The Shopper Call. Five Essential Questions That Convert Price Enquiries Into Actual Appointments

An interesting question was posted on a Dental Mastermind chat forum yesterday by one of my good friends.

Does anyone have a good method for handling shoppers? The people who ring up and ask: ‘How much is a filling?’

….. I was wondering if anyone has a method for getting them in the door?”

I answered briefly, between other more urgent tasks of the day….


But I did cut and paste my answer to a Word Doc because I knew this would make a great subject for today’s blog post.

With the assisted contribution from three other members on that forum, here’s where the discussion, has unanimously turned ….

The people who call and ask for a price do so because they have no other point of reference.

The number one reason why people call any Dental Office and ask for a price is because they have no other point of reference.

I know for a fact that everyone calling my office for treatment related questions [as opposed to those trying to sell me SEO etc.…] is doing so because they actually need that treatment.

With that thought in the front of mind, our job on the phone is to convince the caller that we are the Dental Office for them, and in so doing, make the question of price irrelevant.

Our job is to make the question about price totally irrelevant in their decision for choosing their new dental home.

If they THEN choose to go elsewhere for their dentistry they do so knowing that they have compromised their decision.

So…. in answer to the question of “Does anyone have a good method for handling shoppers?” I would suggest the reply should be to answer the caller’s question with a question…or SEVERAL QUESTIONS

Answer their question with several more questions.

The first question that the caller asks is often NOT really their primary concern….

We need to dig deeper, and dig quickly, to divert the caller from the price answer.

Really what the caller is saying is:

“I have a dental problem and I’m looking for someone who really cares, to help me.”

“I have a dental problem and I’m looking for someone who really cares, to help me.”

The FIRST Question your receptionist needs to ask to this question about price, and any other initial question raised by a caller [such as “Do you do Veneers?” or “Do you open Saturdays?] must be:

“When were you last in to see us?”

“When were you last in to see us?”

Leading with this question immediately allows us to control the conversation and gather the following important and necessary information without offending the caller, who could in fact be a regular patient or a newly acquired patient, who is just inquisitive….

Asking this question, “When were you last in to see us?”, allows us to then gather whether they have been in to see us or whether they are in fact a potential new patient?

We then have permission to courteously ask their name and lead into contact information questions, along with the all important next question:

“Which one of our valued patients can we thank for recommending our dental office to you, Mrs. Smith?”

“Which one of our valued patients can we thank for recommending our dental office to you, Mrs. Smith?”

This is such a great question.

Straight away we have deflected Mrs. Smith away from her price inquiry, and with this question, we have informed her that we are grateful for and welcome new patient referrals ands that we reward our existing patients who do refer clients to us.

This is a very, very powerful question.

Now that we have taken control of the call, we can gently ask more questions to gather more necessary and important information from the caller.

Subtly distracting the caller with questions allows you to gently break down the caller’s guard and then present yourself and your Dental Office as the nicest, friendliest place on earth for them to get their PROBLEM SOLVED!!

“How long has it been, do you think, since you last went to the dentist?”

“Can I have your email address? I’d like to send you out our special report, titled ‘Fifteen reasons why smart everyday people put off going to the dentist…. and how those decisions are medically proven to be driving us into our graves twenty two and a half years earlier than we should be’ ……. ”

“And while I’m writing that down, can I also please take down your mobile phone number, just in case we get cut off?….. you know my sister got cut off yesterday on her phone while standing on the top of a hill…can you believe that?….”

The Wrong Answers to the Price Question….

Of course there are incorrect ways of answering the “How much is a filling?” question.

Here are some answers your receptionist should never ever say….

“I don’t know. I will have to ask the dentist.”

“You will have to come in for an exam before we can answer that question”

“It depends…”

We need to avoid offering all statements that act to close down the conversation with the caller. We need to avoid all comments and answers that give no feedback about us, the dentist and our Dental Offices.

If your phone is answered with these poor answers, or other equally poor answers, the caller is left only to judge you and your office on your receptionist’s voice and phone manner and those poor answers to their price question.

And that’s a LOSE-LOSE situation.

It’s a lose because you miss out on the caller making the appointment, and the caller misses out on receiving the Fine Quality Dentistry and the World Class Customer Service that your Office is famous for providing.

The correct response ALWAYS is for a receptionist to stick to the plan and protocol for these calls as designed by you and your Office.


Stick exactly to the protocol.

The biggest factor in all of this discussion is the confidence and competence of the person answering the phone…

The solution is proper training. Clear and concise protocols. Train your team until they can do it naturally, competently and perfectly.

And they can.

Sadly, the trouble is most receptionists don’t really have the confidence to ask the right questions.

Not all, but most.

And that’s because of inadequate training and unclear and vague expectations of them.

And in those cases, sadly, because of the lack of training and skill development, the receptionist will almost always just want to get the caller off the line as quickly as possible.

I’ve been told that in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Jordan Belfort trained garbage men to earn a million dollars a year selling to the top one percent of wealthy Americans by getting them to say it exactly the way he said it… by following the system.

Confidence comes from competence and competence comes from having your team practice, rehearse and drill these scripts and protocols.

Until they become second nature.

Remember, nobody out there decides they’ll start calling Dental Offices for prices just because they’ve got a spare half an hour to kill.

When they call and ask for a price it’s because they have a genuine dental issue.

As Jayne Bandy says:

“They’re not calling for a pizza!”

Winston Marsh says:

“Nobody is so bored with life that they just ring a dentist for fun or to pass the time of day.”

The only thing I know is that when a receptionist tells me a caller was a “shopper”, it’s time to get a new receptionist….



Answering the phone correctly, including how to handle the price enquiry is one of the many detailed components of The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple easy to implement system that I developed that allowed me to build 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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