Poor call connection is a rapidly growing trend within dentistry. Patients are increasingly finding it difficult to reach someone who can help them when calling a dental practice or DSO. In fact, between 2019 and 2020, the average connection rate of patient callers dropped from 73.6% to 63.1%. This means, in 2020, 36.9% of patient callers were unable to connect to someone who could help them when calling a dental office.
No patient wants to sit on hold for three minutes just to give up in frustration, hit a busy signal multiple times in a row, or be forced to leave a voicemail that may or not be returned. It’s simply a poor patient experience. While many practices have been quick to chalk up substandard metrics to COVID-19 this past year, call connection is a trend that has consistently declined even through the first few months of 2021.
Dental practices are now operating in a “new normal.” It’s important to have strategies in place to rectify this fundamental phone trend and ensure patients are receiving the help they need. Connecting a patient’s call is the first step in getting him or her through your practice doors. Not only does connecting patient callers boost patient experience, it also decreases the need for follow-up, improves your practice’s bottom line, and streamlines operations.
Call Box recommends a variety of solutions — both technical and process-oriented — to help dental practices connect every patient caller in a timely manner. These include:
1. Phone Tree
A phone tree, also called a phone bridge or phone menu, is the automated greeting you hear when calling a practice that sounds something like: “Thank you for calling ABC Dental. New patients, press 1. Existing patients, press 2. For billing inquiries, press 3.” Phone trees can be an incredibly effective tool in improving call connection when a practice has various areas of the office handling different types of patient calls. In doing so, patients can be automatically and immediately transferred to their desired party, without bogging down your front desk team.
2. Call Routing
Many dental practices leverage intentional call routing solutions such as a queue or multi-ring to ensure patients speak to staff quickly. Such solutions allow you to designate particular phone lines to ring for a designated period of time 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, before finally hitting a voicemail.
Texting has become incredibly popular among dental practices to help alleviate high call volume, improve communication, and boost call connection. From sending reminder texts to coordinating virtual or parking lot waiting rooms, texting can help reduce call volume and keep phone lines open for patients who are scheduling new appointments. With incredibly high open rates (around 98%!) and fast response times, texting is a powerful solution for patient engagement. Many providers, including Call Box, offer text messaging platforms which integrate with the tools you’re already using.
4. Optimized Staffing
Every practice will experience peaks and valleys in its call volume and connection performance. It’s important to consider your own practice’s phone trends when creating staff schedules. Taking a look at both when you receive the most calls and when patients are struggling to get in touch with your team will allow you to staff your practice’s phones more appropriately to ensure patients’ calls are getting answered and their needs addressed.
Answering the phone with a professional, warm message goes a long way in improving connection performance. Instead of answering with an abrupt “Hello?” or “Please hold,” welcome patients with a friendly greeting. This could sound like: “This is Tina with ABC Dental. How can I help you?” Such a greeting introduces yourself and the practice, as well as opens the door for the patient to describe his or her reason for calling. If you must place a patient on hold, try greeting the patient with: “This is Tina with ABC Dental. May I place you on a brief hold?” In doing so, you ask permission to place the patient on hold and set the expectation it will be brief.
6. Closure Messaging
Although it may not directly improve call connection, it’s important to keep patients informed when attempting to reach your office after-hours or during times of closure, especially when you do not leverage an after-hours answering service. When a patient calls your practice outside of regular office hours, communicate your normal business hours and provide straightforward next steps via an automated message. If you offer voicemail, be sure patients know what information they need to leave in their message and indicate a realistic timeline for follow-up. Automated greetings also provide an avenue to communicate last-minute closures, such as when inclement weather strikes.
As competition continues to increase and patients have more and more options when it comes to dental providers, the power of simply prioritizing the ringing phone and connecting every patient opportunity cannot be overlooked. Although call connection across the industry is on the decline, practices shouldn’t settle for subpar phone performance. By focusing on improving call connection, providers can ensure every caller results in a booked appointment, not a missed opportunity.
To learn more about Call Box and how
we’re helping top dental practices and DSOs
improve call connection,
capture more patient opportunities,
and optimize caller experience,
visit callbox.com or call 833-715-1244.
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