It’s amazing how many times I hear this simple three step process bastardised when I listen to recordings of dental front office team members answering their practice phones.

When the phone rings, all that the dental receptionist needs to do is listen to the caller and hear exactly what they are saying. Then they need to compassionately empathise with the caller. And lastly they need to find a solution for the caller’s problem.

Three simple words:

Listen. Empathise. Solve.

It does not say:

Hear. Ignore. Vomit.

Yet that is the response that I most commonly have to listen to…. someone “vomiting” unasked for information onto someone who doesn’t have a dental bone in their body….

It also does not say:

Hear. Presume. Shut-out.

It does not say disclude… it says empathise and solve….

We need to listen, and not just hear….

So many times I listen to a recording and the dental receptionist has not been attentive to what the caller is actually really saying.

The receptionist has heard what the caller said, but they have not truly listened and comprehended EXACTLY what the caller is actually phoning about.

The caller may say:

“I’ve been to another dentist and been told I need to have five implants. I’ve not been to your practice before but I’ve been recommended by a friend to see Dr Jones there”

And the receptionist answers

“I don’t have any appointments available until January.”

Sometimes the receptionist will qualify this comment by saying:

“We’ve been really busy because of COVID and we’re trying to clear our backlog…”

What the receptionist didn’t hear the patient say…

Because the receptionist wasn’t truly listening to the caller, what she did not hear the caller say is this:

“I’ve been recommended by one of  your valued patients to come to your practice and see Dr. Jones and give him $25K into his bank account…”

Now, I know it’s not about the money with dentistry, but a practice with a good income, making a good profit, is a more secure workplace and a happier place to work in than a dental practice struggling to make ends meet.

What about some compassionate listening?

What about this phone call…


“Hello. I need to make an appointment for my wife. She’s just finished chemotherapy, and has four loose teeth that need to be extracted”

Dental receptionist answers:

“I haven’t got anything for six weeks.”




“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. How is your wife? Is she OK? Will she be all right?”


“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name… when was your wife last in to see us? Is she OK?”


At no time did this receptionist listen or empathise. Or solve.

All this receptionist did was focus on her own issue, that she had a full appointment book and that she considered this phone call and the caller to be an interruption.

And to think…

And to think, that during the next 7-10 days at this practice, there is a fair chance that there might just be ONE SMALL CHANGE  to the practice’s schedule?

And so, this receptionist could have thought on her feet, and LISTENED and HEARD exactly what the caller was saying, and formulated a solution in advance for this caller, based on the probability that there most likely would be a change to their schedule?


Instead, a caller in genuine need, was shown the side door with an almighty flick pass.

I wonder how many referrals that phone call resulted in?

Probably not any….

Of course the answer is simple…

Nearly every dental practice owner out there IS NOT RECORDING and is DEFINITELY NOT LISTENING to recordings of what is being said by their staff members as PAID REPRESENTATIVES of their dental business.

These are not two isolated examples….it’s not pretty what we hear going on out there…

How can calls like these even be considered as good business practice?

We listen to phone calls of our clients [those who actually DO CARE what is being said] and the truth is this:


Really, the amount of untrained people out there answering dental practice phones is staggering.

And the amount of “careless” conversations we hear on the phones that we improve is also significant.

Your phone is your greatest asset…

Your dental practice phone is your greatest asset.

If you’re not training the people answering your phones, then you’re burning callers, you’re burning enquiries, and your burning new patient appointments.

And that’s really bad customer service, and it’s a really poor advertisement for your dental practice.


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