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The KPIs Dentists Should Care About But Don’t Always Know

Today, I heard someone say that missed calls at a dental office are an epidemic, which is dramatic, but it’s kinda true. Call handling metrics are something we’ve been analyzing since 2013. After scoring something like 2 million dental patient phone calls, we can tell you that around 400,000 were missed. Yikes.

There are 4 KPIs dentists should care about but don’t always know “for sure:”
1. The value the average single new patient contributes to practice production
2. The practice call conversion rate
3. The practice call answer rate
4. The impact hit-and-miss marketing has on new-patient flow.

We welcome you to experience a live, free demo of Practice ZEBRA®, our innovative, leading-edge marketing software, and you can find out the KPI for #1 and #4 for your practice with call handling rates coming after we track marketing. Schedule a free consultation and find out more.



Let’s tackle it in reverse order and start with #4.Here’s a practice that mails every other month for budget reasons (when they don’t really need to budget). You can see that their new-patient results are up and down. If this office had a more consistent approach, they would have a much more consistent new-patient flow.

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#3: Call answer.

Another factor holding that practice back is call answer. This same practice is answering calls at a pace that is far below industry average.


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That is a 27% variance below industry average on answering calls. That means on 100 calls, they miss 52! That is HUGE and has a significantly negative impact on practice production.

Across the industry, the average dental office answers 75% of calls, but our most successful clients focus on this key metric and work hard to answer over 90% of inbound calls.

#2: Call conversion is a tough one.

You want to give your team all the support they can get to convert calls, but sometimes you’ve made insurance decisions that just can’t be overcome. Sometimes a membership plan can work wonders, but you do need a really savvy sales-oriented person answering the phone to work on that.

I always say that you can work on conversion, but if the practice just answers more calls live, new patients will automatically go up.

#1: The biggie. New-patient value.

This is the metric that is the reason you want to work on answering more calls live. Every call could be another “Jeff,” the patient who spends $7,500 on an elective service.


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The average new dental patient contributes $1,700 - $1,800 in the first year (top offices exceed $4,000). The only dental software I know that calculates the average value a new patient contributes to your practice is Practice ZEBRA. This is a critical metric needed to calculate marketing ROI accurately … Although Practice ZEBRA doesn’t require averages for that – it calculates ROI down to the penny on what new patients actually spend in production, so you know your exact ROI from your web or direct mail campaign. Pretty amazing stuff. Anyone can have a free demo with their data live in ZEBRA to capture their practice’s new-patient value.

Let’s say you’re similar to the typical successful dentists we work with – production around $1.7 million annually with a new patient value around $2,000. And then let’s say your office team is also typical and answers 75% of inbound calls.

Each month you get a couple hundred new-patient calls. Let’s call it 50 per week. 25% are unanswered. Just 12 calls are missed each week. Not much, right?

Except, let’s say 6 of those calls would have converted to appointments.

Each week: 6 x $2000 = $12,000

Each month: 24 x $2,000 = $48,000

Annually: $576,000 in missed production … not to mention family and friend referrals …

The call answer metric is CRITICAL for a dental office. Could you add one more new patient to your schedule each day? To contribute that kind of revenue?

Call answer rates have declined since the pandemic from around 80% to the current 75%. So, our average client is missing around 25% of their inbound new-patient calls. And those practices are actively marketing and working to onboard more new patients. Imagine what the stat is for dental offices that aren’t focused on this metric! It’s probably staggering, and accepting a 50% answer rate is hard to understand because there are solutions to improve.

Moreover, poor call answer rates will reflect on the practice’s reputation in the community. “Oh, I called that practice; they never answer.” It not only costs your dental practice missed opportunity production, but it also impacts your reputation, which affects everyone working at the office, holding them back from better earning opportunities and security!

Another metric I mentioned above is knowing the average value of a new patient. Most often, a new patient is worth over 60% more than an average patient, and a steady flow of new patients injects fresh, new production into the practice.

Our marketing software, Practice ZEBRA, is unique in that it provides your key marketing performance indicators – KPIs – that include call answer, conversion, and accurate attribution by call, form, and address match – down to the penny on what patients spend in production.

These are metrics we’ve been coaching our clients on since 2013, when we launched call scoring, and were able to help clients get more from their marketing campaigns by revealing the issue of missed calls. Back then, these insights were so new that when we uncovered the issue for a large group client missing 40% of calls, they then asked us what WE were going to do about it! LOL. So, we have identified the issue, but now it’s about training clients on the importance of this metric.

The significance of answering calls live cannot be underestimated. It’s one of the most critical tasks your practice can complete when you’re working to attract and convert more new patients. When we look at the marketing campaigns that garnered the greatest ROI, the call answer rate for the practice always plays a key role, as does new-patient value, which includes treatment planning for the wellness of the patient and the practice.

According to the latest ADA HPI survey results, not enough new patients asking for appointments is preventing average dentists from getting back to pre-Covid production. That is related to not enough proactive and consistent marketing, but it can also be attributed to just missing too many calls.

When we asked one of our longtime, favorite clients how she manages her very busy practice and call handling – she runs a powerhouse solo and SUCCESSFUL practice with a huge team, so I recommend you read this – here’s what she said:

“We work to be fully staffed 80 to 100% of the time, and we have a dedicated call office with 1 or 2 front desk team members in there to answer incoming calls first, to try to get phones off of the front desk – not that we can always achieve that. Additional overflow then goes to the team members working at the front desk.

We have a system in the order of:

  • Call handlers in the dedicated office answer first
  • Front desk check-in positions answer second
  • Front desk checkout position answer third.

As you can easily predict, if an office is short-staffed, you will definitely see a reduced amount of answered calls. When we have too many team members gone due to illness or vacations, it does affect our ability to answer our phones. ☹

TIP: We also keep at least 1 to 2 front desk team members working during times we are no longer seeing patients. These are very important times to answer your phones. For example: We are done seeing patients at 4:00 pm on Wednesdays but keep a team member at the front desk until 5:00 pm. We do expect them to answer calls up until 5:00 pm, so sometimes they are here until 5:15. We stop seeing patients on Fridays at 2:00 pm, but staff the front desk until 5:00 pm. You would be surprised at how many calls come in at 4:55 pm! New patient calls especially. 😊

In my opinion, it is always a good idea to have someone answering your phones – even if your office is closed one day a week. Suggestion: Have a front desk team member answering phones for all or part of those hours. It is a great opportunity to book new patients and fill the schedule for the next day or upcoming week.”

At the end of the day, it’s imperative to do what you can to get calls answered live. I remember another powerhouse, super-successful client who saw her call answer rate in PZ and said: “How are top practices getting their numbers? I’m pretty competitive …” And then she made it happen!

Bring your goals into focus, and you will prioritize them to happen.

If you’re not getting enough new patients or you’re lacking a steady flow of new patients, talk to our team. They will get you on a program that will drive results!

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