After analyzing thousands of phone calls across hundreds of practices, Call Box found that the average dental practice connected 79% of phone calls to someone who could help in 2022. While this number has improved in recent years, that still means 21% of patients did not receive the help they needed when calling their dental provider. Ensuring every patient call is connected is key to improving patient experience and increasing booked appointments.
It’s important to identify areas your practice can improve to increase connection rates. Call Box found the top reason for unconnected calls was due to patients hanging up while waiting on hold. The average hold time in 2022 was 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Even though this is the lowest hold time in the past three years, your dental practice should aim to decrease average hold time to around 30 seconds. Long hold times can negatively affect appointment opportunities and turn away existing patients to the competition where they feel prioritized.
Now that you have data-backed insight regarding call connection trends, your team can identify what key areas to improve on. Call connection is one of the most critical components to ensuring your patients have an excellent first impression of your practice. Here are three proven strategies to improve call connection.
1. Ensure Staff is Scheduled During Peak Call Volume Times
Prepare your team to properly handle the phones during peak call volume times. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays received the highest number of phone calls in 2022. Furthermore, the top hours of the day for calls were 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, and 9:00 AM, respectively. Understanding when your practice should expect a high influx of calls will help you plan accordingly to ensure every call is connected.
Schedule your staff for proper phone coverage to ensure every call is connected during these times. Patients might be calling to book an appointment or simply get a question answered. Either way, all callers should be connected to a staff member who can help, even when the phones are busy. Practice managers need to be aware of these times in case they may need to step in to assist their staff too. If your practice is short-staffed, consider implementing a call routing system such as a multi-ring or call fallback. After a certain number of rings, this allows multiple phones to ring and/or automatically direct calls to other areas of the practice that may be available to answer.
2. Hold Staff Trainings Later in the Afternoon
It’s important to prioritize staff training to give your team the opportunity to identify areas they can improve on when handling calls or in-person patient interactions. An example of staff training focused on improving call connection is walking your team through a warm transfer process. A warm transfer is when staff communicates to patient callers they will be placed on a brief hold to ensure the person they are trying to connect with is available. If the patient is on hold for more than three rings, the staff member will immediately take them off hold and determine how to best help meet their needs or direct the patient to a manager who can help. With peak call volume at 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, and 9:00 AM, practice managers should schedule training sessions later in the day. This ensures proper coverage when it’s needed, while also taking advantage of slower times in the day to improve staff performance.
3. Implement a Phone Bridge
A phone bridge is a pre-recorded message that allows callers to choose where they would like to be routed and automatically directs them to the right area within your practice. For example, a phone bridge recording would say, “Thank you for calling ABC Dental. New patients, press 1. Existing patients, press 2. For billing, press 3.” This helps improve the average connection time by 12-15 seconds. Patients are not only efficiently connected to someone who can answer their questions, but a bridge also reduces the number of unnecessary transfers. Multiple transfers can create frustrated callers and cause your practice to lose appointment opportunities.
Ensuring every caller is connected to a qualified staff member helps boost appointment conversions and returning patients. Leverage these findings to ensure your practice is caught up to speed on how to optimize call connection.
If you’d like to learn more data-driven phone metrics, check Call Box’s annual industry report “Taking a Closer Look: 5 Insightful Healthcare Phone Trends from 2022.” This industry report includes proven recommendations to improve your team’s phone handling, which leads to more positive call outcomes and patient experience.