Special Issues
September 2015
Volume 11, Issue 2

A Goldmine of New Patient Opportunity

How changing your staff’s approach to phone calls reaps dividends

Jay Geier

Did you know that one common issue could be causing your practice to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in production and collections every year? Over the past 12 months, I have studied more than 12,600 practices in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and found that 96% of these practices are unintentionally turning away 33% of their potential new patients every day.

Here’s what’s happening. During the course of my research, it was found that most practices have a huge hole at the beginning of their new patient pipeline caused by how office staff handles new patient inbound phone calls. Every day the office phone is ringing, and—if it is being answered at all—the front desk fails to take advantage of new patient opportunities because they have never been trained how to do so.

When looking for someone to answer a practice’s phones, most dentists will hire someone who is friendly and easy to talk to. However, they often don’t think to train that person on how to sell the value of treatment. When the people at the front desk are untrained in these areas, they’re missing key lessons and valuable strategies that are necessary to close every new patient who calls in. Training staff to recognize these opportunities is paramount to ensuring that potential new patients are brought into your practice and become lifetime repeat business.

The Data

In the course of studying those more than 12,600 practices, I discovered some shocking trends. First, 35% of test phone calls (4,415 calls total) went straight to voicemail during regular business hours, giving the impression that no one was at the front desk. Second, staff asked for the patient’s name on only 5.7% of the calls (719 calls total), using an impersonal approach that does not create a human connection with potential patients. Third, staff would only ask for the patient’s contact information on 3.5% of the calls (441 calls total), making any kind of follow-up opportunity impossible. Finally, and perhaps most distressingly, attempts to schedule an appointment happened on only 4.2% of the calls (530 calls total). That’s more than 12,000 missed opportunities at new patient conversion.

My team was also to identify the six most common mistakes that occur when the front desk team isn’t trained to take advantage new appointment opportunities. At least one of these mistakes was made by 98% of all front desk staff at some point during a call:

1. Letting the call go straight to voicemail. Missed calls are missed opportunities.

2. Oversharing. Too much information causes the new patient to become overwhelmed and confused, as well as unlikely to call again.

3. Missing buying signals. This occurs when the staff is too focused on talking at the patient and misses out on opportunities to book an appointment.

4. Stumbling, bumbling, and fearful answers. Lack of confidence in your information and knowledge base on the phone translates to a lack of confidence in the treatment you will provide.

5. Failure to capture information for follow-up. Simply put, it’s impossible to follow-up with a caller if you don’t have her name and number.

6. Not attempting to close the caller on an appointment. Don’t make the new patient beg for an appointment. The front desk staff should ask them to book one.

Your front desk is a goldmine of new patient opportunity, and if your staff is making any of the aforementioned mistakes, you could be missing out on your piece of the pie. Now is the time to reevaluate your front desk protocols and ensure that you land every potential new patient that gives you a call.

The Solution

In the average American dental practice, each new patient is worth about $1,500 to your practice (and that’s a low end estimate). If 15 potential new patients call a practice in 1 week, and five don’t schedule an appointment, the practice loses $7,500 each week, $30,000 each month, and $390,000 each year. What could your practice do with an extra $390,000 every year?

If you lose a potential new patient due to one of the six mistakes, not only is your practice losing new patients and money and wasting valuable time, but you also aren’t providing your potential patients with the care and service they deserve. In my opinion, that’s the cardinal sin of dentistry! The patient should always come first.

Odds are, the person sitting at your front desk is kind, friendly, smart, and highly motivated. He or she just isn’t being given the opportunity to create maximum impact in your practice. So ask that person directly, “Would you like to play a bigger role in the growth of the practice? Do you think you’re capable of doing and achieving more than you are right now? If I invested a little time and money into helping you grow, would you embrace that?” You will likely get a yes; then the ball is in your court to provide the tools and resources necessary to produce bigger and better results for you and your practice—including getting a chunk of the $390,000 you’re losing each year back in your hands!


Phone calls are often the first interaction a new patient has with your practice. It is up to you to be sure that these first interactions are also some of your patients’ best. And, by recognizing that the front desk may be acting as a barrier-of-entry to your practice, you can begin to correct the problem. Training your front desk staff on the appropriate phone procedures that can help them close new appointments and making them aware of common practices that may be scaring away patients are both very important steps that practices must take.

About the Author

Jay Geier is a speaker, consultant, and president and founder of the Scheduling Institute. He is also the creator of the world-renowned, 5 Star New Patient Generation Team Training Program. His program shows you how to implement the same system that led him to generate more than 600 new patients in a single week! He reveals that secret strategy through a free CD available at www.schedulinginstitute.com/ID.

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