What we discovered by calling 22 dental practices as a mystery shopper

ByLoran Simon|Our Service

What we discovered by calling 22 dental practices in the Yorkshire region as a mystery shopper

Recently we introduced Reception Sales Training as a service. From our own observations and the observations of others, we came to realise that leads generated from marketing efforts were not always being converted to booked appointments. Dental reception staff by nature are kind, professional and diligent people but like everyone else in the practice, they need continuous training.

To further test this hypothesis, we conducted some mystery shopping research, contacting some 22 dental practices in the Yorkshire region, all of which offered orthodontic treatment.

The following variables were analysed.

  • We looked at manner: friendly, unfriendly, and ok
  • If the call handler/reception staff member gave their name
  • If the call handler/reception staff member took the patient’s contact details and whether they offered to send further information

We found that 18% of the sample was unfriendly and this seemed more prevalent if we called the practice at the end of the day. 18% had an ok manner and 63% were friendly.

27% of the people called, never gave their name. 63% did not ask for the customer’s details and 45% failed to offer to send further information by post.

Overall, the findings were rather disappointing. The research also uncovered other common themes which will be discussed in turn below.

Lack of product knowledge

A number of the call handlers had limited product knowledge, which is a concern. Product knowledge is an essential sales skill. Understanding a products' features allows you to present benefits accurately and persuasively. Customers respond to enthusiastic sales staff who are passionate about their products and eager to share the benefits with them.

Lack of call triage

Call triage over the phone is challenging because reception staff have limited information available to them. This is because you are not able to use touch or visual cues. It’s always important you find out if the patient has pain, which should be your first question. Call triage is about getting a picture of a patient's past dental exposure.

From these conversations, you can find out why they want a certain treatment and what the benefits might be to them. This information is key to help you sell products and services. Remember - people buy benefits not services.

Failure to gather contact details

This is such a shame. Every customer call that does not result in an appointment should be followed up, if a prospect does not book an appointment on the first contact, they may well book at a later date.

At the start of any conversation, reception staff should ask for a patient's name and number. Tell them, you are doing this so you can call them back, in case you get cut off. If a customer does not book, then it is worth following up with that customer to gauge their interest in particular treatments and to discover why they are potentially not going ahead.

When a patient calls into the practice the first time, they’re in the early stages of the buying cycle and if they don’t book on this occasion, they can always be contacted later to see if they need any more information. If you can, also collect their email so you can send them a nurture email with further information about the treatment they inquired about.

Offer a consultation

Consultations (especially if free) are a great way to get people into the practice. It's much easier to sell a product if the person can taste, touch and feel it. If you have not got a Care Coordinator, then it’s a good idea to employ one. Free consultations are a great way of getting customers over the line to to book in to see a dentist or specialist.


The aim of our research was simply to see if more can be done to convert valuable marketing generated leads into booked business. And to examine call handlers’ skills in sales and customer service.

Our findings do highlight areas for improvement, which if tackled could see a significant uplift in customer conversions. Arming your frontline reception staff with sufficient product knowledge is going to give them greater confidence to really help customers understand the benefits of particular treatments and ultimately, help them move prospects to paying customers.

Overall dental receptionists have a great tone to their voice and are polite. However these attributes alone are not enough. Your reception staff are perhaps your greatest asset. With extra training they can also become your most successful sales staff

A dental receptionist is the embodiment of the practice. The right training can turn a good team into an excellent team but many practices spend very little on training staff on key areas like sales and customer service.

One of them main goals of a dental practice is to ensure team members know their responsibilities, are well trained and competent to perform their duties efficiently, and provide excellent customer service to patients at all times.

Book a call here to hear how we can help you do just that!

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About the Author

After generating more than 85,000 patients for our own dental lab, and for the clients of our digital marketing agency for dental practices, I cracked the code for running successful online marketing campaigns.