Don’t lose out on new patient enquiries at the front-desk

The crucial role of the reception team in your dental marketing campaigns.

The ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to secure new business; so for dentists the bottom line is acquiring new patients who want the type of treatments you offer.

The role of the dental marketer is relatively easy to define in this, i.e. setting up the tools and techniques needed to bring new enquiries to the practice. The ways to achieve this objective are broad and varied, ranging from the traditional promotional literature campaigns to state-of-art re-marketing via social media, SEO and everything in-between.

As we’ve noted elsewhere in our marketing blog for dentists, a good agency will not only be able to deliver the results you need, but also be able to do it transparently through the provision of regular, clear reporting. However, whilst it’s reasonably straightforward to identify new leads, how these are actually dealt with and followed-up at the practice is much harder for the marketer to determine. Unfortunately there are too many cases where good leads are not handled correctly and in some cases, not followed up at all locally. This nullifies all of the upfront work done by your marketing team and wastes money from your hard-earned budget.

What can go wrong?

There are a few notable points of weakness at the practice level which we’ve encountered over the years. The first and perhaps most important and prevalent is a lack of systems designed to capture and nurture leads. This may be done to the principle “expecting” someone to get on with it rather than ensuring that the correct training, systems and auditing are in place. This is still way too common unfortunately. Another common occurrence is where the reception team has systems in place but is insufficiently proactive to make best use of them. Sadly we see this quite regularly too, and often where the principal dentist is so immersed in clinical work that he/she doesn’t realise what is happening.

We’ve seen technical failures too – for example the dentist who quit his marketing campaign on the back of “limited” results. Our reporting, linked directly to online analytics, showed a substantial number of new enquiries each month, but this was not translating into sufficient new patients and treatments. Only when he quit (to our surprise) did we finally establish that his reception team was not monitoring the email address which had been requested and set up specifically to handle new web enquiries (really!)

In another case where the success of the campaign came under question, it transpired that the receptionist had been recording all new enquiries as “word-of-mouth” simply because it was easiest and on the top of the record sheet. This may sound extreme, but it’s worth taking a look at what’s happening in your own team.

So the front-desk team or whoever is tasked to receive and handle new enquiries, really is critical to your success (or failure).

What needs to be done?

I don’t want to assume the role of a dental practice advisor here but it really is essential to employ the right people for the intended role, train them and then audit their performance. It should be said that identifying where an enquiry has come from can sometimes be a bit tricky, so tenacity is also required. If not you’ll just get a scenario similar to the above where the receptionist simply takes the easy route without questioning any further.

You should also consider any method which will automate the work or at least make the recording as easy as possible. For example, some dental practice management systems allow you to record how the patient originally found you, but of course it’s still essential that what is input is accurate.

Where it gets tricky

There will always be some enquiries where it is very difficult to establish exactly what stimulated it. For example, did the word-of-mouth recommendation actually lead to someone looking you up in Google and then completing your website contact form? These are quite common and hence where the skill and thoroughness of the front-desk team are essential to dig in a little deeper.


Generating new patient enquiries will always be essential and in most cases isn’t cheap; so it really is important to capture and nurture them efficiently and effectively. Experience suggests that a lack of systems and/or weakness of the front-desk team are often responsible when things fall down, which is frustrating for us as marketers but also business critical to dentists considering the lost revenues at stake.

Take the time to put suitable systems and team members in place and then audit periodically to see all is happening as you’d planned. You’ll be happy you did and your marketing team will be too!

If you’d like to discuss this topic or anything else related to the marketing of your practice, the team at Dental Media will be pleased to help. You can reach us on 01332 672548 or via our website contact form.