While most people view summer as a time to relax and unwind, the summer months for dentists are flooded with appointment requests, procedures, and visits. June is the start of the busiest time of the year for dental offices due to school-aged children needing appointments during their summer breaks.
Parents tend to frantically call up dental offices looking for appointments, and this high number of incoming calls can lead to missed appointment opportunities if a practice isn’t prepared to handle such volume. That said, it’s important to identify gaps in your phone handling performance while consistently training phone handlers to provide patients with an optimal experience that leads to booked appointments, even during the most hectic months.
Here are a few tips to help train your staff to schedule through the summer heat!
Make sure your callers are connecting to someone who can help.
It’s important to be alert and ready to pick up the phone. Your front desk staff is the first point of contact for most patients, so having a great first impression is crucial. Stay informed of call trends throughout the day and week, especially in the summer. Parents may be calling during their lunch breaks at 12 pm, or before work at 7 am. Knowing peak times allows you to effectively manage staff members’ schedules and prevent patient calls from slipping through the cracks.
Consider options such as staggering lunch schedules or having a staff member come in 30 minutes early to capture every potential patient opportunity and avoid patients experiencing long hold times or being sent to voicemail. It only takes 30 seconds on hold for the average patient to hang up the phone. Having persistent staff ready to pick up the phone and help patients with their needs will allow you to schedule every possible appointment.
Anyone can successfully answer the phone and be that friendly voice on the other line. But if you don’t provide the help to fully satisfy your patients’ needs, you are merely answering calls. Connecting callers is truly helping your patients and providing the assistance that leads to booked appointments and patient loyalty.
Focus on appointment conversions.
Once you have a firm grasp on connecting your patients to someone who can help, you can focus on improving scheduling conversations. According to Viva Concepts, the average conversion rate of new patients calling dentists in the United States is 23%. That means if you have 100 potential new patients calling your practice each month, only 23 will convert into appointments. We want to increase that conversion rate!
Here are a few strategies for improving your appointment conversions:
- Educate your staff on how to effectively answer common questions. When staff provides confident answers that guide patients through the steps of the booking process, patients are more likely to schedule an appointment. Use weekly huddles as opportunities to walk through difficult questions and ensure your staff is prepared to handle the most commonly questions asked.
- To save parents from mentally shuffling through their children’s calendar, utilize the “whittle and shepherd” technique to guide patients toward an appointment. In doing so, offer A/B options that lead to a firm date and time. For example, “Does earlier or later in the week work better for you?” (Earlier) “Great. Monday or Tuesday?” (Monday) “Are mornings or afternoons better for you?” (Mornings) “Okay, I have a 9 am and 10:30 am available. Which works better for you?”
- Take the opportunity to invite parents and other children in as well for their regular checkups. If there are appointment times available back to back, inquire if other family members would like to be seen right before or after the child.
- Make sure your staff asks for the appointment every time. It’s easy to just answer a patient’s questions and allow him or her to guide the conversation, but take control of the conversation by always asking the patient to come in to see the dentist.
Don’t let the summer heat slow you down. The phone is a patient’s first impression of your office. By training your staff to effectively leverage the phone, you not only provide patients with an optimal experience during peak season, but also gain the loyalty of new patients and their families.
Mr. Johnson is a senior account executive at Call Box. Doctors and owners call Corey to increase their bottom line through enhancing the patient experience over the phone and converting more opportunities. Corey earned his MBA from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he studied how the power of data can affect organizational change. To learn more about Call Box and our innovative tools to help your practice leverage the phone, visit callbox.com/dental or call (833) 259-9484.