If you’re a dentist, you undoubtedly have a dental marketing strategy for attracting people to your practice. For many dentists, however, that plan may not deal with what to do when someone calls the office for the first time. We recently got a chance to speak with Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA, about why it’s so important to make sure your dental staff is equipped to handle first-time callers successfully.
The Missing Piece in Marketing
Daniel is president of AIM Dental Marketing, which helps dentists build their practice with a focus on patient value. He said that they have been helping grow dental clients and practices since 1989 by providing web-based marketing, public relations, direct mail and cause marketing.
By tracking phone calls, they eventually discovered a new piece to the puzzle: “Our company helps get our clients’ phones to ring through various marketing programs, but what happens after the phone rings is just as important,” explains Bobrow. “We found that most dental teams need coaching on how to connect with first-time callers.” They had the ability; they just needed training.
“We considered this a matter of enlightened self-interest for us to offer this service,” explains Bobrow, “Because then people are happier with the results of the programs we set up for them.” The company first started this new endeavor about 4 years ago, but the website and service, Practice Perfection, was officially launched late this year.
Connecting With Potential Patients
He shared with us some tips on what to look for and how to make sure your practice is ready to connect with new callers.
1Dental: With the newer focus of helping dental team members connect with callers, what would you tell a dentist who really has not even thought of that before?
Bobrow: That it’s very important, and the way to gauge that is to listen to your own team handling calls from first-time telephone callers. I think it’s important to make the distinction, because if they listen to their team talking to people with whom they already have a relationship, they may believe –and it may, in fact, be the case – that they’re doing just fine with those kinds of calls. They already have a relationship. They’ve already met the person. I’m talking specifically about the first-time callers that don’t know anything about the practice, may be skeptical, may be looking for an emotional connection. But nobody ever asks for an emotional connection. They’re more likely to ask, “How much does a crown cost?” And that will often trigger a bunch of assumptions on the part of the call handler that this is a price shopper or in some way a low-quality caller that they should try to get rid of instead of try to connect with.
1Dental: So if a dentist recognizes something like that, they’ve been listening to their team handle calls, what would you suggest as the next step?
Bobrow: That they get some training. I mean, it may sound self-serving, but we offer a program, which is a 2-CD set and a workbook called The Art of First Impressions. But what they specifically want to listen for is the quality of the greeting and how well the call handler succeeds at the following 4 things:
- Do they establish rapport?
- Do they convey empathy?
- Do they exude enthusiasm?
- Do they ask the right questions in the right way at the right time?
If not, call us… typically the practice owner doesn’t know what to listen for. They might think that the team is doing a fine job. They might themselves think that somebody who calls to ask about the price of a crown or if you’re in their insurance plan or if they’re seeking a second opinion, that you should get rid of them because they’re a waste of time. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when you label something or someone as undesirable, then the quality of your communication suffers, and so you make them undesirable.
1Dental: What is one thing a receptionist could say to someone who calls asking about, for example, the cost of a crown in order to connect with them rather than dismiss them?
Bobrow: “I can help you with that. My name is Danny, with whom am I speaking?” [Then,] “Hannah, there are many types of crowns, and even some rather cost-effective alternatives to crowns. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to see if we can narrow the field of options a bit for you?”
From there, it’s simply a matter of overwhelming them with info (giving them so much info they’re sorry they asked for any!) and always offering a no-cost opportunity for them to come in, be examined and determine exactly what is best for them.
Many people avoid the dentist based on expensive costs, fear of pain and a host of other reasons. When someone actually takes the plunge to call your dental office, he or she may be one short answer away from not going to a dentist at all, or at least finding someone else who will better meet their needs.
“You can invest a lot of money in marketing strategies to get the phone to ring,” Bobrow adds, “But if you’re not ready to convert those calls, then you’re wasting your money.”
Do you have a strategy for when someone calls your office for the first time? What is your typical response when someone appears to be just comparing prices?
Cancel my policy as my dentist is not covered by you. Gary Saunders…10-9-12
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Conveying empathy is definitely a very important aspect. If you don’t, some other office will, and it will be hard not to lose business.
Agree with the suggestion to qualify the question – many times the patient is simply fixating on what they know: price, yet there are other elements they are concerned with as well and simply may not realize it. The concept of *true cost is misunderstood many times.