The Telephone Test – Where Marketing & Management Meet

According to a survey by American Express, 78% of consumers have not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.  Transfer that statistic into dentistry – this is, in my opinion, what happens when an interested potential patient does NOT schedule an appointment because of how he or she is treated on the telephone.  Yes, the telephone and how your patients and potential patients are handled on the phone in your practice is that important and then some.

The telephone is often ignored in its importance for the health and well being of your practice.  Whether you are investing in marketing efforts or not – patients and potential patients will determine whether or not they will schedule an appointment with you based upon how they are treated on the phone!  It is a cornerstone of excellent customer service and can determine your success – all simply by how you answer the phone, how you communicate on the phone and how people perceive your practice from this initial contact.  That’s pretty powerful.

So, how do you improve your telephone system?  Where do you even begin?

1) Set the standard.  Reflect the Standard.  Expect the standard.  Leaders, now is the time to set the standard of service you desire from those with primary responsibility on the telephone.  When you take your turn on the phone, make sure you are practicing what you preach! Check in on your team’s telephone technique from time to time to make sure the standard of care is still being exceeded.  Why exceeded? Because Raving Fan Service means doing what is expected, plus a little bit more – a simple recipe for success. You must first communicate the standard in which you want performance to be met before anyone can even begin to know what is expected.  Build from there.

2) Inspect what you expect.  Ken Thoreson of Acumen Management spoke those very wise words.  How are you doing? Do you even know? There are many ways to determine where you are – you can invest in a call-tracking system if you are marketing, you can record some calls yourself to listen back to, you can have a team meeting to listen and practice with each other.  You can work as a team on various scenarios you struggle with, script it out and practice, practice, practice! It’s important to set the standard and then do whatever needs to be done to reflect that standard.

3) Study success stories and build upon them.  Who does customer service well?  Who excels at telephone technique?  As a team, brainstorm businesses that you have experienced in the not-so-distant past that you recall having excellent phone skills – of any service or profession – and call them!  Listen to how they answer the phone, ask them a few questions to see how they respond. Discuss as a team what you liked, what you didn’t like, and how you could incorporate the good parts of the telephone experience into your practice’s approach.

4) Cross train.  Everyone on your team needs to clearly trained and comfortable with answering the telephone in your practice.  If your business administrator is on another call or interacting with a patient, that precious phone call coming in at the same time should not be ignored!  Team, when you hear that phone ring for the 3rd time, that should be your cue that the nearest available team member is grabbing that phone and greeting the caller with a small and a professional greeting.  

“Thank you for calling Dr. Jameson’s dental office, this is Carrie, how may I help you?”

If you and your teammates are uncomfortable or nervous about answering the telephone, let’s use this as an opportunity to work through the pieces that make them uncomfortable, practice together, and become better as a team at this integral system in your practice.

Once again:  Set, Reflect & Expect the Standard, Inspect What You Expect & Study Success Stories to brainstorm and build from, and cross train – make your telephone system a priority in your practice and make growing and improving in the execution of this system a total team effort.  This way you can rest assured that the patient’s first impression meets – even EXCEEDS – their expectations!


Carrie Webber is Chief Communications Officer and co-owner of Jameson, a dental management, marketing and hygiene coaching firms that helps dentists and teams become more productive, profitable and fulfilled in their practicing. Carrie creates customer service and business development opportunities, as well as internal and external marketing initiatives and social media strategies.