Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Your Receptionists

Travelling around the country working with dentists and their teams, the two complaints I hear most often are –


We need more new patients; our appointment book is a bit ‘gappy


 I wish my reception team took more responsibility so I don’t have to cope with every minor problem


I believe these issues are related, and here’s why.

Let’s step back briefly and look at the business of dentistry. Your challenge is that your clients and potential clients don’t particularly want to come and see you (unless they’re already in pain!). They don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “I’ll go and browse at the dentist. Perhaps I’ll buy a filling.” New patients have to be persuaded to visit your practice, and then convinced by their experience to keep coming back.

Your reception team has to play many different roles within your practice every working day. One minute they are your “Client Relationship Managers,” providing a warm welcome and a caring experience which encourages clients to return and recommend you to their friends; the next they are your “Managers of First Impressions,” fielding a tentative telephone enquiry from a potential new patient. Often they’ll be fulfilling both roles at the same time, and it’s not easy, even without the many possible distractions of a busy waiting room, to give the best impression to the potential and the existing patient simultaneously.

Reception staff can’t ever have a “bad day.” They’re your practice’s “Brand Ambassadors” every minute they’re on duty. Their tone of voice, their body language, their enthusiasm (or lack of it), their confidence, their knowledge of your practice and what sets it apart from the competition, all contribute to an enquirer committing to a first consultation, deciding on a follow-up appointment or accepting the treatment plan you’re recommending.

Successfully dealing with the public is a special skill, which is too often underrated. Your receptionists may have less than a minute to create a rapport with a potential patient, which enables them to ascertain their requirements and convince them to make an appointment. In effect, they are selling your services – for dentistry is a business, and every business survives on the sales it makes.

Your reception staff are more than part of the practice’s shop window – they are your front-line sales people. You can spend a fortune on marketing to generate interest in your services, but you might as well have burned the money if your sales team cannot convert that interest into new patient consultations.

Knowing how important your receptionists are underlines the need to hire, retain and generously reward the good ones! Here’s my top 5 list of the qualities, which make a great receptionist:

1. Excellent sales ability. The best sales people are:

  • Excellent rapport builders
  • Skilled at listening and understanding what the client wants
  • Able to deal intelligently with doubt, questions or objections
  • AND they have the confidence to ask for the business.

2.The best sales people keep track of the enquiry statistics, which help them to do their job    better, and focus on how to improve them. So they have at their fingertips:

  • How many enquiries they receive each month
  • How the enquirer heard about them
  • How many of their enquiries had a positive outcome – i.e. resulted in a new patient     consultation.

3.They are highly motivated to improve their enquiry conversion rate.

4.They are very well organised and multi-tasking is second nature.

5.They are passionate about the service they provide and the business they represent – in this case, your practice. They assume responsibility for the client’s experience, and their own confidence and enthusiasm rub off on those around them. They are quick learners and constantly seek to improve what they do.

If you want to increase the flow of new patients into your practice, ensure you have a reception team that knows how to sell. Invest in every member of your team in terms of their sales skills and insist they have a positive “can do” attitude. Help them to understand what sets your practice apart from the competition and that they are fully briefed about what you offer. Invest in your staff before you invest in costly marketing.

Ernie Wright Lead Coach: People & Business Management



If you would like to develop your team’s sales skills in order to increase the flow of new patients and the take-up of high value treatment plans, contact the Breathe team on 0845 299 7209 or

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