Turning Calls into Cash with Care

by Rhonda Mullins

Opportunity is everywhere. By developing measurable marketing strategies, you can take advantage of the many opportunities available to you. In addition to gaining exposure, marketing efforts should include active patients, while creating a brand for attracting new, emergency, and walk-in patients.

To generate repeated visits and referrals, it is vital that your message be accepted. Be able to validate your marketing efforts by measuring your rate of response and Return on Investment (ROI). Making a great first, second, and third impression is so important!

Rate of response and ROI are different, and both must be action-ABLE sequences to measure. Acquiring 20 new patients per month from your marketing initiative indicates your rate of response. To establish ROI, take the number of patients who have accepted treatment and calculate a per patient value compared to your marketing cost for this specific group and specific time frame.


  1. To maximize response.  (Opportunities)
  2. Influence callers with your brand insistence
  3. Discover needs
  4. Promise
  5. Deliver over expectation

Are prospective patients receiving your marketing message by print and direct mail, email, website, or word-of-mouth referrals? Your website brand is important because potential patients may research you on the Internet prior to calling. This important visual exposure can provide the reasons why a new patient would choose you over another dentist; however, I caution driving traffic to your website from external print and direct mail marketing initiatives. A telephone lead provides a direct line of communication between you and your  prospective patient, whereas the website  provides the opportunity to surf and find competitor products and services. A recent experiment by Fortune Magazine found that conversation with a customer over the telephone is the most effective sales and customer service tool available.  

The best way to describe brand insistence is that the product is the souvenir and the brand is the practice – therefore, positioning with relevance will either provide sameness, variation, or distinction. How you communicate this to the caller will determine a “perception shift” to engage and a desire for your practice to meet the caller’s needs. How successful you are will differentiate you from your competition – as this is an opportunity with terrific potential for customer influx, word-of-mouth referrals and repurposing what others say.

There are six major changes in typical dental customers:  

  1. They are much busier
  2. They have heard it all
  3. They are more demanding
  4. They desire more value
  5. The market is more saturated
  6. They are more self-oriented

These changes drive your responses to be more intentional with every marketing campaign and conversion of calls into cash. Everyone is looking for value, convenience, service, and benefits. Your customers compare you to other dentists. So your strategy for “greater” has to be “better.” Example: “VOS” (Value of Success) verses “COF” (Cost of Failure).

Patients value a dental practice for how each team member interacts with them and how this makes them “feel” as a customer, but connecting initially by phone is what draws them in. Then comes the visual, the atmosphere offered, how you handle insurance, special focus dentistry, and service fees. It’s important that every practice identifies specific opportunities for existing and potential positioning, and acts on them in every aspect of marketing.

More than 30 to 40 percent of new patients are lost due to a mishandled first phone call. You may never know how much revenue is lost, how many opportunities came in that day or how they were handled. Your team only counts the “wins” walking through the door.

Establish a protocol and guidelines for your team members so they understand exactly what to do, how to follow-through, and determine an established timeline for patient results. Here are some ALWAYS RULES:

  1. Always answer calls “live,” not by answering machine.
  2. Always answer by the second ring.
  3. Always follow-up at the end of the day with a patient thank you call for trusting you and your dental team to exceed his/her oral health expectations.
  4. Always place a video camera at the front, allowing team members to assess their results, every two weeks.

You’re in the people business--your product is the smile, your brand is the practice. Your team must demonstrate this before being seen by your potential customer.  Choosing the right words, using the right tone, and asking the right questions will make a memorable first impression.

Your telephone receptionist must discover a potential patient’s needs and state the unique benefits you offer. Create team member “training” for leverage and advantages:

  1. Best in class
  2. Educational value
  3. National or international accomplishments
  4. Team expertise & years of experience
  5. Specific team member to greet new arrivals.

Ensure that your team members don’t create barriers when booking a new patient. Often when I ask administrative team members why they’re doing a certain process, they’ll answer, “I’m not exactly sure, the person who was here before me said I should do it this way.” Find a new edge to engage their creativity and innovation. Give them permission to execute and be accountable for the results. Otherwise, without accountability, in all practice areas, you encounter rationalization and justification .

Obtain all patient information during the initial call. If the patient has web access, have forms available in PDF format for them to download, complete, and submit back to you electronically. Otherwise, use “Snail Mail.”

To insure success in converting a prospective caller into a scheduled appointment, make certain your team members understand new patient practice goals and objectives, by reciting them every morning.

Create a “New Customer Script” for new patient calls:    

  1. Use the practice name and the name of the receptionist.
  2. Thank the caller for choosing you.
  3. Ask how you may direct their call. This will prompt them to relate their “need.”  
  4. Prospective new patients can then  speak directly to  whichever team member will  be  providing instructions and greeting them  upon arrival for their initial appointment (this is building relational capital and brand insistence).
  5. Close with, “We at _______________ assure you that our team members and Dr. _________ welcome an opportunity to serve you.”  
  6. Another tip for increasing new patient appointments is  to inquire if they have another family member  who would also like to book an appointment. This could be an “OPT IN” opportunity.  Offer prospective patients something beneficial for that“yes. ” reply.  This will demonstrate how helpful your practice is, and how convenient dental appointments can be made in the future. Watch your percentages increase with this one single adjustment!

Always allow two 90-minute appointments for new patients. Your investment in new patient inquiries is great, so be focused, create value, benefits, and provide two patient appointment time options to accommodate. Exceed all your patients’ needs, not just your new patients. When a prospective patient calls your practice, the number one goal is to create a verbal relationship and to schedule valuable time.

Share your success with conversion, calls and cash. Keep in mind that generating more new patients generates increased revenue for you, but if not properly rewarded, they’re just more work for your team.

Ask your team to be part of your goal-setting exercise and set monthly goals such as, “Last month we appointed 23 new patients. This month our goal is 25.” Make sure your team agrees to the targets and make them reasonable. “Last month we received 35 calls and appointed 50%, let’s see if we can increase that to 55%.”

Turn opportunity into income. Increase your marketing exposure, establish and elevate brand insistence, and get the edge over your competition by creating the right marketing mix of people, position, purpose and prospects.

Integrate these tips at “hello” each day to undoubtedly increase your new patient call conversion, possess a metric to measure your success, and elevate your daily customer service level consistently. When you include your entire team in the strategic development of these processes, you’ll create and sustain a Care Driven focus that penetrates the soul of your practice for years to come.

Rhonda Mullins brings expertise to her role as a practice development strategist. As a L. D. Pankey and Dawson trained technician/ lab owner, as a management analyst, she has managed over 100 million dollars in revenue in the last 5 years, seeing increases up to 70% for clients and as a transitional analyst, facilitating transitions for national clients through purchases, associateships and sells. She is a national speaker, consultant and coach, increases revenues, inspires leaders and includes solution finding innovation in her action-ABLE plans for dentists three decades of success helping dentists realize and achieve their dreams. You can visit Rhonda online at www.RhondaMullins.com or subscribe to her blog at www.DentalBlogTalk.com.