4 Practical Methods to Improve Call Connection at Your Practice

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A patient calls your practice with severe tooth pain. He suspects it’s a broken crown and wants to be seen quickly to get it resolved. He just moved to town so needs to get established with a new provider. Your receptionist answers the phone but immediately places the patient on hold as she takes care of the patient checking out in front of her. The caller waits on hold for 30 seconds… 1 minute… 2 minutes… and then gives up and calls the practice down the street for care. Your competitor answers the phone after 1 ring, addresses the urgency and severity of the patient’s situation, and books him for an emergency visit that afternoon. Said patient has now found the provider he will see (and recommend) for years to come.

Unfortunately, this situation is all too common. Dental practices who do not prioritize a ringing phone lose out on hundreds and even thousands of patient opportunities each year. In fact, in 2021, Call Box determined that only 66.8% of patient callers were connected to someone who could help when calling their dental provider. A practice’s ability to connect patient callers represents a significant area of opportunity to capture more revenue, improve patient experience, and land ahead of the competition.

Below are 4 specific strategies to prioritize and improve call connection at your dental practice or DSO.

Understand the difference between an answered call and a connected call.

There is often confusion over what “connected” really means and how it differs from “answered.” While these two terms are similar, they are not the same. Let’s start out with two basic definitions to differentiate the words:

CONNECT: Reaching a qualified individual who can help the caller with his or her inquiry.

ANSWER: Picking up the phone based on a technical signal — whether by a person, voicemail recording, or other telephony infrastructure.

As you can see, “connect” uses a stricter definition to indicate the caller actually reached someone who could help. For instance, in our original example of the patient with a broken crown, his call would have been answered by the first practice he called, but not connected to someone who could help. In this sense, call connection focuses on prioritizing every call and ensuring patients are promptly helped with their needs.

Implement intelligent call routing to provide an improved caller experience.

Many top dental practices and DSOs utilize intentional call routing set-ups to ensure patient callers are helped in a timely manner. Call routing solutions such as a queue or multi-ring can help ensure patients speak to a staff member quickly. Such solutions allow you to designate particular phone lines to ring and in what order. For example, when a patient calls your practice, you can first have your front desk phones ring three times. If no one picks up, this call will roll over to your back office. If no one answers there, the call will be directed to another office location within your organization, then to an overflow call center, until finally hitting a voicemail.

When implementing this type of call routing solution, we recommend leveraging a “whisper” on the line. A whisper is heard immediately when a staff member picks up the phone and gives a brief preview or reminder of the call he or she is about to handle. For instance, you can set up a whisper that says “Uptown scheduling call” to indicate this particular patient is attempting to reach your Uptown Dallas office to schedule an appointment. This better prepares staff members and allows them to more effectively handle the patient’s inquiry, especially when the call is being routed to different areas of a practice.

Utilize a phone menu to automatically direct callers to the appropriate area of your practice.

Many dental practices and DSOs route their patient calls directly to a receptionist or front desk staff to answer the phone and assist the patient on the other end of the line. In reality, this receptionist most often acts as a telephone operator — he or she answers the phone with a smile, hears what the patient needs, and then transfers the call to the appropriate area of the practice. While this may seem adequate, it is not, in fact, providing an optimal experience for the patient. The patient will need to repeat their inquiry at least twice, spend unnecessary time on hold while their call is transferred, and often wait in a queue while the receptionist handles calls ahead of theirs.

Instead, consider implementing a phone menu, also called a phone tree or phone bridge. This automated greeting asks patients to select an option that best matches their reason for calling, such as billing, scheduling an appointment, or an emergency visit. Doing so allows you to automatically and immediately route patients to the appropriate party without overloading a front desk staff member. Furthermore, it creates a more seamless experience for patients who do not need to be transferred, wait on hold, and explain their inquiries multiple times.

Make note of call volume patterns and make operational adjustments.

Looking at 2019, 2020, and 2021, dental practices experienced consistent peaks in the days of the week and times of day that received the highest number of patient calls. In particular, Mondays received the highest volume of calls, followed closely by Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Furthermore, the 10:00 AM hour received the most calls for dental practices, followed by 11:00 AM and 9:00 AM, respectively. Despite the vast changes that occurred globally throughout these three years, patients continued to gravitate toward calling at the beginning of the week and during the mid-morning hours.

Such consistent behavior allows organizations to make decisions and enact best practices for their staff based on these high volume days and hours. That said, it’s important to analyze your own practice’s unique trends. For example, if you’re open on Saturday for emergency or urgent appointments, perhaps you receive an influx of calls on Friday afternoons. In general, however, it would be wise for practices to make decisions that allow for a high volume of calls to be effectively managed toward the beginning of the week and mid-morning.

Connecting a patient’s call is the foundation to providing an optimal patient experience — it’s the first step in getting a patient through your practice doors. However, with about 40% of callers not reaching someone who can help, dental practices are leaking valuable opportunities left and right. Not only does connecting patient callers boost patient experience, it also decreases the need for follow-up, improves a practice’s bottom line, and streamlines operations.

To learn more about how Call Box is helping dental practices and DSOs
optimize call outcomes, seamlessly connect more callers, and improve
patient experience, visit https://www.callbox.com/dental/.

 


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