I phone dental practices on a very regular basis.

And one thing that is consistent about how the phones are answered at dental practices is that there is no consistency in how they are answered.

Remember, what gets said by the staff when answering the dental practice phone must be said with purpose and primarily what gets said needs to be said with one purpose only.

And that purpose is to achieve the BEST OUTCOME possible from that phone call.

From EACH AND EVERY incoming phone call.

Every new patient enquiry phone call has one thing in common, and that is that the caller has a dental problem, and they are looking for a solution to that problem.

When we analyse each and every new patient enquiry phone call to dental practices, is analysed, ninety-nine percent of the time the best solution for the caller is for them to schedule an appointment at the dental practice to see one of the dentists or hygienists.


Lately I’ve been hearing a distinct change in what’s being said by dental team members when they answer the dental practice phone.

What I’m hearing more of these days is this:

“Thank you for calling ABC Dental. This is Jenny. How can I help?”

What we’ve always taught, which we always said and used at Active Dental, and has worked best at all our clients’ practices is this:

“Thank you for calling ABC Dental. This is Jenny. How may I help you?”

It’s really only a small difference…

It’s really only a small difference, but sometimes the smallest change can have a diabolical effect, without anybody realising that it is, or did, or will.

Just ask Coca-Cola… the introduction of “New Coke” almost railroaded the company.

It’s really only a difference of one word… how bad can that be?

How much difference does one word make?

The original and best way involves asking the question:

“How may I help you?”

While the new version simply asks:

“How can I help?”

The difference in the answer given by the caller is dramatic…

The question:

“How may I help you?”

gets the caller telling the dental receptionist what they [the caller is needing, because the question is directly asking the caller about themselves, by using the word “you” to INCLUDE the expectations of the caller in the answer.

Whereas this question:

“How can I help?”

leans the caller into talking about the THING or the PROCESS they might possibly be thinking about, rather than the personal problem or the personal result the caller has phoned about.

And often the thing the caller thinks they might need, is not the solution to the problem they actually have… it’s just the caller’s perception of what they might need.

Do people make buying decisions based on emotion or logic?

Almost 100% of the time people buy based on emotion.

Later on, they attempt to use logic justify that purchase…

What happens to the conversation when we leave out the “you” ….

When we use the word “you”, we encourage the caller to talk about themselves, and as a result we are able to keep the conversation more in the EMOTIONAL space, and less in the LOGICAL space.

When we fail to use the word “you” in the question, then the caller will answer more in the LOGICAL space and less in the EMOTIONAL space.

It only takes an instant for a conversation to switch from emotional to logical, but it takes twenty-seven times longer to try and switch a logical conversation back to being emotional…

If your receptionist says this:

“How may I help you?”

The caller will answer them and begin talking about themselves [the caller], by saying something such as:

“I think I need a filling…”

Whereas if the caller is greeted with the question:

“How can I help?”

The caller is more likely to answer factually:

“I need to make an appointment to get an extraction.”

And immediately the conversation swings to being about a thing [the appointment] or about a process [the extraction].

If you try to keep your conversations in the personal and emotional space, you’ll find that your callers will make and schedule more appointments.

And the way to keep the call on the personal side is to always ask questions that has the caller answering about themselves.

When we think about keeping the conversation in the emotional space, by always asking the caller personal questions and avoiding letting our answers slip into the procedural space, we will definitely schedule more appointments.

And that’s an outcome that pleases both the caller, and the dental practice owner.


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