The primary function of marketing in a dental practice is getting the phone to ring. The better your marketing, the more often your phone will ring.
Obviously, there other things to be gained from marketing, but at its simplest component, the phone call is marketing’s job.
There are some things that are really functional pieces of the practice that need to be in place to get the phone to ring.
One of the ways to become attractive as practitioners is to be hyper-convenient for your patients.
Following these ground rules for answering the phone will help you accomplish that:
Answer Phones before 8 AM and After 5 PM
The more hours you answer the phone, the more new patients you’re going to capture. There’s a direct relationship.
Look at when your phone is being answered. Many times, the office closes at 5, and so do the phones. The problem is, that’s
when your patients get off work and go home too—and the time when many patients call your office to make a dental appointment.
Answer Phones during Normal Business Hours
We call offices regularly to talk to doctors. When we call during normal business hours, we frequently find that the phone isn’t answered. The phone either goes to voice mail or just rings and rings and rings. That’s astounding. Every time that happens, it absolutely stuns us. They aren’t even answering the phone during normal business hours
Some of your patients who call are committed to you. They want to see you. They will wait and call back. They will do whatever it takes to see you.
Many new patients are not that committed. If they can’t get through easily, they are on to the next name on the list. We have seen it over and over again. When you fix the phone- answering problem, new patient numbers soar.
- If you were to define normal business hours for most people in the working world, it means 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday.
- An increasing number of dentists are working four- day workweeks. Although the office doesn’t have any practitioners available, patients believe Friday is a normal business day. They call. If they don’t get through to you and they’re not highly committed, they will move on to somebody else.
- We worked with one practice that didn’t believe they missed many calls. However, when they tracked the statistics, they found that during normal business hours, they were missing nearly 12% of calls. They weren’t answered or weren’t answered before the person hung up: 12% just by not answering the phone during normal business hours.
Have Enough Staff and Phone Lines to Accommodate the Marketing You’ve Created
You handed out your phone number to thousands of people, and now they’re going to call. Make sure there is somebody there to take their call.
Have Enough Phone Lines and Staff during Peak Hours
During your busiest hours, your call volume requires enough trained staff and phone lines to handle that call load in an effective manner.
People don’t often plan for a surge of calls and can get tripped up on this. Here is a common scenario that leads to mistakes:
- The practice gets a report from the phone company that states how many calls they get per day. In this case, they received 1,000 calls per day.
- They divided those 1,000 calls by the number of hours the practice is open.
- They determined, “We have to be prepared to answer X number of calls per hour.”
That would be wonderful if the world worked that way. But it doesn’t. Call volume is not consistent hour to hour or day to day. You need to plan how to handle the peak call times—not the average of all call times. ‘
- The peak time for callers varies by community. For example, in Sioux City, IA, Monday mornings and Fridays are the busiest days, and 10 AM to 2 PM are the busiest hours. That’s when the most phone lines and the most people answering those phone are needed.
Discovering Your Peak Hours and Days
You can get a report from your phone company that tracks the exact number of calls your practice receives. You can learn how many calls you actually capture and how many of them you lose.
We suggest you take some Maalox and get in a comfortable chair before you look at the report because you will invariably find out that you’re missing a tremendous number of calls and, therefore, new patients.
Have Enough Computers
This statement may sound odd, but we run into it fairly frequently. We’ll call someone and they’ll say, “Hold on, I’m
not where there’s a computer.” They have to wait for someone to be finishing using the computer to answer my question about scheduling a visit. When a new patient calling has to wait until a computer becomes available, that‘s not acceptable. Have enough capacity to deal with the calls you’re already getting.
Answer the Phone on Saturday
The dental practice that had tracked their phone statistics also measured when people were calling. They learned that the practice was not answering phones during the times people were calling: Friday afternoons and Saturdays. They were losing a significant number of calls because they weren’t available when people needed them.