Converting New Patient Calls during an Economic Downturn

It’s more important than ever to ensure your team knows what to say and how to say it to reassure anxious patients.

By Beth Gaddis

A lot of people are worried these days. That’s normal.

The crazy stock market. Coronavirus. Travel changes. There’s a lot going on in the world.

And let’s face it: that may mean fewer people will want, or even can, to go to the dentist right now.

Converting New Patient Callers

If your phones are ringing less, there are a few things you can do.

One, check with your marketing company about the campaigns they are running. Are they using reassuring language like “it’s safe to get the dental care you need” on your ads and websites? Are they mentioning that you have a lot of options to make dental care both easy and affordable?

Two, try to find the silver lining. A lot of people have had to cancel their travel plans. That means they may be able to spend a little more on their health.

Three, keep in mind that the same people who needed dental work before all this craziness still need it now. They just might be a little more hesitant to commit to an appointment.

Here are some tips to help put their minds at ease and remind them why you’re the best place for them to come.

Tip #1 Ask for the Caller’s Name

Everyone wants to feel special. At the beginning of every call, introduce yourself and ask the caller for his or her name – and then use it throughout the conversation. This builds rapport, establishes a personal connection, and helps turn the caller from a stranger into a friend. 

When the caller has a great experience on the phone, it sets the stage for them to have a great experience in the practice. It’s a lot easier to get patients to say yes to treatment if they feel like they know you, like you, and trust you already.

Tip #2 Keep the Focus on Patient Care

Potential new patients often jump right into the financial aspect of dentistry. A caller may ask, “Do you take my insurance?” or “How much is a crown?”

Cost is a legitimate concern, especially when the stock market is shaky and people are worried about their retirement fund. Here are a few ways to redirect the conversation back to the patient’s oral health so you can build value.

First, uncover the reason they called you. “Mrs. Smith, I would be happy to answer your questions. First, could I get a little more information from you? What prompted your call today?”

Second, build a sense of urgency by finding out whether the caller has any discomfort or pain.

Then reassure callers that your doctor helps people who have that same concern all the time. You might say something like, “You’re going to love Dr. Jones. He has helped hundreds of people in our community with that exact same problem. I know he’ll be able to help you too.”

If you have excellent reviews online, you might want to ask if the caller has seen them yet. Good reviews establish trust and reinforce their decision to come into your practice.

Tip #3 Overcome Concerns about Dental Benefits

Dental benefits can be a huge hurdle, especially since many people don’t understand how their plan works. Many don’t even know whether they have an HMO or a PPO plan.

When callers ask if you take their insurance, they really want to know if you’ll make it easy for them to use their benefits. If their plan is out-of-network but you’ll still help them maximize their benefits and will even file a claim on their behalf, then let them know you’ll be able to help them with their dental care.

Here is some effective phrasing to use in this situation:

“We have a lot of patients with that plan. Let’s get you scheduled, and then I’ll make a complimentary benefits check to see exactly how your benefits will work in our practice. Would mornings or afternoons work better for your schedule?”

Tip #4 Stay Solution-Focused When Asked “How Much?”

Many people have no idea how much dentistry costs, and they can be shell-shocked. To avoid that, stay focused on letting them know that you have a multitude of options that can help afford the treatment they need.

Here’s a simple way to answer when a caller asks about the cost.

“That’s a common question. Your treatment will be specific to what you need, so it’s difficult to give you an exact amount. But what I can tell you is that we have a great team of people who will sit down with you and talk about what you need, your budget, and how we can help you achieve your goals. We have a lot of ways we can help make the care you need fit into your family’s budget. Let’s have you come in to meet the doctor and see exactly what you need. Would mornings or afternoons work better for your schedule?”

Tip #5 Address Coronavirus Concerns

COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind right now, so it’s very possible that new or current patients will ask you about it. We recommend you check with your legal counsel for specific phrasing. Here are some general phrasing tips.

“We understand your concerns about Coronavirus. We are asking all scheduled patients who are experiencing symptoms of any respiratory virus to call us to reschedule. Specifically, this means anyone who has or recently had a fever and is coughing, sneezing or having difficulty breathing, as well as anyone who has been exposed to someone with the COVID-19 virus. We are seeing only well patients in our office.

“In addition, we always comply with all CDC and OSHA directives for disease prevention and protection. In addition to sterilizing our clinical areas, we are asking our patients to thoroughly wash their hands when they arrive for their appointment and before leaving. You will see plenty of soap and clean disposable hand towels in our bathroom and you will find sanitary hand gel and tissues in every room. These are there for your use and comfort.

“Every single instrument is completely sterilized after every use. Our safety attire, including clinical jackets, face masks, and gloves are changed before seeing each patient.

“You may not realize it, but between patients, the dental assistant wipes down the dental chair and all surrounding surfaces with disinfectant after each patient. This is part of the standard disease prevention protocol and we always do it.

“If you have a special concern, I will be happy to have one of our clinical team members call you back to answer your questions and see how we can help you.”

Helpful Tips for Every New Patient Call

On a normal day, you have people who take the time to call you but then hang up the phone without booking an appointment. During uncertain times, that may happen even more frequently.

Sometimes people just need a little more reassurance that they called the right place. Patient Prism can help. We analyze your new patient calls, identify the people who don’t schedule, and send you an alert detailing what you can say to win them back – all within 30 minutes.

Visit to see how we can help your practice continue to grow this year.

About Patient Prism

Dental Products Report recently named Patient Prism’s award-winning call-tracking and call-analysis system a Top 10 Game-Changer. It eliminates the need for team members to listen to recorded phone calls. Instead, Patient Prism analyzes the new patient calls, identifies the missed opportunities, and provides fast coaching tips from the industry’s top experts. To see how we can help your practice increase new patients, please visit and enter Theresa Narantic’s name in the “Who can we thank for referring you” field.  

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