Missed calls mean missed business opportunities for your dental practice. Even worse, they could mean a negative reputation for your practice as an unresponsive one.
Existing and potential patients rely on dentists' communication to determine a dental firm’s suitability to treat their conditions or those of their loved ones. Patients also expect follow-up communication after a major dental procedure, which shows them that you care about their well-being and recovery.
But as a dentist keeping up with phone calls, treatment plans, and follow-up initiatives can be overwhelming. If you are handling all these alone or with a small team, the possibility of dropping important balls in your business increases.
Communication is a crucial aspect when ensuring that you and your patients are on the same page and helping new patients understand your practice and the benefits they receive from letting you treat them.
Answering services for dental offices help you streamline communications at your dental practice, thus helping you fulfill your business needs and meet your customers’ communication expectations.
The Importance of Customer Service for Dentists
Dentists deal with patients daily. And other than taking care of their teeth and oral tissues, you have to engage and relate with them. You have to make them feel appreciated and cared for as far as their dental health goes.
Dental offices that care to have a long-term relationship with clients must care as much about their customer service as they do about their skill in performing various dental procedures.
Customer service is important before, during, and after contact with your patients. The value of the interaction you have with your customers will imprint on that customer's mind and increase the likelihood of becoming repeat clients.
Customers with a positive experience with your dental practice are more likely to recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Most dental offices are stuck on finding new customers and marketing their services to these customers, forgetting to pay attention to the clients they already have.
However, this usually leaves these existing customers feeling unappreciated, leading them to a dental practice that cares about them. Your patients want you to pay attention to them as you did before you had their business.
Without nurturing both potential and existing patients, your business will always be looking out for new clients and record a low retention rate.
Keeping tabs with your current and potential customers can be overwhelming for any dentist who needs to keep up with changing industry trends, technology, and advances in education.
As a business owner, you must also handle administrative tasks such as financial management, marketing, acquisitions, and human resource management.
It can be hard to cram all these activities into your calendar without feeling drained and resentful for the tasks you have to handle.
You could hire an in-house team to handle other duties, freeing time for you to focus on providing better dental services. When you have the resources to handle such a team, it can make work easier and improve the value you offer to your patients.
But if you having such a team might stretch your dental office’s finances thin, then you should consider other alternatives such as outsourcing some tasks such as legal matters, medical billing, and customer service. When you outsource these to reputable firms, you save on additional costs of hiring staff, purchasing office equipment, and paying employee benefits.
Dental answering services are specialists in handling the customer service needs of your dental practice. They have the skills and understanding of the industry requirements (including legal provisions) for dentists' customer service.
Outsourcing to an answering service helps you delegate tasks that distract you from your most important task (offering dental care to patients) without compromising on the quality of customer service.
When working with an efficient answering service, your patients would not know that they are not dealing with an in-house receptionist.
Here are some of the benefits your dental practice enjoys by outsourcing to an answering service:
Compliance with HIPAA Regulations
Your dental office as a healthcare provider must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Title II of the act requires that all organizations that handle patient information implement measures to safeguard patient information and uphold privacy regulations the US Department of Health and Human Services sets.
HIPAA violations could destroy your dental practice. It can expose your business to civil lawsuits and criminal charges. The greatest impact of HIPAA violations is usually the hefty fines and fees you pay for these violations.
Identifying patient information must be kept safe at all times, and you must inform all patients in case of a data breach.
As business associates of your dental office, HIPAA-compliant answering services ensures that your patient information is as safe as possible. An answering service will fulfill the needs of patients who reach out to your business while protecting their private information.
Some of the ways answering services ensure that your dental practice complies with HIPAA regulations include:
- Sending encrypted text messages through secure messaging applications that conform to HIPAA HITECH regulations
- Using encrypted emails and email servers to transmit patient information
- Restricting access to physical storage areas for sensitive patient information
- Using a secured network to route all communications for dental offices
- Regular auditing of logins to prevent unauthorized access and detect breaches
- Physical security measures to prevent theft of devices that store patient information
- Intensive employee training to ensure that they understand the importance of HIPAA regulations and best practices for compliance
HIPAA-compliant answering services also have initiatives to destroy messages with sensitive patient information to prevent the risk of unauthorized access.
You can always ask the answering service you intend to work with about their HIPAA compliance and request them to sign a business associate agreement.
Having a HIPAA-compliant answering service will provide your dental office the benefit of better customer service, which also cares about the safety and privacy of your patients' information.
Better Communication with Patients
Patients value your communication with them as much as they value the dental services your office offers. When customers call your business, they expect to find a response, which makes them feel appreciated when dealing with your business.
Missed calls or calls that go to voicemail will push your customers away and reduce the chances of you solving a problem for them.
However, with a dental answering service, your patients can reach you at any time, even during holidays. This is particularly important for offices that wish to offer 24/7 care to their patients.
When a patient develops an emergency, it helps to know that they can find a solution at that time.
Enhanced communication also means that your patients have an easier time booking and rescheduling appointments with your dental office. Answering services for dentists provide appointment-setting services that help you stay on top of your calendar and attend appointments with ease.
Better communication also means that your customers speak to a real person rather than responding to automated prompts. Automated prompts only capture 3/10 clients who reach out to your business.
When customers hang up without leaving a message, you will never know what they wanted. This also means you lose critical insight into how your patients perceive your business.
For example, if a patient wanted to complain about bad service at your office, but you are unreachable, they will choose to work with other businesses, and you miss the opportunity to improve your customer service.
Dental offices also miss patients due to language barriers, particularly with Spanish patients. Spanish speakers are likely to work with dental offices that offer Spanish customer support, especially those that are better at communicating in Spanish.
If your dental office does not cover this demographic, you will miss significant clientele. However, with a telephone answering, you can choose to have bilingual support, which allows non-English speakers to access your dental services without the frustration of making themselves understood.
Reduced Overhead for Your Dental Office
Purchasing new equipment, paying employees, and purchasing medication for your dental firm can eat heavily into your business finances. Some of the costs associated with improving your customer service in-house include:
- Employee salaries and benefits
- Training costs
- Time spent recruiting and training new employees on handling your customer service.
- Employee health insurance
- Paid time off
- Costs of purchasing office equipment or expanding office space to accommodate your customer service staff
With a dental answering service, you enjoy all the customer service benefits for your business without increasing your business costs.
Answering services for dental offices have different pricing for different services, and you can choose the services you want for your business. For example, if you have an in-house receptionist who answers calls during business hours, you can have an answering service for after-hours call management.
An answering service will receive calls on behalf of your dental practice during non-business hours or holidays. Other services you can outsource to an answering service include:
- Appointment management
- Taking messages
- Call screening
- Quoting services you offer patients.
- Offering office directions to patients
- Bilingual call answering
Calls and communication from patients increase interruptions in your dental office. Should your assistant pause mid-procedure to answer an incoming phone call or ignore it?
Either choice affects your business negatively. Routinely interrupting your procedures to attend to calls from other patients will anger the patient you are currently with, leading to lost business. On the other hand, ignoring client calls leads to lower business for your dental practice.
How do you strike a balance? Hire an answering service.
An answering service has a team of receptionists dedicated to helping dental offices respond to their calls. Their services give you and your employee time to focus on other activities for which you are more qualified.
Your current and potential patients also feel appreciated when you wholeheartedly dedicate your time to their service and immediately answer their calls.
As a dentist, sometimes you have to prioritize some patients over others. Dental emergencies require immediate care.
However, when you are handling calls on your own, it is easy to drown in patients' demands to prioritize their conditions.
The current information-rich internet environment can lead patients to call you in the middle of the night, insisting that their condition is an emergency!
However, with call screening services from an answering service, a live agent can communicate with patients and determine which cases need your immediate attention. This allows you to rest better and prioritize customers who need emergency care.
Call answering services can also help you filter patients who require services that your practice does not offer.
Answering services also offer calendar management services, scheduling essential tasks that you need to handle. It is easy to miss tasks such as follow-up calls with your patients, which prevents you from providing better post-procedure care to your patients.
However, with an answering service, you can schedule these activities into your calendar, thus improving your customer service.
You can also schedule reminders and notes to ensure you make the most of every call you make to your patients. Patients will notice and appreciate the little details that your dental practice prioritizes.
Working With a Dental Answering Service
Managing customer service as a dentist can be overwhelming, especially when you have other responsibilities such as billing, treating patients, scheduling appointments, and answering the phone.
All these are important for your business's success, but as a small dental office, the financial and time investment they require could cripple your business fast.
Delegation is the name of the game for dental offices that want to offer improved customer service to their patients without compromising their productivity.
Answering services are independent businesses with their teams of experienced dental receptionists. These receptionists know how the dental customer service environment works and legislation such as HIPAA.
Before working with an answering service, you must ensure that it meets federal and state regulations for patient information privacy.
You will also choose the type of services you want an answering service to handle on behalf of your dental office and these services' cost.