Dental alchemy

small Alchemy_236525866Tracy Stuart of NBS Training explains how you can take your practice to another level by turning enquiries into cold, hard cash

So your phone is ringing off the hook and the emails are streaming in, well done! Your marketing campaign is working. But that doesn’t mean a thing if you cannot convert your leads into actual patients.

In this article, I will cover the different elements required to convert your initial enquiries into happy customers.

The reception from reception

Each potential patient’s journey begins with your reception team, which we have touched upon in the previous two articles in this series. Your front of house team are fundamental to the success or failure of your practice, and it is they who hold the power to convert your initial enquiries into actual patients in the chair. If your reception team are not competent, hardworking and approachable, something has to give. Training and evaluating your reception team, and how they are coping with the upswing in enquiries is something that you will need to review on an ongoing basis.

Meet and greet

How do you know whether or not your reception team are up to the task? Find out for free! For a limited period up until the end of April 2015, contact us to conduct a FREE mystery shopper call to your practice on your behalf. Some of the basic do’s and don’ts of manning the reception desk include:

• DO greet the patient in a friendly but appropriate manner.
• DO try to establish a relationship with the potential patient, building a rapport and engaging your caller in the process. Simple one-answer questions such as ‘How much is teeth whitening?’ Should not be replied to with just the price, but also used as an opportunity to promote special offers, explain why your service is better than a competitor, and encourage the caller to open up so you can find out more.
• DO ask open questions, and give the customer every opportunity to ask questions.
• DO have a live person answer every call, and do not divert calls to an answering service at lunchtime; this is the time when many of your working clients will be trying to get in touch!
• DO NOT allow Reception team with poor telephone skills to field calls; few things are more off-putting than a frustrating initial enquiry.

The patient journey

From start to finish, every client and potential client of your practice must receive an outstanding service. Your client should feel valued and special, and when they are being spoken to or treated, feel as if they are the sole focus of your attention.
Small touches like using the client’s name, shaking hands, coming forward from behind the desk to greet clients, and introducing each member of the team that will be working with them all make a big difference when used in combination.
It is the role of the reception and front of house team to direct and manage their interactions with your clients, but this should never be perceived as pushy, or worse, scripted. Asking open questions such as “what can we help you with?” or “What are your concerns?” allows your customers to speak and feel heard, rather than that they are being herded through the items on a tick-list of priorities.
All new clients should be asked the following three questions:

• What has attracted you to ……?
• When did you first become aware of this?
• What prompted you to call today?

These open-ended questions allow a dialogue to begin and a rapport to build up, rather than simply providing basic one-line, closed responses to your customer’s initial question.

The body language and general demeanour of your Reception team will say as much as their verbal communications too; team that appear harried, bored or incompetent will directly work against you, regardless of the words coming out of their mouths! Holding regular morning meetings to build morale, share goals and generate enthusiasm can help to keep your Reception team on mission, and also allows them to provide feedback and share ideas.

The wider team

While your reception team are the literal face of your practice and vital to your success, everyone else in your dental team has a part to play as well. Every single member of your team has their own role to play in the client journey, and by learning to read your clients and use the right language to communicate with them, you can make the most effective use of your time without getting bogged down in the customer facing and administrative aspects that can soon rob you of treatment time.

The role of a treatment coordinator is designed to be one of the most cost-effective ways of engaging new clients and offering them the basic information that they will need to make a decision on a treatment, without taking up the time of your top level clinical team. A well-trained nurse who has excellent customer service skills is a sound choice for the role of treatment coordinator, offering free, no-obligation consultations for your high value treatments, without taking valuable time away from your dental surgeons.

Many potential clients will also open up more in a non-clinical setting with a nurse as opposed to a dental surgeon, as this situation is low pressured and not a source of anxiety. A good treatment coordinator can answer your clients’ questions and help to allay their fears, building up a rapport and positive start to your future client’s journey before they even have to vote with their wallets.

Your treatment coordinator must have the right skills to communicate effectively with your clients in plain English without jargon, involving the client in the process and allowing them to take ownership of their planned procedures. A great way to achieve this is to photograph your client’s smile, and ask them to point out the things that they would like to change in their photo, making them feel involved and listened to, and raising the likelihood of them agreeing to your proposed solutions because they believe you understand them.

However, it is important to remember that once you have appointed a treatment coordinator for your practice, this does not mean that the rest of the clinical team can rest on their laurels or forego their own ongoing improvement and engagement in your new and improved client journey!

Your nurses, dental surgeons, hygienists and every other member of your clinical team should be well-versed in the essential but often overlooked aspects of dealing with customers, such as:

• How to communicate effectively with clients.
• Converting enquiries into customers.
• What not to say to customers!
• How to frame the things that need to be said in an appropriate way.
• Being confident and knowledgeable about the services on offer.

Being a great practitioner is not enough: You need to be able to communicate effectively too!  From grass roots level up through the Practice to the head honcho.  Without this in place you are really running your business on ‘luck’ and leaving a lot of opportunity on the table for your competitors. When it comes to overcoming any issues in this area I sit in the surgery with the Dentist and observe them with the patient.  You would be amazed at just how useful this can be.

Ongoing improvement

Even if you are at the top of your game and no other clinic within a hundred mile radius can hold a candle to you, it is still not time to rest on your laurels! Celebrating your success is of course to be encouraged, but part of this should involve ensuring that you maintain your position at the head of the pack, utilising the ongoing self-improvement principles that you have already benefitted from to bring your practice to fruition.

The learning and personal development process never ends, and should be viewed as a journey rather than a destination, designed to enhance your team and the experience of your customers and maintain your momentum. It is all too easy to lapse into periods of lethargy and bad habits, and involving every member of your team in your clinic development will help to hold every single team member accountable, and provide the gentle nudge needed when the momentum fades.

Don’t forget that as your practice grows, new team members that are introduced to provide additional support or as part of normal team turnover, as well as your long term employees, will all need to be indoctrinated into your clinic’s working ethos and have their skills refreshed on an ongoing basis too.


Tracy Stuart is a well-known, well respected and seasoned team trainer and practice development specialist across the UK and Ireland and wants to help dental practices get the most out of any training that they undertake. Tracy has been successfully delivering training programmes for the last seven years, with over 20 years’ experience in developing and managing dental practices.

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