Answering the Dental Office Phone 101. Three Sure Ways To Stop Offending Your Clients and Customers

Over the last month I’ve been performing some Mystery Shopper Calls to Dental Offices around Australia.

Not only have I been phoning general dentists, but I’ve also been phoning some of the better Dental Offices around Australia. Some of the top producers and high-end offices.


Although the courtesies and friendliness are more apparent and forthcoming at the top end offices, as you would expect, I found three glaring commonalities that I bet the owners of all those Dental Offices don’t even know are occurring. Mistakes and errors that are basically rubbing patient enquiries up the wrong way.

These are three things being done or asked that could easily be changed for greater and immediate benefit to the Dental Practice.

Three simple things that you probably don’t even know or consider are abrasive, or offending…

Let me explain.

Firstly, I gave up counting the number of times I was asked this question:

“Have you been here before?”

Every time I was asked this, and it was rarely, if at all that I was *not* asked; every time I was asked this it showed me there existed a complete lack of thought process into making the appointment-making-experience a true *Ultimate Patient Experience*.

Because if this question had been really thought through, it would have been asked in a completely different way.

It would have been asked in a completely inoffensive manner, instead of this potentially offensive phraseology.

So let’s look at this scenario:

“Hello, I’d like to make an appointment.”

Receptionist says, “Have you been here before?”

This is wrong. Wrong. Very wrong.

What if the person calling then replied:

“Have I been there before? I’ve been there so often that I’ve paid for his new beach house/ last overseas trip/ his children’s private schooling/ his new 7 Series!!”

See what I mean?

What if it’s an existing long-term patient on the phone, who get’s upset that their voice has not been recognised?

What if it’s last week’s fourteen unit case calling to come in for a review?

So what other words would be better?

Why not try this?

“Hello, I’d like to make an appointment.”

Receptionist says, “When were you last in to see Dr Moffet?”


Caller says: “I’ve not been to your office before.”

Or, caller says: “I was there last week/ last month/ last June….”

You see, the question really being asked is whether or not you are an existing patient or a new patient calling.

And as you can see, the verbiage used in trying to gain this answer can be polite, or unintentionally offensive.

And most times we don’t even know we’re doing it….

Secondly, in Mystery Shopping and making appointments, I was asked on numerous occasions, on the phone, for my date of birth.

When making an appointment?


What has my age got to do with my new patient appointment?

Do they have a special old folks afternoon?

Or a Gen Y day?

Excuse me, but I really felt this was a question that didn’t need to be asked at this point in time on the phone. It could easily have been left until the new patient information was gathered, either via pre appointment email or mail, or collected on the day of the appointment.

Is that right?

Because, while this question is being asked on the phone, and the answer given, all that means is that another more relevant question is not being asked.

And that’s valuable time wasted. Both for the Dental Office, and the Patient.

Now, I’ve been told, that some dental software doesn’t allow an appointment to be made without a DOB being entered.

So who invented this software and this step?

A government official?

If this is the software you use, you need to call the company and tell them to amend this step.

It’s pointless!

Having to ask for DOB at this point is a complete waste of everybody’s time.

Thirdly, but not finally, all Dental Offices need to make sure that the person answering the phone is in command of the appointment book. And its template. And that the template is being followed.

Because, at each office that I called, I was given too many options for making an appointment.

And as a New Patient calling, I shouldn’t be given that much control or information.

As a New Patient, I should only be given alternate choices.

“What works better for you Mr. Smith, morning or afternoon appointments?”
A: “Mornings.”

“I’ve got an appointment available on Friday this week at 8:00am, or Thursday next week at 1:000am. Which of those would suit you better?”

Now I may have a whole book of empty appointments free and available for Mr. Smith, but if I let him know that he can choose his own time, guess what will happen when he comes to make his next time and his next time and the time after that too?

Yes, he’ll want to choose his own time. That suits him. And may not be best for us.

And that’s not good.

You see phone answering is an art.

And it’s a skill that can be learned.

And is taught.

An important skill.

You see, having your Dental Office phone answered incorrectly is costing you money.

And that’s *Free Money*!!

Because we’re talking about customers and clients that you’ve already paid for.

Through existing advertising and marketing. And existing patients.

They only need to be handled and appointed and converted correctly. Or better. Or both.

To convert more calls into appointments, you need to be taught properly.

And learn it.

And have this new skill monitored and maintained.

Otherwise it will relapse.

Like a diet. Like an exercise programme. Like palatal expansion.

Like most things.

And that, in dentistry and the Business of Dentistry, will be very expensive….


Answering the phone, in the best possible manner,  is just one of the  many straight forward and easy to implement  modules  that make up The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple to build system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me at

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