The 5 Different Types Of Phone Calls in a Dental Office

There are several different types of phone calls.

It’s important to understand the goal behind each one.

You want to make sure you’re handling the call in an appropriate manner, especially if you have limited staff answering the phone. You want to direct their phone calls where they need to be.


1. New Patient Emergency Caller

SITUATION: This caller is having a dental emergency.  

GOAL: Create an appointment for that new patient. 


2. New Patient Recare Caller

SITUATION: They’ve never been to our office before. They don’t have a major emergency. They just want to come in to have their teeth cleaned. 

GOAL: Have them come in for a new patient exam and get their teeth cleaned. You want to have those histories and the fullest exam possible, but the patient called because he or she wanted to have a teeth cleaning. 

There is often a disconnect between practices and new patient callers.

Some new patients only want their teeth cleaned.

As dental professionals, we understand that the best place to start is with a comprehensive exam. Since 70% of the adult population has periodontal disease, a cleaning may not be the best place to start. We understand that, but patients do not.

A practice often goes to great efforts to get the patient to agree to an exam instead of a cleaning. That is a no-win battle.

If the patient asks for a cleaning, that’s what they should get.

• It’s harder on a practice’s internal systems to schedule it this way. It’s also better, in most every way, to conduct a comprehensive exam first. That’s true, but the “Yes” attitude means giving patients what they want.

How we handle this in our practice is that patients get a comprehensive exam and get their teeth cleaned.

  • We have enough people and enough chairs to adapt to the situation and give them what they want. Our assistants are cross-trained between hygiene and doctor. Our people can move around well enough to accommodate this situation quickly if necessary.
  • We understand that in a smaller practice, this may not be possible all the time. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge you should take on. You should aim to continually improve at giving patients what they want.


3. Shopper Caller

SITUATION: This caller ask many different questions. They wonders how much does things cost, your hours, and so on.

GOAL: Schedule a no-charge consultation. To talk about your marketing, your staff needs to know your offers. Whatever your marketing says, this is the perfect time to share it. 

A nice quick response to such questions is:

“Come visit and check us out. We’ll accommodate a time for you, but there’s no charge for this consultation. Come and see if we’re the right fit for you and you’re the right fit for us.”

That is a no-brainer for a person just calling to shop around.  A lot of practices will say:

“Oh, that’s just a waste of time. They’re just cheap. They’re just looking for the lowest cost. They’re tire kickers.”

In our opinion, we’d rather have the patient come and meet us and make that choice for themselves, rather than us making it for them. We don’t know their situation. It might not be a waste of our time. It might turn into a $10,000 dental case. You just don’t know.

A no-charge consultation doesn’t mean the doctor has to spend an hour of his or her time with the patient. Have somebody in your office available who regularly gives such tours, answers questions, and can have a financial conversation.

Ultimately, we want to make the patient to feel part of our family. There’s no reason why the patient shouldn’t be able to just stop by and take a look at the practice. They should feel comfortable when they visit so they feel comfortable to come back.


4. Patient Canceling an Appointment. 

SITUATION: This caller wants to cancel an appointment.

GOAL: Get the caller to change his or her mind about canceling. If the appointment can’t be resurrected, reschedule as soon as possible.

The proper response to someone who wants to cancel is not “Okay. Thanks. Bye.”

We’ve listened to hundreds of calls, and this happens so often.

Often, the people answering the phones are so overwhelmed and busy, they can’t take the time necessary for that call. There’s often a patient standing right in front of them who needs to be checked in or checked out. In that situation, a ringing phone is a distraction. They don’t offer resistance and just let the caller cancel.


5. Financial or Clinical Question

SITUATION: This caller has a specific clinical or financial question.

GOAL: Send that caller to the appropriate person.

It sounds simplistic, but the point is that once a call is routed off, we’re ready for the next call—which is likely one of the other 4 types of callers.

You need to know who in your office is going to answer particular questions that aren’t appointment related, so you can efficiently send the caller to that party. If the person who handles your financial or clinical questions isn’t available, take a message and make sure that person follows through.