When the phone rings at a dental practice, there’s a one hundred percent chance that the caller is not phoning up to get a pizza.

They are calling the dental practice because they have a dental problem.

And most of the times, callers to a dental practice are phoning because they want their dental problem solved.

Dental receptionists who understand this concept clearly are golden.

These golden receptionists realise that the caller phoning their office has a dental problem and are looking for someone to help them, and give them a solution to that problem.

And that solution for the caller is more often than not a scheduled  appointment to see a dental practitioner, with the implication to the caller that there will be a solution, and that the caller has indeed phoned the right place.

Too many times….

Mental As Anything had a hit song many years ago titled: “Too Many Times”

And when I listen to ACTUAL recorded calls of people phoning into dental offices, the thing that gets me is that most people answering the phone in a dental practice DO NOT KNOW what they are meant to be doing on that phone call.

It happens over and over again. And it’s a sure sign of an untrained or poorly coached dental receptionist.

Dental receptionists are not meant to be giving out free information to strangers.

However, that’s what I hear a lot of dental receptionists doing.

I hear a lot of dental receptionists having long conversations on the phone with callers without first finding out the name of the caller, without finding out whether or not the caller is a new or existing patient of the practice, and without finding out who referred the caller to the practice.

Over and over and over….

Too many times….

Just this week I listened to a call where the caller was not asked their name until the ninth minute of the phone call, but the receptionist did find out the caller’s employer and the caller’s dental insurance provider before they asked the caller for their name…

I’ll let you in on a secret…

I’ll let you in on a secret… the scenario I just described is LOUSY CUSTOMER SERVICE.

The receptionist has not followed a checklist and has drifted through a conversation with the caller without having direction and purpose.

In fact, during this call, the caller was asked when their last dental appointment was and what that appointment was for, but when told the answers by the caller, that information was ignored by the receptionist. The answers provided by the caller should have been used by the dental receptionist to CONNECT WITH THE CALLER and create URGENCY and CONCERN.

The caller told the receptionist that her last dental appointment three years ago had been for a periodontal cleaning, but she had not been to the dentist since then because of COVID and other reasons.

Well knock me down with a feather…

If that scenario described by that caller isn’t like raising a red flag to a bull for that dental receptionist, it’s time to get a rocket up that dental receptionist.

Does periodontal cleaning create an instant cure for periodontal disease, that means the patient doesn’t need any treatment for three years?

I don’t think so…

This receptionist should have been alert to the information she was being told by the caller.

This receptionist should have replied with something like this:

“Mrs Caller, COVID has caused a lot of people to delay and put off some necessary treatments, and three years is a long time to leave between dental visits… It’s good that you’ve called… are you having any issues at the moment?”

Then, whether the caller is having issues or not… say:

“Sometimes some things can be going on in patients’ mouths that they’re often unaware of… let’s do this… Let’s organise a time for you to come in and see Dr Smith and she’ll let you know exactly what’s going on in there. And then we can work out exactly what you need… how does that sound?”

Instead, I’ll bet that all that receptionist really wanted to do was fill a blank spot in the appointment schedule with a name, and congratulate herself on a job well done, when all she had done was simply put a name in a slot.

And in this case the receptionist didn’t even succeed at doing that.

If your receptionist believes that all she needs to do is put names in slots, rather than SOLVE PROBLEMS  and find viable solutions for callers, then she’s not in the problem solving business at all.

Nor is she in the Customer Service business.

She’s simply in the slot filling business.

And that’s not what any doctor wants.

And nor is it what any prospective patient wants.

Prospective patients want to talk to someone who truly listens, and truly cares, and truly wants to help them.


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