Three Ways the Phone Can Grow Your Practice

Sarah Suddreth


Consider how the phone ties into every change you’re looking to implement at your practice. 

Four out of every 10 appointment opportunity phone calls slip through the cracks as a result of poor phone skills, according to our data. The phone is a dental practice’s lifeline to booking new and current patients. It increases the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and improves patient retention. If your focus is to expand your practice, a solid phone process is critical. Neglecting it may be the most significant factor affecting growth.

It’s time to turn your attention to your phone. 

You’re changing your practice. You’ve hired more staff, met with investors, and explored adding another location. You’ve pursued business classes, invested in fancy tools and equipment, attended conferences, and remodeled your office. To improve patient retention and increase new patients, you’ve increased marketing spend. But despite all of this, you haven’t seen an increase in booked appointments. 

Your problem in achieving more booked appointments is likely tied to your phone.

Patient Experience  

The phones at your practice may be ringing off the hook, and your front desk staff is constantly on the phone. However, this isn’t an accurate indicator of your practice’s health. Surprisingly, the biggest culprit for missed appointment opportunities is simply failing to connect callers, as 87% of potential patients will hang up when they hear a voicemail message or are placed on hold.  

The phone may have been picked up, but the caller never spoke to someone who could actually help, which prevents growth. As a result, callers’ needs aren’t met, their frustrations grow, they hang up to call the dentist down the street, and all those marketing dollars spent to drive phone calls are wasted. Ultimately, their annoyance ends with upset voicemails and poor reviews of your team posted online.

It’s important that callers get connected to someone at the practice who can help answer their questions or book the appointment. The industry average for connecting callers is only 67%, according to our data. This means at least 30% of potential new patients are lost due to poor phone routing and untrained staff placing callers on hold or voicemail.

Improve connections by training your staff to never answer with “Please hold.” Take a moment to find out who the caller is and what he or she needs on that first call. It’s a short conversation that has a significant impact on the patient’s experience.

The goal of every phone call is a booked appointment. To achieve this, the phone handler needs to request the appointment on each call. The handler should offer two appointment times to accommodate the caller’s availability. A pleasant conversation guiding the patient to a booked appointment improves the patient’s phone experience, your booking rates, and overall practice reputation.  

Retention Rate

What about poor reviews and a stagnant or, worse, declining retention rate? You feel you’re delivering an excellent patient experience in-office, and your phone is continuously ringing. However, lots of phone calls don’t translate to more appointments or a solid patient experience. Callers, frustrated by their ability to get in touch with you, may opt to write an online review about their very brief experience with your front desk staff.

There’s a strong correlation between first call resolution and call outcome. The first phone call is often a patient’s first interaction and sets the tone for his or her overall experience. In fact, it only takes two negative phone experiences to impact a patient’s view of a provider.1

Since the patient experience begins on the phone, it’s essential the call is connected quickly and your staff consistently executes on every patient call by answering with a friendly hello and actively listening to the caller. A positive phone interaction builds rapport with the patient and improves the likelihood they’ll book and return.    


Do you have plans to ramp up your marketing and advertising this upcoming year? You may sponsor content on Facebook and Google, ship out dozens of mailers per quarter, or purchase advertising space in a publication. However, lack of insight into which ad sources are driving new patients to your practice makes it difficult to optimize your marketing spend. Luckily, this problem is easy to solve. 

The best way to monitor the return on marketing investments that you expect to drive phone calls is by tracking them. Unique tracking lines on each marketing source allow you to see how many appointment opportunity calls resulted in booked appointments from each.

Tracking each source’s performance lets you invest in the higher performing advertisements, and, consequently, see a higher return on investment. When looking at a marketing or advertisement piece, ask yourself if the phone number is easily visible. Make sure it is prominent and actionable, or it could be costing you valuable new patients.

Once you know where to focus your marketing dollars to increase the number of prospective patient calls, make sure you pay attention to the call outcome. Your marketing dollars go to waste if your staff is unable to execute appointment calls properly. Instill an appointment-centered mindset amongst phone handlers. Doing so reminds them to guide the caller toward booking an appointment.

When your staff handles calls correctly, you capture more prospective patients that you’re spending all that money on. You’re just doing more with the leads you’re already driving. 

With the approaching new year, you may consider increasing marketing, hiring more staff, or renovating your office to grow your practice. However, there’s one solution that’s much simpler. Improve the communication point that’s infiltrated every hour from your patient base: the phone!

You should get excited when the phone rings because it represents a potential revenue opportunity to book an appointment, schedule services, or set a consultation with a new patient. Enhance the patient experience, improve marketing spend, and amplify retention rate by turning your attention to the phone.


“Consumer Survey Reveals the Customer Care Experiences That Most Impact the Relationship Between Cable Operator and Subscriber.” CSJ International Press Release. May 12, 2010. 

Ms. Suddreth is the director of business development at Call Box, the leading telephony and artificial intelligence technology firm that works with smaller dental practices as well as large DSOs such as InterDent, Heartland Dental, and MB2 to deliver more insight into their phone calls. Dental providers turn to Call Box when there is difficulty attributing marketing efforts to phone calls and staff accountability issues continue to arise. Living in Dallas, Sarah works with corporate VPs and marketing directors across the nation to enhance their practices’ bottom line and boost revenue. She can be reached at

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