I phone a lot of dental practices.

One of the big turnoffs I get is when this happens:

“Thank you for calling Aren’t We Wonderful Dentistry. Do you mind holding?”

I of course answer:


And then I wait….

Here’s what happens…

After forty seconds I ask myself this question:

“Who was it that I spoke to?”

And then I ask myself:

“Why did they not identify themselves when they answered?”

And then I ask myself:

“How long should I wait for them to come back to me before I hang up this call and phone another dentist?”

This is what happens:

At about the forty second mark [after being on hold for forty seconds] I start to ask myself this:

“If I was ringing to book myself in for a consultation about veneers, or Invisalign, or implants, and I were to hang up now and call another dentist, would this dental practice even know who I was, why I rang, and why I felt offended that they did not BOTHER to find out my details before they put me on hold?”

At about the seventy second mark [after being kept on hold for seventy seconds] without human contact, I usually end the call.

And then I wonder…

I wonder if the dental receptionist [whose name I do not know] even bothers to worry about the call she put on hold, and who it was, and why they ended the call and could not wait on IN LIMBO until she was finished doing whatever was more important and came back to me to let me know what was happening…

I wonder was she worried that the opportunity of booking in a new patient for maybe a veneer case or an implant case, or an Invisalign case had slipped through the practice’s [figurative] fingers, never to be seen again?

Did she wonder whether the person who rang but hung up had been referred by one of the practice’s valuable patients and was now going to let this valued referrer know about this LESS THAN OPTIMAL level of service that they had experienced?

The answer is…

In most cases, the answer is:

The dental receptionist isn’t bothered.

In most practices, the number of phone callers who hang up after being put on hold is a metric not measured.

In most practices, a record of the phone numbers of those callers who are put on hold is not kept, or not referred back to [if it is kept], when a caller can’t wait any longer.

This is a lost opportunity….

The phone rings at a dental practice for only one reason.

The caller has a dental problem and they have chosen that dental practice [for whatever reason] to be the practice they want to fix their problem.

The dental practice has paid, in one way or another, for whatever form of marketing [be it paid marketing or word of mouth] that has resulted in that caller phoning this practice.

And all that the person whose job it is to answer the phone has to do is just that:

Answer the phone and help the caller make an appointment.

And so anything…..

And so any phone call to a dental office that does not result in a made [and kept] appointment is a BIG FAT FAIL, and that failure needs to be rectified.

And so:

And so, answering the phone at a dental practice and saying:

“Thank you for calling Aren’t We Wonderful Dentistry. Do you mind holding?”

is not what should happen.

It’s money down the drain.

There is a much better way of answering the dental office phone than saying:

“Do you mind holding?”

Of course….

Of course I mind holding.

Of course I don’t like listening to those bells on hold.

Of course I don’t like your on hold message telling me that my call is important…. If it was important to you then you’d have me talking to a staff member rather than being on hold.

And of course I despise your message telling me:

“Thank you for holding. We’ll be with you in just a moment.” …. for every thirty second interval that you keep me waiting on hold.

The really great dental practices…

The really great dental practices know the number of calls they receive for each hour or half hour of each and every day that they are open, and make sure that they have adequate and sufficient manpower available to service and answer all of those calls with a real live human being trained in the skills of customer service that their callers are going to marvel at.

The really great dental practices know that the extra two hundred dollars a day they pay in salaries to have an extra person there answering the phone will pale into insignificance when compared to the financial benefit that the practice receives from being able to book and schedule these [valuable] missed phone enquiries.

The facts are these:

If a caller has bothered to call, your practice has a far greater chance of securing an appointment if you have a real live person answer the call.

And if you think that a recorded message directing the caller to leave a message, or to go to your online booking service is going to work for every caller who hears it, my thoughts are well, straight out of the award winning movie “The Castle”:

“Tell ‘em they’re dreaming…”


Dr. David Moffet BDS FPFA CSP is a certified CX Experience coach. David works with his wife Jayne Bandy to help SME businesses improve their Customer Service Systems to create memorable World Class experiences for their valued clients and customers. Click here to find out how David and Jayne can help your business