Annie, a patient looking for a new dentist, calls two offices looking for information. At office one, the team seems rushed. They demand her personal and insurance information out of the gate, then say “When can we schedule you?” Annie was already anxious about seeking care. Now she’s terrified as she imagines a brusque dentist who will scold her.
At office two, the person on the other end seems warm and friendly. She starts a conversation and really listens to Annie’s responses. Annie finds herself sharing her history of dental trauma and her hopes for a new dentist. “It must have been hard to call today,” the team member says, “May I have some information so we can get you on the schedule and get you help?”
Which office do you think Annie will choose? It’s obvious, right? Annie will choose the office that showed warmth and empathy during her first phone call.
When a new patient calls your office for the first time, they’re nervous and scared. To get them to say yes to an appointment, your team needs to show warmth and empathy.
The Value of Empathy in Communications
That first call to your office is a sales call. Your team member has to sell the new patient on your office and your doctor. Experts in sales emphasize that in a competitive market, (which dentistry is) often it’s not the price that seals the deal. It’s empathy. If a customer is trying to choose between two similar products, they’ll choose the one sold by someone they have a connection with.
Empathy also works in selling patients on necessary dental treatments. A 2014 study found that when an office team shows empathy, patients are more likely to accept treatment, stick with a plan, and feel less anxious. Your front desk team is a patient’s first experience with your office. When they show empathy, they make it easy for patients to say “yes” to the care they need.
Empathy Can Be Taught and Practiced!
Maybe you have a naturally empathetic front office team, and new patients love them. That’s great! But the good news for anyone who doesn’t have a perfect team is that empathy on the phone can be taught, learned, and practiced. Your team can become great communicators.
There are a few key skills to master so that new patients hear empathy when they call:
Smile when you answer the phone. Believe it or not, patients can hear the smile, or lack of a smile, in your greeting.
Give the gift of time. Yes, offices can be stressful and rushed, but new patients are important. When you’re talking to a new patient, your focus should be totally on them for as long as they want to talk.
Ask open-ended questions. First-time callers often have a story they want to tell about why they’re looking for a new dentist and why they haven’t had dental care in a while. Ask questions that let them tell their story like, “What changed to make you call us?”
Listen and react. Don’t simply nod or take notes. React to their emotions. An “oh no!” or a “how wonderful!” properly placed marks you as someone who listens attentively with a warm and open heart.
Any team can learn to listen with empathy on the phone. If you’d like training for your team, contact one of our coaches for scheduling.