Is This How They Talk To Everybody?

Last week I phoned a dental office to speak to the lady owner, and a male voice answered the phone.

The male did not identify himself clearly, so I began by introducing myself by name, and asking if the lady owner [let’s call her Dr. Jones] was in the practice on this day [that I was phoning on]?

The male who answered the phone, replied to my question [with a very loud and aggressive tone]:

“What’s this about?”

Guess what?

That wasn’t the answer to the question I asked.

In fact, it was nowhere near the two most common answers I receive when I phone dental practices and ask about the owners.

Those common answers that I normally receive are:

“She is, but she’s with a patient at the moment.”


“I’m sorry, Dr Jones isn’t in today.”

So I replied politely, to the man with the hostile tone:

“Will she be in tomorrow?”

To which the male voice replied aggressively:

“She won’t be in until Sunday! What’s this about?”

I replied politely:

“That’s OK. I’ll phone back on Sunday.”

Well actually, that was a lie.

I really just wanted to end this call as quickly as possible because I had decided already that my life was too short to ever want to speak to this person ever again, nor to speak to anyone who employed someone who behaved this rudely ever again.


But he persisted, rudely and aggressively:

“I can get her to call you back.”

I replied:

“I’m sorry. I missed your name earlier…. What was your name please?”

He told me his name was Graham* [not his real name].

I replied:

“Graham, did my number come up on your phone?”

Graham replied:

“I’m out the back on a cordless. It may have come up on the reception desk set.”

I replied, curiously:

“Graham, do you have a pen and paper handy?”

Graham answered:

“No, I’m eating my lunch.”

I replied:

“That’s OK Graham. I’ll call Dr Jones back on Sunday.”

Another lie from me…. I’m never phoning Dr Jones’s practice ever again.

And we ended the call there.

What was wrong with this call?

Firstly, for all dental practices, if you are going to answer the phone while eating your lunch, or while away from your front desk, the caller doesn’t need to know this.

All the caller needs to know is that you can PROFESSIONALLY and empathetically solve their problem, and give them a solution they are looking forward to.

All Graham did was tell me that the practice was understaffed to take phone calls, and that the practice had no systems or protocols in place to disguise the facts that staff who were on a lunch break were being forced to answer the phone at the same time.

What Graham should have said [to any caller] is:

“Excuse me [name of caller], do you mind if I place you on hold for 15 seconds?”

And then walked to the reception desk where a computer and a notepad were handy, and resumed the call.

No caller to a dental practice is going to give your team member a medal when the team member tells them:

“I’m just out the back.”

There is absolutely no point in saying this.

Callers don’t care.

Secondly, the role of a receptionist is to take messages and pass them along. It is not their role to decide whether the reason for the phone call is something that they think they can play judge, jury and executioner on, and decide themselves whether the dentist should hear about the phone call or not.

When I was a dentist, there were a lot of times when I was treating patients that it was impossible for me to take phone calls.

All I needed to know was who called me [Name] and what were their contact details [usually phone number] and when was the best time for me to return their call.

Phoning the caller back, and finding out the reason for their call, well those duties were mine and mine only.

Not the duty of some little power hungry frustrated megalomaniac like Graham*.

Even if…

Even if your employer wants you to filter and screen his calls, as an employee, I’d hate to be responsible for making the wrong choice as to whether my boss did or did not phone somebody back who called…

When I was practicing, as much as possible, I always liked to be shown [on paper] the name of someone who was calling for me, just in case it was an important call that I needed to take at that moment, if I could.

But as the owner, it was my decision.

If I needed to take the call, and I could take the call, then I would.

But if I wasn’t able to take the call, I was able to instruct my employee as to when I would be able to phone that caller back… and to politely let the caller know…

There were a couple of life-changing moments…

During my life as a dentist, there were a couple of life-changing moments where I took an incoming phone call, or I went out to speak to someone who had knocked on my dental practice door.

And if I’d never done those things, if I’d never spoken to those people AT THOSE TIMES, my life would have certainly been worse for missing out on those conversations, and the opportunities those callers had shared with me.

So let me ask you a question:

Are there team members in your practice, who through their aggressive and belligerent behaviour, could possibly be adversely determining your destiny?

PS. As a dental practice coaching firm, we listen to recordings of incoming calls on our clients’ phones, and we help their team members improve their phone skills to become the best version of themselves for their employers.

It’s surprising what we REALLY DO HEAR being said by front office employees on the phones that actually repels and deters callers from scheduling appointments for necessary dental treatment.

And the sad thing is, a lot of dental offices out there don’t record and monitor their phone calls, and therefore have no idea at all as to what’s being said well, and what needs to be said better….

And in reality, that’s a serious and very expensive opportunity cost going straight out the window right there… every single minute of every single day….

Just like a leaky old pipe, or a dripping tap…

And just like a leaky old pipe, or a dripping tap, bad phone skills and bad phone etiquette don’t fix themselves….


Need your phones monitored?

Are you concerned about the number of calls that are not being answered as best they can be?

You need Call Tracking Excellence.

For the cost of a less than one cleaning per week, you could have your phones being answered much much better….

Convert more calls into appointments…Click the link:

Call Jayne on 1300 378 044 or email for more details.


Have you read my book , How To Build The Dental Practice of Your Dreams [Without Killing Yourself!] In Less Than Sixty Days.

You can order your copy here: Click Link To Order


The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service 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.

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