Communication with patients might already be your dental office’s superpower, but a few phone scripts ensure that the entire practice is on the same page.
Previously we outlined a few tips and tricks for welcoming someone to your office and communication tactics that can convert them to a longtime patient and source for referrals. Now your office is ready for the next step, cohesion through peripheral care — meaning the experience of a patient doesn’t start or end at the dentist’s chair. Phone scripts are a great way to make sure all interactions with your patients are consistent and clear.
This will likely be the first point of contact between a new patient and your office. Answering the phone quickly shows you respect their time and want their business. Being friendly, welcoming, and using their name lets them know that you care about them individually and they aren’t just another number in a system. This call is the perfect time to ask how they heard about your office and make a note of it to track your marketing efforts. Let's look at an example of a first-time call script
Office: Thank you for calling Hero Dental. This is Ruby speaking. How can I help you?
Caller: Hi my name is Jessica Jones. I haven’t been to your office before but I would like to make an appointment.
Office: Hi Jessica, we are happy to have you. Can you tell me about your last dental office experience? How long ago was it and how you heard about us?
Caller: It’s been over a year. My previous dentist didn’t seem to listen to my pain concerns or answer my questions about what my insurance would cover. My friend Trish told me about your office.
Office: I am so sorry that your last experience was so dismissive. We make a point to address your pain level and your dental goals every time you have an appointment at Hero Dental. Our dentists make a specialized health plan for each patient. We can get started on your plan Monday at 9:30 am. Does that work for you?
Caller: Yes, that sounds great.
Office: Okay. I will be here to discuss any concerns you have regarding your dental coverage as well. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Caller: Not right now. Thank you.
Office: You’re welcome, Jessica. We look forward to meeting you in person.
*Always let the patient hang up first*
Your office should clearly state on your website whether or not you can take emergency appointments. In this instance, a patient is likely frustrated and in pain. Efficiently answering their questions and making sure the issue is attended to as soon as possible shows that your office can be trusted in a time of crisis.
Office: Hello, this is Ruby with Hero Dental. How can I help you?
Caller: My name is Jessica Jones. I have an inflamed or maybe infected gum.
Office: I am sorry to hear that, Jessica. You were in the office last week, is the area we worked on causing you trouble?
Caller: Yes, it’s near there.
Office: The dentist can definitely take a look. We want to make sure the problem is addressed as soon as possible so you don’t have this discomfort. We can also decide on an action plan, if required, immediately after your appointment, but for now, let’s take care of that gum. Would today at 2:30 work for you?
Caller: Yes, that works.
Office: Is there anything I can do for you in the meantime, Jessica? If not, I will call you if we have any cancellations before 2:30 today.
Caller: That’s all. Thank you.
Office: We will see you soon, Jessica.
Making billing phone calls can be uncomfortable but are necessary to keep as many balances out of collections as possible. This type of call might help your office get paid faster and increase the chance the patient will return. Asking questions instead of stating what you need is a simple tactic that lowers the tension of the conversation. Also, make sure to keep track of when your financial coordinator should expect a check or payment. This will help them know when to follow-up if the amount isn’t received.
Office: Hi, this is Ruby with Hero Dental. I am calling to follow-up after your recent appointment. Was everything addressed that you needed, Jessica?
Patient: Yes, it was. Thank you.
Office: Okay great. Your feedback is important to us. Have you had a chance to look over your billing statement yet?
Patient: I received it last week but haven’t had time to look it over.
Office: Well please let me know if you have any questions or concerns when you look it over. Currently, you have a balance of $230. Can we get that taken care of today via debit or credit card, or would a payment plan work better for you?
Patient: I would prefer to mail in a check instead of putting on a card.
Office: That is fine. You can make the check out to Hero Dental and our mailing address is at the bottom of your billing statement. There is no way you could send a check on Friday, is there?
Patient: That actually would work for me.
Office: Alright, I will make a note on your account. If we do not receive a check by next Wednesday we will give you a reminder call. Are there any questions I can answer for you?
Patient: Nope, I will get that mailed to you on Friday.
Office: Thank you, Jessica. We look forward to seeing you back in the office for your next appointment.
Rescheduling or Cancellation Call
Typically when your patient calls to reschedule their appointment, it’s due to some work-related responsibility. Often these impromptu meetings are given priority because of their newness and not because they’re time-sensitive. When appropriate, remind your patient of the timeliness of their procedure and tactfully challenge them on the need to accept their work meeting for that time.
If your patient cannot keep their appointment, present them with two specific time slots (ex. 2:00 PM on Thursday) to reschedule. This will create a sense of urgency that the dentist’s calendar is filling up and present tangible options that might work with the patient’s schedule. If you leave it open-ended and ask “What day works best for you?” chances are that the patient will tell you that they will need to call back later.
Office: Hello, this is Ruby with Hero Dental. How can I help you?
Caller: Hi Ruby, this is Jessica Jones. I have an appointment tomorrow at 3:30 pm that I need to cancel.
If timeliness is a factor and you have a tight schedule.
Office: I’m sorry to hear that. If you aren’t able to make it tomorrow, the next available slot is a couple months out and I know that Dr. Murdoch wanted to address the issue you’re having as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse. Is there any way you could still make it?
Caller: I have a few meetings at work that just popped up and I really need to be there.
Office: Could you check to see if there’s another time you can reschedule the meeting?
Caller: Let me check and I’ll call back.
If they absolutely need to reschedule.
Office: That’s okay, we understand that things come up, thank you for letting us know in advance. It looks like Dr. Murdoch has time available next Wednesday at 2:15 PM or Thursday at 10:30 AM, which time would work best for you?
Caller: I have time on Thursday but could we schedule closer to 11:00 AM?
Office: We have you booked for Thursday at 11:00 AM.