment they’re interested in. This is the part of the conversation when you are now genuinely interested in the patient and finding out what they are interested in. Ask open questions, which get the patient talking more about their problems.

Here are just a few questions you could ask:

  • How can we help you?
  • What is it about tooth whitening that has caused your interest?
  • Have you got a special event coming up where this is important to you?
  • What results are you looking to achieve?
  • Have you done any research into what type of treatment you are looking for?
  • Is there anything else that you would like the dentist to help you with?

All that’s needed is a series of three or four questions, which shows you are genuinely interested in solving the patient’s problems; your potential client will be impressed with the interest.

Tip 5 – Remember the end goal

Please do not make the mistake of asking one question then launching into a presentation of how you can help them. I often hear this in practices, as the receptionist very quickly starts telling the patient about the technical side of the procedure and starts to give too much information. Remember, the end goal of the call is for the receptionist to make the appointment.

Tip 6 – Make sure you understand what the patient requires

Once you have truly understood what the patient requires, only then can you truly explain how you can help them, followed up by an invitation to come in for an appointment to discuss it further. This is the most important part of the conversation, because if the patient does not come into your practice then they might go somewhere else.

Tip 7 – Answer all new telephone enquiries away from the desk

I strongly recommend that you answer all new telephone enquiries away from the desk. There are many advantages to this, which include no distractions from anything else that is happening within the reception area. It also allows you to give your new prospective client one-to-one attention.

Tip 8 – Sell the benefits of the appointment

I often get asked by clients, what to do if the patient is asking about fees? My suggestion is that you inform the patients that until you do a full examination, it is difficult to quote a price. I would try to sell the benefits of the appointment, where a proper treatment plan and prices can be discussed, although I do not see any harm in giving a patient a guideline.

In short, treat every patient enquiry like gold dust. The role of the receptionist is to build rapport with your potential patient, find out their problems and then solve them by inviting the patient in for an appointment. Follow these and you should see an increase in new patients to your practice.

About the author

Ashley Latter gets dentists and their teams to communicate with their patients, which results in a world-class patient journey, more patients saying YES to treatment plans and increased profits for the practices.

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