#18 – Understands and Uses Telephone Professionally

The telephone is our most powerful people tool (even more valuable than the computer). How we use the telephone will determine how successful we are. It can reduce our costs, add new clients, help us solve people problems or completely destroy us. Soon, you’ll be able to answer the phone and confidently answer these kind of questions:
“How much is a cleaning?”
“Do you take insurance?”
“Are you accepting new patients?”
“Do you use nitrous?”
“I have a tooth ache … can I get in to see the doctor this morning?”
“Do you participate in our insurance plan?”
“How much is a crown?”
“Do you see children?”
“Will you give me a second opinion?”
“Will you accept my insurance?”

Since we all use the telephone everyday, use can become “sloppy” in our telephone technique. False assumptions about using the telephone professionally are:
Takes no special training
Communication is easy
Anybody in the office can answer clients’ telephone calls
Beginning now, your task is to treat the telephone with all the respect you give our computer.

The first contact a new patient has with our office is usually a telephone conversation with our receptionist; this first impression must be a good one! Most people believe they use a telephone effectively. Very few really do. Speak in a cheerful voice; sincerely try to help the patient, and let them know that you are concerned; remember that the person calling probably has given a great deal of thought to which dentist s/he will use. If s/he is kind enough to consider us, let us be equally kind by trying to help them! Never answer questions with a simple, curt, “yes” or “no.” Do not hesitate to say “please” and “thank you.”

To complete this section –
1. Read our philosophy on the next several pages
2. Read through the telephone questions – do not start writing answers, just become familiar with the kind of questions you will be asked.
3. Sit down at home and answer these questions. The key to answering these is to write down what would you SAY – not what would you DO. To remind yourself how to answer these questions, you might start with quotes “ “.
4. Make a copy of your questions and give them to your team leader for your next level meeting. Be prepared to discuss these.
5. Expect your team leader to mark yes, no or more on each question. She will ask you to review each no or more question with another secretary on your team to correct your answers. When you’re finished, give your second copy to your team leader and schedule a level meeting to discuss these.

General Thoughts on Phone Etiquette

Beginning and ending conversation: “Thank you for calling ______________ (practice name), _______________ (your first name) speaking. I can help you?” End with: “Thank you for calling.” This establishes rapport, friendliness, and avoids confusion since we have several secretaries. People will judge you on three characteristics: a) friendliness (smile!) b) your vocabulary c) your tone

1) Hold the mouthpiece approximately 3/4 to 1″ from your mouth. This helps your caller to hear you clearly.

2) Once you hear the caller’s name, Use it and use it often. Nothing makes a person feel better. Write the caller’s name down so you don’t forget it during your conversation. Make sure you pronounce and spell it correctly.

3) Try to visualize the person you are talking to; speak to them as if they were present in the same room with you. It is an interesting game to try to imagine what the other person looks like by the sound of their voice. We get fooled sometimes don’t we?

4) Please remember, new patients will pre judge you and your office by your telephone manners. First impressions are often lasting impressions. The client is answering important questions when s/he is talking to you:
a) Are you as good and technically competent as they have heard?
b) How far out of our way will we go to solve their needs?
c) Do they feel comfortable and accepted?
d) Are they going to like us?
e) Do they trust us to provide their care?

5) Smile while you are on the phone. A pleasant, happy, smiling voice comes across just that way on the phone. To help you with this, make sure there is a mirror by each phone that you use. Paste a small sign on the bottom of the mirror that says smile!

6) You should hear and study your voice on a recorder. You could record your next phone call using your cell phone to hear how you sound! Good radio announcers we are not, but speaking in a monotone fashion and the use of slang expressions like “yeh”, “huh”, and “kid”, should be avoided. Clarity, diction, tempo are all important. You should be aware of your shortcomings and strive to improve. Try not to talk money over the telephone.

7) Pay careful attention to the number you are dialing or when using the push button phones. Try to minimize wrong numbers. Remember, the office phone is not to be used for personal calls unless it is for an emergency. Advise your friends and members of your family to avoid calling during working hours unless it’s an emergency.

8) If you confirm the next day’s appointments try the following: “Good morning Mrs. Client, this is __________ (your first name) at _____________ (practice name) ; I am confirming your appointment for 2:30 tomorrow…Fine, we will look forward to seeing you at 2:30 tomorrow. Have a nice day. Good bye Mrs. Client.” Notice the word confirm was used, not remind. No one really enjoys being reminded. Try not to leave messages with other people, even family members for a client, unless the client is a child.

9) At the end of your conversation, good telephone manners dictate waiting until the other person hangs up. Always put your receiver down gently. Sometimes, you may find both parties waiting for the other to hang up.

10) Try to answer the phone on the second ring cheerfully. Notice I said cheerfully. Have you observed how congenial waitresses will set the mood for a dinner by being prompt and cheerful? If they are gloomy or sarcastic you may have the best food in town, but it doesn’t taste that way. On occasion, however, you may receive excellent service and still have poor food. That’s life! Convey this feeling we are friendly and knowledgeable; we are here to help; we care.

11) If you must interrupt the person with whom you are talking, offer them a choice – 1) call them back in 5 minutes or 2) place them on hold and estimate how long they will be on hold (be accurate – not “a few seconds”) Studies show the people who are placed on hold longer than 20 seconds believe you don’t care about them. If the hold extends for more than 20 seconds, cut back in and say:
“Thank you for waiting, Mrs. Client. I did not anticipate it would take this long, would you like to continue holding or should I call you back?
“Mrs. Client, would you rather I return your call? I am busy at the desk and it may take (time) more minutes.”

12) If somebody calls and would like to speak to the doctor:
Receptionist: Good morning, ______ Practice name, _______ (your first name), I can help you.
Patient: Yes, I would like to speak to Dr. Smith please.
Receptionist: The doctor is with a patient at this time. Could I help you? (You will get more information and this indicates you have the ability to help.) If the call is personal “May I take your phone number and the reason for your call. The doctor will return your call as soon as s/he has a chance.”
Try not to interrupt the Dr. at the chair make as many decisions as you can by yourself, but if you get stuck, write the name of the caller, if personal, on a scratch pad and show the Dr. out of view of the patient, the name of the caller and the nature of the call. The Dr. will advise you how to handle personal calls. The chief objective is to minimize interrupting the Dr. while he is treating a client. Dental treatment requires an enormous amount of concentration and frequent interruptions only add to mental fatigue. Be positive and complimentary; don’t tell clients what we can’t do for them but what we can. Example: instead of : We don’t have appts. after 9:00 pm, say Our last appt. finishes at 7:00 pm.

13) Conclude your conversation by thanking them for calling.

14) Check the sound level of your radio or music system. Some offices have their background music blaring so loudly, it is difficult to hear. This is most annoying to the caller. Loud talking and unnecessary noises also disturb patients and Dr. A calm, pleasant atmosphere is more relaxing for the patient and office personnel.

15) If you are the type of person who is apprehensive about the proper technique for handling business calls, then join the crowd! There are many like you or should I say, were. You simply need to practice that much harder to improve your technique. After awhile, it will become second nature to you, and you, too, will sound like the professional.

16) Modern telephones are electronic marvels. Even by putting your hand over the handpiece, the person will be able to hear what you say. Therefore, use the hold button.

17) If you have a patient who won’t quit talking, start a sentence, then interrupt yourself with “… oh my gosh my x rays! I was enjoying myself so much I forgot them! I’ll have to run, Mrs. Blabber. (or Dr. calling, or lab pick up).

18) The best test for how effective you are on the telephone is how many times clients ask you to repeat yourself.

19) All frequently used telephone numbers are placed ___________.

20) If you are talking to a patient on the phone and don’t know how to schedule him, say “Let me check the schedule. Can I call you right back?” Then write out your question for your team leader or the dentist, bring the client’s folder along, and interrupt the dentist at the chair. Hopefully, this won’t happen too often.

21) Keep a notebook to log name and nature of all calls. When you pick up the telephone have your pen and note pad ready so you can write as you talk. This also helps you listen more closely. Make sure you correctly identify:
a) Correct spelling of name
b) Reason for call
c) If expect call back

22) Everyone wants appointments on Saturdays or after 3:00. You can say, “Due to Dr. _______’s heavy program of continuing education, I can’t schedule that far in advance. However I do have times at ____ or ____. (Always give choices)

Otherwise, I can place your name on our call list and I’ll contact you just as cancellations occur. Feel free to offer the client the first available time, but let them know which doctor it will be with. If the client has a preference, honor it. It’s ok to offer a different doctor, if the time they want is available. (Our “Primetime list” is used for cleaning appts. on Saturdays and weekdays after 4pm).

23) Client’s 4 main ego drives and how to recognize and support them
a) Recognition We want your opinion. Use their names.
b) Self Preservation talks about health
c) Romance wants to be liked, appearance
d) Money talks about money

24) If someone calls and you aren’t sure if they’ve been in before, don’t ask, ” Have you been in before?” This indicates you don’t know what’s going on. Do say, “How long has it been since you’ve seen Dr. Smith?”

25) When you get a long-winded caller say, “I’m interested in what you’re saying, but I must put you on hold for a minute while I answer another call. Thank you for waiting.”

26) The most persuasive words in the English language are: discover, free, guarantee, health, love, money, new, proven, results, safety, save, and you.

27) If a patient needs a call back from a dentist, document their request and give the note to the dentist quickly so s/he can return the call.

28) A caller asks, “What are Dr. ________’s qualifications?” Refer them to the website where they can see photos and the background of each dentist.

29) A caller asks, “How much does a tooth colored filling cost?” “Well _____, a tooth colored filling can cost from $100-250, according to how large it is. Regarding the fees for a filling, it is difficult for me to quote a specific fee because at this point we do not know exactly what treatment needs to be done. What I would like to do is set up an appointment that will allow the doctor to do a thorough examination and evaluate your treatment needs. Before we ever start on any treatment, we will discuss the treatment fees and payment options. As far as finances are concerned, I can assure you that there will be no surprises, you’ll know all the details before we begin any treatment. Would you like to schedule your examination appointment? Do you like mornings or afternoons?” While this may look like a long winded response, in reality this type of reply can be presented in just a few seconds. Here’s a way to deal with dental shoppers.

a) Don’t worry about quoting a fee or a range of fees. Just let the client know it’s a “best guess” without seeing them.
b) If the client is “shopping” by calling different offices, point out that it can be difficult to comparison shop. Offer a no fee exam and invite the patient to come in to meet the dentist.
c) Offer to send the shopper our practice brochure, a doctor’s curriculum vitae, and newsletter so they can get to know us better. Or to go online to see this information right away.
30) All new client exams should be scheduled within 2 weeks of when they call.

31) If a physician calls, do interrupt the doctor. This is a professional courtesy.

32) If you have trouble hearing a caller, put your hand over the mouthpiece. This makes the caller’s voice clearer and louder.

33) One of my irritations is being left on hold. Avoid this. Never answer the phone saying “Hello, Dr. Smith’s office, can I put you on hold”? It’s easy to call someone right back. If the person chooses to be left on hold, check back every 20 seconds. To help you “get the feel” of the loneliness of holding a dead phone, close your eyes and ask someone to time you. Tell them when you think one minute is up. Do it several times. Remember this feeling the next time you want to place someone on “hold.” Some thoughts of people left on hold:

a) “Why do I keep trying to stay a patient here?”
b) “I counted the messages. I heard 6.”
c) “Did the secretary forget about me?”

If that’s not bad enough, remember the results of this study by the Prudential Insurance Co. of America:

  • Percentage of people who say that they get angrier every minute they’re kept on hold by an automated telephone operator: 41%
  • Percentage who say that by the time they get through to a live person, they’ve forgotten why they called: 12%

34) When you need to phone someone you anticipate will be difficult, rehearse exactly what you want to accomplish and how you want to say it. Later, in specific complicated situations, you’ll find scripts already written out. Your task is to control the conversation to accomplish the clients desires within our guidelines. Summarizing your thoughts keeps you on track, gives you confidence, saves time, avoids that five minute later call back (I’m sorry, I forgot to mention…), and assures that you’ll achieve your goals.

35) When you call, always identify yourself and, if the conversation will take more than one minute, ask “Am I catching you at a good time?” or “Do you have a couple minutes that we can talk, now?”

36) If a caller wants to speak to someone, they can’t come to the phone, and they don’t want to leave a message, try these approaches.
a) “Will ___________ know what this call is in reference to?”
b) “May I give ____________ a message for you?”

37) When you are on the telephone with a client, and a client comes to the desk, excuse yourself from the caller, acknowledge their presence at the desk and tell them you’ll be with them quickly. The client at the desk can see you’re busy and won’t mind waiting. Then return to your telephone call.

38) Try to talk at the same speed as the caller. Any other speed too fast or too slow will irritate your caller.

39) Client call wanting a tooth extracted.
Recep. “Why don’t you come in and we’ll do our best to get you out of pain today.” Don’t say we won’t extract the tooth. A good general rule is “Don’t tell someone what you’re not going to do until you’re not going to do it.”

40) Client is switching to another dentist.
Recep. “Oh! I’m so sorry that we haven’t pleased you. Can you tell me why you are switching? (When the client explains) Is there some way we could solve this problem for you?” If not, note this conversation and let your team leader know.

41) One of the key thoughts on communicating with clients is that your job is to facilitate what they want – NOT tell them what they have to do. Remember a time when someone told you, “You have to …” – how did you feel? Did you like the person that said that to you? Did you want to immediately say, “I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to!” Your job in scheduling, financial arrangements and overall coordination at the front desk is to avoid telling the patient what to do, but rather offering them choices and guiding them in our way.

42) How handle a patient that calls & asks for an estimate on treatment. “Hi, my name is Don and I want to confirm how much an implant costs.” Your response should be, “Hi Don – Thanks for calling. How do you spell your last name so I can look you up in my computer here & answer all your questions? Oh – you haven’t been seen here before? No problem, I am more than happy to answer questions for you about implants. So tell me, has another dentist recommended that you have an implant done or are you doing some research on your own? . . . continue asking questions to understand what this patient actually needs – do not just give him a price of an implant! Your goal for this patient might be to schedule them for an Implant exam. Or, if this patient has already seen another dentist & received a quote for an implant & he just wants to price compare – then maybe you can help him to get a second opinion from Dr. Smith – maybe you can get a copy of his xray from his other dentist & have Dr. Smith talk with him on the phone?

43) Often dentists and administrators work with a variety of vendors as well as significant patient interactions such as complaints and large financial arrangements. After attending dental conferences, we will receive phone calls from a variety of vendors. To help our team be ready for these calls, when someone calls for the dentist or the administrator and they only give their name, then please say “May I let her know what this is regarding or what company you are with?” – if they tell you, “Oh she knows me”, then say “So you’re saying you are a friend of hers?”. Then, when you pass the call through, please let her know the name & company of the caller.

Here are some tips on communicating more effectively:
1) Never sound distracted or tired
2) Speak as loud as the caller
3) Don’t use negative words, do tell people what you can do
4) Always tell the truth
5) Don’t waste time say what you have to say, be pleasant, not hurried, then say goodbye
6) Focus on the caller get all other thoughts out of your mind
7) To make sure you heard a message correctly, repeat it “Mrs. Jones, I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. Your saying that . . . ”
8) Speak slowly and distinctly.
9) Be proud to be an important part of our office.

Qualities of a good voice
1. Alertness be interested
2. Pleasant smile
3. Natural avoid slang and technical words
4. Distinct speak clearly
5. Expressive vary tone of voice
To practice these qualities, read out loud for 15 minutes each day for one month

Avoid curt phrases
1. You can’t do that
2. You’ll have to
3. Speak up, I can’t hear you
4. What?
5. Who’s this?
6. Hang on (or Hold on)
7. She’s still out to lunch

If you are disconnected during a call, the person who originally made the call should return it. End a conversation with a difficult client by saying “Thank you for your courtesy.”

If you offer an “800 number” to save patients money when they call us, be sure to tell patients out of the area what the number is. If the client hesitates and many of our best clients will feel they are being “cheap” and sticking us with the call, reassure them that the “800” number is there for their convenience. We want them to use it.

Words and Phrases . . . . For Better Communication

Don’t Say                                                               Do Say
Baby teeth                                                             Primary
Bill                                                                          Account
Bite wing x ray                                                     Decay x ray
But                                                                         However
Call back later                                                      May I call you back at 3:00?
Cancellation                                                         Change in schedule (can everyone cancel?)
Case presentation                                              Diagnosis and consultation appointment
(Are we going to court?)
Cavities,                                                       # of Decay, amount of, considerable/small amt.
Charge for today, cash                                       Fee for today, total amount
Check up                                                               Thorough examination (like my car?)
Contract or note                                                  Agreement (am I signing my life away?)
Cost                                                                      Investment, fee (where’s the check out counter?)
Doctor is busy                                                   Doctor is with a patient (well, I’m busy too!)
Doctor is on vacation                                       Doctor is at dental seminar
Doctor is running late                                      Doctor has had an interruption
Doctor would like                                             The Doctor recommends
Do you Understand?                                        How do you feel about this? (do you think I’m stupid?)
Do you want to go ahead                                Does this program make sense to you?
with this?
Educate                                                              Inform (sounds boring)                             Extraction                                                         Removal
File Plate                                                           Denture adjustment
Filling                                                                 Restoration
Financial Arrangement                                  Payment arrangement
Fit in your emergency                                 The doctor has had a change                                                             in schedule we can make the necessary appt.
Full mouth or bite wings                             Necessary x rays
Girls                                                                 Name of staff member (servants?)
Grind the tooth                                              Prepare the tooth or reshape tooth
Hang on a second. I’ll                                  It may take a few minutes to get the answer.
be right back                                                Would you like to hold or be called back?
He’s all booked up, he                                Doctor’s schedule is filled for today
can’t see you until…                                     however, he can see you….
High speed drill                                           Light touch drill
I don’t know                                                Good question. Let me find the answer
Improved                                                     Newer, more modern
I’m sorry, I can’t fit                                    Thank you for calling Mrs. Patient.
you in today                                                It’s such a shame you didn’t call earlier
I’ll call to remind you                                 I’d like to confirm your Tues appt. Is
of your appointment.                                that OK?
I’ll try                                                           I’ll have to find out and call you back
I’m sorry I kept you                                  Thanks for waiting

It’s not our policy                                      I understand what you want, let me see what I                                                                     can do and call you back
I suggest                                                     I recommend
Ledger card                                               Statement
Long appointments                                 Planned appointments
(sounds uncomfortable)
My girl                                                        My asst.
My secretary will make the                    My secretary will give you an appointment
financial arrangement                           and discuss our method of payments with you
“No” to start a sentence                     Restate the problem and make a positive statement
Old balance                                            Previous balance

Old Filling                                              Restoration (that has outlived its usefulness)
“Old Patient”                                         A former patient (Old? She’s my age!)
Operatory                                              Treatment room (operations, ouch)
Partials                                                   Partial denture
Pay for                                                    How do you want to handle this?
Payments                                               Installments (buying a tv?)
Picture                                                     X ray
Pliers                                                      Forceps
Plates                                                     Dentures
Premature loss                                     Early loss
Price                                                       Fee (sounds like a dept. store)
Private office                                         Consultation room (sounds ominous)
Professional discount                          Professional courtesy
Pull a tooth                                            Remove
Recall                                                     Follow Up Visit or preventive program
Rehabilitation                                       Complete dentistry
(sounds like straightening out a criminal)
Remind                                               Verify or confirm appt.(are you nagging or don’t you think I can remember?)
Running late                                        Interrupted schedule
Simple                                                   Uncomplicated
Sign the contract                                Please put your ok on this
Some should have told                      Let’s see if I can find a way to make
you that this more convenient for you
Spit                                                       Empty your mouth
Study models                                     Diagnostic models
Suggest                                               Recommend
Temporary filling                             Sedative filling

That will be ten dollars                            The fee for today is ten dollars
The work will make you look                 Remember, your smile is the showcase of
better                                                          your personality
Three hundred and twenty                    Three twenty seven
seven dollars
Tooth pulled                                              Extraction
You’ll have to                                           Here’s how we can help with that the next time                                                        that happens, here’s what you can do
You should have                                 I could have perhaps avoided your inconvience if you had
Waiting room                                        Reception room (people don’t like to wait)
We can’t do that.                                  That’s a tough one. Let’s see what we can do
We have an opening at…                     Doctor can see you at…
What do you mean?                             Help me understand?
(I’m stupid since you don’t understand me.)
When would you like to come               Do you prefer morning or afternoons?
Who’s calling please?                            Dr. Adams is with a patient right now. This
Doctor is busy.                                         is Ann. Doctor’s secretary, How may I help you? (If I’m not important enough you’ll say the doctor is busy.)
Work                                                         Treatment or dentistry
(like on assembly line)
Would you like to come in?                  Mrs. Patient, Dr. Adams is ready to see you.
You must have made a                           Let me see what I can do to solve this
You will have to speak                            Dr _____ will want to talk to you
to the dr about that!                                about this
I’m going to transfer you                        Jamie is the real expert on that, and she’ll
to Jamie                                                     be glad to help you. I’ll transfer you.

Dr. _________________ Philosophy

1. Since we are a large practice, we do not want to appear impersonal.

2. In the last 5 years, there have been several dental-medical connections established – such as gum disease can be linked to low birth weight babies. There may be a variety of medical symptoms that can be resolved with dental treatment. Advances in research occur regularly and our dentists are aware of this information.

3. Our “policy” is to always take care of an emergency client the same day and usually within 2 hours of their call – this person will determine if they need to be seen. It is not your responsibility to decide who should be seen the same day as an emergency. We maintain emergency columns that assistants run and when those are full, the dentist will find a place for the emergencies.

4. We have a written profile of every dentist and hygienist available for clients to get to know their healthcare professionals. These are located on our website.

5. We have options for a 1st time patient – they can start with a cleaning and exam or with a comprehensive exam and x-rays. The client will choose – we highly encourage the comprehensive exam to get to know that client and can work out a written tx plan if needed.

6. We put blocks in the hygienist schedules for new clients and clients with significant gum disease. Openings in a DDS schedules are usually easy to find so every new client can be seen within 1-2 weeks max.

7. _____________ responsibilities include handling insurance problems, making collection & write off calls (for pts. that are overdue on their financial arrangements, and answering complex financial and insurance questions.

8. We have a great client referral ‘thank-you’ program. When a client refers someone outside of their family we enter their name into the computer and at the end of the month send a thank you letter signed by the DDS that cared for the NP. We send this to their work if possible in hopes of other people noticing and coming to us. We also write in the inside cover of the chart who referred who – so we can thank that person for referring their friends to us

9. Generally, the dentists do not like to be interrupted while at the chair. However, if another dentist or physician calls, they will want to take the call since doctor schedules make it tough to catch each other at a convenient time and it is somewhat rude not to take the call.

10. Often, potential clients call to find out how much a filling will cost. They have no idea that there are numerous kinds of fillings and sizes of fillings. This is why we recommend having either an emergency exam or if they’re due for a cleaning, schedule that, and make a note on the treatment sheet so that the DDS can determine what choices ore available to the client.

11. It’s important to remember that you control the schedule – your task is to always appear to accommodate the client operating in their best interests, and at the same time meet our needs. Always offer our clients alternatives that meet our needs. For example, when a client needs an appointment, offer the first available a.m. and p.m. times.

12. The ASAP list in the computer is for clients that have an appointment, but would like to come in sooner if the time opens up. It’s a great idea to ask your clients if they would like to move up their appt if possible the longer this list, the easier to fill last minute holes.

13. We expect Dental salespeople to make appts with our staff. We often cannot talk with someone who just stops by. A secretary is designated to usually handle vendor requests since she manages our inventory system.

14. Feel free to call a DDS at home or on their cell if you need to help a patient.

15. Only the administrator is authorized to provide job references for former employees.

16. Occasionally, a lawyer may request info on a patient – you cannot provide any info without a signed release from the patient. Get as much info as possible about the lawyer and what they are requesting but then let them know that you will have to check with the doctor and call them back.

17. Directions to the office – you should be able to give them and you should know they are on our patient brochure and on our website. You can also offer to email or text the directions.

18. You know our absenteeism policy for staff – when a staff member, calls you should ask who is covering their hours. If they haven’t called anyone, then you must tell them to find a replacement. You could give them suggestions of who to call and their phone #’s. Make sure you follow up to see how much of the day they got covered.

19. We receive requests for donations frequently – an upper level secretary handles these and we have a great system – we always say yes! We say yes we can help you with your event, we would be happy to give you a gift certificate for a cleaning and exam that you can raffle off and keep the $ you earn. This allows us to help in a way that may generate new clients.

20. If someone calls or is in the office and is saying that we made mistakes or caused problems – do not defend the office. Your responsibility is to simply ask questions, take notes on the PR form and refer the problem to your dentist.

21. We invest $1000’s of dollars in marketing – all to get the potential new patients to call us and schedule. The better you are at helping new patients get their questions answered and scheduled, the more you help our office be successful with our marketing!

22. You need to understand the difference between in and out of network insurance. New patients ask more questions about insurance than anything – and since insurance changes so often, these questions pop up over and over!

23. Occasionally, a client may call and request specific treatment, but they’re not exactly sure which tooth or # surfaces or filling versus crown, etc. You normally offer to have them come in for an emergency exam – however, this pt says he doesn’t want to pay for an “extra” exam – he just wants the treatment done. Do not argue with the pt – get as much info as possible and then have a more senior team member handle this call.

What they will do is offer the pt. a choice:

#1 Emergency exam to diagnose tx – offer notice if dollars are the problem, but warn there will be a fee for any necessary x-rays or tests.

#2 b. Client wants to be scheduled now! Go through these questions
Where is the tooth located in the client’s mouth? (location effects how long it takes for anesthetic to take effect)
How many of the 5 surfaces of the teeth need to be restored? (The more surfaces, the more time will be needed)
What material do they want used?(tooth colored vs amalgam vs metal crown vs porcelain / gold crown)

Usually by this time your client is thoroughly confused and will go ahead with the emergency exam.

Sample Dialogues

A. Emergency
client “I have a toothache!”
sec. “I’m sorry to hear that. You called the right place. May I ask who’s calling?”
client “Carla Baker”
sec. “Ms. Baker, how long has it been since you were seen by Dr. Smith?”
client “I’ve never been in before”

B. Urgency
client “I broke a tooth, but it doesn’t hurt”
sec. “I’m sorry to hear that. You called the right place. May I ask who’s calling?”
client “Colleen Long”
sec. “Mrs. Long how long has it been since you’ve seen by Dr. Smith?”
client “I’ve never been in before”
sec. “How long has it been since you’ve had a thorough exam?”
client “A long time”
sec. “If you would like, I can schedule a thorough exam with Dr. _____ tomorrow at 11:00. He will evaluate your broken tooth as well as all your other teeth. This will give you a chance to meet him and all of us and we’ll go from there. I’m sure you’ll like him. He’s a friendly, gentle dentist with lots of experience he enjoys getting to know his patients.
C. Shopper
client “How much is a cap?”
sec. “Thank you for calling. You called the right place if you are concerned about getting full value for the dollars you spend on dental care. May I ask who’s calling?”
client “Marie Bradford”
sec. “Mrs. Bradford, there are many different fees for a crown. Is it a front or back tooth? Has it had a root canal? Do you want porcelain on the crown?”
client “Gosh, I’m not sure”
sec. “How about this. If you are only interested in the cost for that one crown, we could see you today at 2:30 and there would be no fee for that exam. On the other hand, if you would like Dr. _________ to give you a thorough exam, where he could evaluate all your teeth and discuss his findings with you, the fee would be $________. This would give you a chance to meet him and the rest of us. I’m sure you’ll like him. He’s a friendly, gentle dentist with lots of experience and he enjoys getting to know his patients.”

D. Cancellation
Recep. Oh Mr. ______. I’m sorry you won’t be able to make your appointment. I know Dr. Smith was concerned that we get that (crown filling, root canal, etc.) done before it gave you any more problems. Are you sure there’s no way you can be here? If “no”- Ok Mr. ____ All our available appointments are filled, I can place on our call list until something opens up, it will probably be 2-3 weeks. Will you be okay until we can arrange that appointment?

E. Helpful phrases/skills
“I understand.”
“I see how you feel.”
Ask questions when you’re not sure.
Don’t interrupt.
Focus on what the client is saying – not on what you want to say next.
Do not tell, judge, or explain. Simply facilitate your clients to get what they want.
How did you find out about us? Is morning or afternoon better for you? (Put on salmon sheet)

Now it’s time to see how much you have learned. The questions beginning on the next page will review most of the types of questions you will be asked to answer.

The stronger and more confident you are on the phone helps the patients conquer their own fears about coming to the dentist – and it begins to build trust that our practice can help their family with dental care. We know you don’t want to “sound stupid” on the phone either, but try to avoid telling every patient that “I’m new, so bear with me.” Instead, use this training to learn the basics and talk with your team members about these questions to make sure you understand the type of questions you will receive.

There is a lot to know to answer the telephone professionally! So, expect that getting signed off on this section will take more than one meeting.

To get checked off on this section:

1. Write your answers to each question by yourself.
2. Turn in your answers to your team leader – she will either checkmark them (you got it right!) or write “no” or “More” beside each question. Then she will return the questions to you.
3. Talk with your team members to review the questions where you need more or you got wrong and make changes/add info.
4. Turn in your second round of corrected questions to your team leader.
5. Now, your team leader will meet with you to review the phone questions and once she approves, you may begin answering the phone.

1. How would you learn if a caller is a new or established patient?


2. What should you do if the caller is experiencing symptoms you’re not sure the doctor can help? For example, suppose the patient calls and says he or she is having severe earaches.


3. Suppose a new patient has a dental problem that needs attention the same day, but the appointment book is full and the reserved emergency time has already been used. What would you do?

4. A new patient asks how much the first visit costs. What would you say?


5. A new patient calls and asks if we take her family’s insurance. What would you say?


6. Within what period of time should you be able to accommodate a new patient for elective appointments?


7. How do you answer the telephone?


8. Let’s say a new patient with an out of network insurance plan calls and asks – Do you take my insurance? What would you say?



9. Now, let’s say a new patient with an in-network insurance plan calls and asks – Do you take my insurance? What would you say?


10. What are the insurance plans this office is in-network with?


11. Let’s say a new patient calls in and asks a bunch of questions, but by the end of the call isn’t ready to schedule an appointment and “wants to think about it”. What would you say?


12. A physician or another colleague asks to speak with the doctor. What would you say?


13. How would you explain what will happen at the initial new patient appointment?


14. What would you tell a caller who wants to know how much a tooth colored filling costs?


15. What would you tell a patient who requests a 2 p.m. appointment, when that time is already taken?


16. Describe our new patient referral program.


17. A sales rep from a dental supply house wants to talk with the doctor. What would you say?


18. In your own words, what is the difference between a cleaning and a periodontal maintenance?


19. A new patient asks some clinical questions you can’t answer regarding dental treatment before he or she makes an appointment. What would you do?


20. The next scheduled client calls and says, “I’m going to be late, but I still want to come.” What do you say?


21. An area employer wants your opinion of a former employee of our practice, as a job reference. What would you say?


22. An attorney calls to ask you about a particular patient. What would you say?


23. A dentist brings a client to the front desk and asks that the client be seen within 2 days by a specific specialist and then goes back to treat another client. You call the specialist and his secretary says the best she can do is 6 days. What do you do?


24. One of our employees calls you to say she’s sick and not coming in to work that day. What would you do?


25. A charitable organization calls to see if the practice can contribute. What would you say?


26. A patient calls to cancel an appointment at the last minute. What would you say?


27. A new patient calls and says she wants to come in to get her teeth whitened? What would you say?


28. A patient says our latest statement is incorrect. What would you do?


29. A patient hangs up on you in anger. What would you do?


30. Someone you’re calling wants to put you on hold for the second time. What would you do?


31. A caller tells you he or she couldn’t get through because our line was busy for a long time. What would you do?


32. A friend of the dentist wants to know whether he or she will receive discounted or free services. What would you say?


33. A patient calls to report her 10 year old son knocked a tooth out. What do you say?


34. Patient calls and says “I missed an appointment last week and I’m calling to reschedule.” What would you say?


35. A caller asks about our practice because he or she is “shopping” for a new doctor but is not ready to make an appointment. What would you say?


36. The doctor’s spouse or child says he or she must speak to the doctor. What would you say?


37. We are running 15 minutes behind and the dentist asks you to call the next scheduled client to come in 15 minutes later. What do you say to the next client?


38. A patient calls half an hour before an appointment to tell you his or her car won’t start. What would you say?


39. The Chamber wants to know if the doctor can give a talk for them next Tuesday night. What would you say?


40. A new patient calls and wants to schedule for a sleep appliance. What do you say?


41. The bank calls to tell you that one of our patients has stopped payment on a check written to us. What would you do?


42. A new patient calls and wants to schedule for TMJ because he is having headaches. What do you say?


43. A patient asks you to forward his or her records to another doctor. What would you say?


44. A caller you don’t know gives his or her name quickly, and you’re not sure you got it right. What would you say?


45. Our patient calls from a work trip to California. Her temporary crown fell off. What should she do?


46. Client calls to ask if we are on her list of providers, but we are out of network. What would you say?


47. New patient calls and says “I want to schedule for a filling on the tooth that I just broke. I don’t want to come in just for an exam.” What do you say?


48. A new patient calls and wants to schedule for her son’s wisdom teeth to come out. What do you say?


49. You are checking out a client and the phone rings. What do you do/say to each?


50. You are on the phone with a client and a chairside assistant brings a client to you to check out. What do you do and say?


51. A client calls and wants to be scheduled to talk about her treatment with Dr. What do you say?


52. Your dentist asks you to call a client due in 1 hour to reschedule so he has time to treat an emergency accident client. What do you say when you call?


Team Leader / Date