Frontline Staff: The First Point of Contact Sets You Up for Success

Many dentists tell us they struggle with consultants who try and script the way their receptionists answer the phone, answer emails, and generally relate to patients coming in the door.  Your frontline staff, the first point of contact, are critical to the ultimate success of your business. Yet this position is often not recognized or ignored because dentists don’t know exactly what goes on when a patient comes in or calls the office.

The person that is at the front represents you more than anyone else in your practice, and they MUST be a supporter of you and your vision.  It’s not always about simply being nice or following a script. It’s about upholding your vision; being able to professionally communicate it to anyone who calls the office and reinforce it when that caller is not a good fit.

Keeping it Real

I am not a fan of scripting what my staff says to patients.  It comes across as fake, and people don’t like following a script.  It feels unnatural and deceitful.  The best way to improve how your reception staff relate to patients is by teaching them how to build rapport.  The ability to match and mirror the person you are speaking with can build mutual respect and improve the flow of communication to ensure proper scheduling and that you are bringing in the right patients, those who fit the vision you’ve set for your practice.  Building rapport is critical and includes many things such as voice tone and pitch, the ability to read a person to determine what drives or motivates them and being able to ask the right questions.

When the Phone Rings

When a patient calls for an appointment, we believe in a two-tier system based on the time-sensitivity of the situation:

1. Emergency

  • What is the key issue – pain, swelling, how long, fractures, or broken teeth, etc.?
  • Is this an existing patient or a new patient?
  • Is this something that was done recently and is causing the patient a problem, like a recent crown that hurts on chewing and may need a bite adjustment?
  • Need to know which tooth is affected or at least which quadrant and whether a front or back tooth.
  • How long has this been a problem?

2. New patient looking to become a patient

  • Be friendly, make sure they are a fit, and scheduled.
  • Be honest on the phone. If the caller wants you to take an assignment that is not in line with the practice’s vision, tell them.
  • If they ask for a price, give them a range – quickly.
  • Be transparent, offer quick answers, be upfront and get them in the door or realize they are not a fit and communicate that as well. There is no point in bringing someone into the office if they don’t match the vision of the dentist.

Your frontline people can make or break your practice.  Be sure to recognize them and acknowledge when they do something right.  Be vocal and be grateful.  Ultimately, these people can be your biggest practice builder or a quick way to your demise.

For more information on how to improve your customer service, or any other business management training, reach out to us at