Sometimes, the truth hurts. In this episode of Dental Marketing Mastery, we interview Sandy Pardue of Classic Practice Resources about dental phone training for your front desk, avoiding missed opportunities, customer retention, and more!





Podcast Highlights:

  • How dentists who invest in marketing can get more from the opportunities marketing creates
  • The importance of a welcoming person on the phone
  • How no dental phone training can mean death
  • Live calling practices
  • The importance of returning missed calls
  • Patient retention: why patients quit
  • Staff indifference
  • How your leadership attitude affects staff
  • Treatment and followup
  • Not being afraid of facing truths
  • Not degrading the customer

Podcast Transcription:

Hello, and welcome once again to the Dental Marketing Mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by and New Patients Incorporated. I’m Howie Horrocks, the founder of New Patients Incorporated, along with me once again, as my friend and partner and the president of New Patients Incorporated. Mark Dilatush.

Howie: Well, hello, everybody. Once again, we’re so happy you’re here in our ever growing audience, aren’t we mark?

Mark: Our audience is actually amazing. You know what grew it. It was distributing the announcement on the right day of the week. It was something that random

Howie: Sort of the monkey playing dartboard or something.

Mark: Exactly, exactly.

Howie: Well, anyway, those of you who are tuned into this are in for a real treat. Today we have one of the stars in the dental world with us. And she’s going to talk with us and you about a bunch of stuff. This would be none other than Sandy Pardue of Classic Practice Resources. Hi, Sandy. Welcome.

Sandy Pardue: Hi. Hi, Howie and Mark, it’s great to be here.

Howie: You down in Louisiana, right?

Sandy Pardue: I am.

Mark: I always smile when I hear her voice. I just smile.

Howie: You can’t, you can’t not smile.

Mark: I know. Hi, Sandy. How are you?

Sandy Pardue: I’m doing really well.

Mark: Good. Two hurricanes last week and Louisiana Got neither of them.

Sandy Pardue: Oh, yes. And it’s beautiful Here too.

Mark: Good. Good. Good. All right. So.

Howie: Yeah, go ahead Mark. Let’s interview Sandy and see what gems we can pull out of her.

Mark: Yeah, yeah, let’s see what’s going on in the in the world of dentistry.

Sandy Pardue: Okay.

Mark: Alright, so I want to frame this. So that the focus is on you and your work I’ve known you for I don’t know how many dozen years now. And I know your clients and I know, your business. And I know well I’ve been to your and I know your daughter. I know a whole bunch to know about Classic Practice Resources, and you guys do a phenomenal job.

Howie: Absolutely.

Mark: And, and it deserves accolades. And it deserves the attention of other dentists out there when you speak. So, I want to use this time wisely. And I’m going to remove, I’m going to try to remove as much as I can the marketing element of this, and I want to move it over to the practice management element, which is your forte. Okay, but I do want to point out that there’s a, there’s a very rich partnership between, you know, when a dentist says,” me, and my team” or, “my team and I.” they typically are representing themselves and their employees. And I would go so far as to say that most really successful dental practices on a consistent basis have more to their team, they have a marketing arm, and they have a practice management arm.

So when I when I say, you know, my team, or the team, I want to make sure we’re aware, before we go too much further that, that, let’s assume, let’s assume that the doctor and the team are doing the best they can right now. And let’s assume that the marketing is working. Let’s just make those assumptions. Okay, we I know they’re pretty broad assumptions. But we have Sandy Pardue here. So, I want to focus this in on what are dentists doing? Or what do they need to do? If they’re spending money on marketing? How do they get how do they and their team get more? From the opportunity to work with these new patients?

Sandy Pardue: Oh, that’s the great question. First off, they better have somebody answering the phone that is going to welcome that new patient, that’s going to have the right tone of voice, which a lot of people don’t really think about, that they can answer questions. You know, if I called an office recently, and, and I was doing some of my Phantom calls, which I like to do, and I just couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. And it’s pretty, it’s pretty entertaining, actually. But it’s sad. Because the doctor that’s made this huge investment is in the treatment room, doing the dentistry, and then somebody answering the phone, that’s telling me that they don’t know if they can do something, or they don’t know.

Maybe that product is not good. And we just don’t do it. I can give you the name of someone that can. Really? Really? Okay, now what’s the doctor going to say about that? So, I’m doing these phantom calls, and I hear all these crazy things, you know, things like, “no, hang on a second, hang on a second.” And really rude and not asking me if I’d like to be put on hold or if I have time to be put on hold, just hang on a second, and then I’m on hold. And it’s just crazy what we hear when we call these practices, and so unfair to the doctor, but it’s due to no dental phone training. So, they hire Susie, they get her in, they put her at the phone, and they give her no dental phone training. I just can’t even believe that.

Mark: Right. Right.

Howie: We’ve seen that before Mark, you and I. And what the doc fails to realize is that the very first impression that most people get, aside from like the mailing piece or the radio spot, or whatever drew them to the practice is the person who answers the phone. They’re the most important per person in the practice in that regard, right?

Sandy Pardue: It’s true. And I think it takes about five to 10 seconds for a patient calling in to know if they’re really going to make an appointment, or even make one and maybe not even keep it. They pretty much know from that initial call. One of the calls that I made, the girl told me, she said, “no, you don’t understand.” And I’m thinking “Really?”  He said, “What we want to do is we want to get the patient in and meet the doctor for this two-hour appointment. Boy, oh, man, you cannot do this. So, there’s so many mistakes. And it’s so easy.

In fact, I was giving a seminar recently. And one of the attendees raised her hand. She said, “I don’t think that these are real calls to practices that you’re playing.” Because what I like to do is play the calls and then seeing what they can find wrong. And I said, “Well, I tell you what, it’s Friday. So, I don’t know how many practices will be in the office. But I tell you what we’re going to do. Let’s Google and get some practice names and numbers. And let’s just call them live. Right?”

Howie: Oh, boy, that’s good.

Sandy Pardue: Yeah. And they loved it.

Mark: Right.

Sandy Pardue: And so we dialed it up and, and could put it on speaker and then I put my microphone up to my cell phone. And in fact, one of the offices gave me the number to call. They said this is our competition, just a short distance from our office. And when the girl now I said, “Oh, I have a toothache and I’m in pain, but I’m so scared to make an appointment. I’m scared to come in. I’m scared of the dentist.” And she said to me, “Do you want an appointment or not?” They couldn’t believe it.

Mark: Believe it. We listen to these calls all the time. They drive us crazy.

Sandy Pardue: They couldn’t even believe it. So, this is what’s happening. And it’s really out of control. And these are good staff. These are good people. And they want to do well. That’s the thing they want to do well, right. And they just need the tools they need. They need the tool so they can help the practice.

Mark: Yeah, there’s I mean, jeez, how many different variations of answering the phone? Well, are there it’s almost endless. But there’s I mean, there’s also we see just basic operational functions not being handled. Like here’s an example. This is actually a classic example. And this happens in every practice. They put their they put their voicemail on for at lunch. Okay. And nobody bothers to come in and look at the caller ID from the hang ups from the new patients, right, who called it lunchtime when you should have been in the office. Or somebody should have been answering the phones. Okay,

Sandy Pardue: That’s a great one.

Mark: I mean, and that, that doesn’t have anything to do with tone of voice. You could be the worst possible person on the phone. And still, at least, you know, at least put this phone number in front of a person who’s good on the phone. Right? I mean, even if you’re the biggest sourpuss on Earth, right? At least, do that for your practice, and give that to someone who’s really good on the phone and have that person follow up with that new patient appointment.

Sandy Pardue: That’s right. But uh, you mentioned answering machine. So, there’s something that that I hear in the in the in dental industry that just, it just, I can’t even take it when I hear this. And it’s, and it’s, oh, you know, somebody will say, there’s this great idea, what you do is you put a message on your answering machine, this machine does not accept cancellation. Now, okay. Wouldn’t you want to know that your patient that’s supposed to come at two o’clock today for two hours had a gallbladder attack? And now maybe you can get someone else in there? You know, it’s like, when you want to know if someone’s not coming? And that doesn’t solve any problems?

Mark: No, it just creates them.

Sandy Pardue: Yes, yeah. So, to the listeners, please, if you have that on your answering machine, take it off. Take it off right now, change your message.

Mark: Yeah, because we don’t accept people with those messages on their answer. Yeah.

Sandy Pardue: Wow.

Howie: This machine will stop recording if you try to answer your appointment.

Sandy Pardue: So what’s happening is, is, you know, you hear like, you can go to the dental chat rooms, you know, and you can see a lot of times where the doctors are coming in, and they’re talking about broken appointments. Just this morning, this morning, somebody I saw on Dental Town that somebody was saying, “Boy, I’m having two and three broken appointments every day in hygiene.”  And they want to blame the patient, but it’s not the patient. It’s a lack of control within the practice. It’s a lack of systems.

Mark: Yeah. And the marketing part of the team would say it could be his marketing too.

Sandy Pardue: Well, the thing is, again, when it when it dealing with dental office marketing is going to get these patients in get them to call, okay, but to become a patient. And that’s what the marketing is supposed to do. But ok, so they hand over the patients to you. But what are you doing to the patients? No, no, leave out the back door.

Mark: And, okay, so here, in a, you know, I guess in a macro sense, all across the US is we’re seeing the rebound in dentistry. Now. I know. I know, it was a consultant andyou have long, long, long term relationships with your clients, just like we do, I’m sure you have clients been with classic practice for 5,6,10 years. So I know, you see, you know, an overview, a macro look at what’s going on in dentistry. from a marketing standpoint, we saw, you know, kind of craziness after 2008 when everybody was scrambling not to be a cosmetic dentist anymore.

Um, but then it you know, flattened out and then because basically dentistry, dentistry lost 18% of its GDP, you know, after 2008 hit, and that’s going to impact every dentist, I don’t care who you are. But, so you’re seeing that the read there, you’re seeing steady and steadiness in the dental industry. We’re seeing renewed growth from the marketing side on and what you think that’s probably also aggravating the staff issues, wouldn’t you say? Because I mean,the more people that call, the more aggravated you’re going to get right? I mean, and the more damage you’re going to see, right? This is an assumption.

Sandy Pardue: Yes, but but I’ll tell you the main thing, and you mentioned, like these practices that are struggling and floundering or, you know, staying flat, guys, the missed opportunities in these practices, you know, that’s another thing. I mean, you see them, they’re maybe flat, and they get the new patients in and they run them off. Some of them, you know, they’re not taking care of them, they lack the systems to retain the patients. But you see people posting, “Oh, I don’t have anybody to come in my schedules empty.”

But I’ll ask them, Hey, listen, go to the computer, pull a report of the diagnosed unscheduled from the last 12 months, and it’s $700,000. Okay, I don’t have anybody to put in the schedule, pull me a report, let’s look at overdue recall, there’s other people that need to come in today. So these are all missed opportunities. So you guys do a great job with marketing and I’ve got clients that use you guys. And they are very, very happy and you’re bringing in the new patients. And now the practice has to have the know how to keep them.

Mark: Right. And that’s how we work kind of work together in that we, like, if you have a client that uses us, and we have a client that uses you, then we know they’re going to squeeze as much out of that marketing dollar as humanly possible. And you know, that the patients we generate aren’t shoppers, right. So, it’s going to help your in and help the treatment compliance and, and, and the recall compliance on your end. So, all this stuff works together. But yeah, the open door is you’re saying the back door is open.

Sandy Pardue: The back door is is open like crazy. You know, I’m seeing patient retention at 40 and 50% in practices. And so they’re leaving, and they’re not, you know, and I saw this, read this article from US News and World Report. They were talking about why customers quit and I thought it was really interesting, because they said like 68% of customers leave because of attitude of indifference or even bad attitudes of the staff. That’s crazy. 68%.  So that tells us what we need to work on in the practice.

Mark:  Right.

Howie: No kidding. You know what, this might be a good time for us to take a little break. And you hang on Sandy and you hang on in the audience. We will be right back.

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Howie: Okay, we are back with Sandy Pardue of Classic Practice Resources. Sandy, you were talking about the attitude of the staff has a huge effect on whether or not the customer shows up.

Sandy Pardue: Yes.

Mark: Hey, Sandy.

Sandy Pardue: Yes?

Mark: Doesn’t the attitude of the staff, doesn’t that kind of come from the attitude of the leadership as well?

Sandy Pardue: Oh, my goodness. Yes. Great point Mark. Absolutely. Because a lot of times dentists think that they can hire staff, “Oh, they worked down the street for this dentist that was doing $2 million. If I get those staff in here with me, I’ll have it made and I can just stay in the operatory. And I can see patients and I can do my endo procedures that I love. And I don’t have to worry about the business anymore.” And that is bull does not work like that. So it’s your business. You own the business. And you have to tell the staff what you expect. It’s okay to have fun. Of course, I want you to have fun. I want you to enjoy what you do. But somebody’s got to be the leader and it can’t be the staff.

Mark: Right? Yeah, because if they have an attitude on the phone, somewhere along the way, there’s either a complacent dentist or a dentist who knows and is just afraid to confront, right?

Sandy Pardue: Because they might quit.

Mark: Right? Right or an associate. I can’t imagine a business owner. No matter how shy or reserved, they are not taking immediate and swift action at some of these calls that you and I both here.

Sandy Pardue: This is reminds me of a call I had Friday, where a dentist called me and said that she was working in a practice with eight staff. And it was a corporate practice. And she said that, she called and said I need leadership training. So the more I spoke with her and learned a little bit about her situation, my advice was her was to quit. Because basically, she said that the owners said do not ever discipline the staff are getting mad at them for being late. She said they come in like 20 minutes late, 30 minutes late. They’re late from lunch. She said she can’t do anything, but kind of just do whatever. And they don’t respect her. She said don’t make fun of her right in front of her. And seller said don’t do anything. So yeah, she needs to move on.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely.

Sandy Pardue: But that being said, this, this whole leadership thing, it’s like what I see is the dentist and I mentioned a little bit of this, but I want to say it again, when you hire someone, ideally, you’ve got structure in your practice, and you’ve got your systems where you can hire someone with specific protocols, you know who they are, you know, their ability and you plug them in, versus what many practices do and that is hire someone, hoping that they bring all your solutions.

But I’m telling you, that can’t happen. But I’m also going to tell you, and you might say, well, she’s talking out of both sides of her mouth, but know that person that you hire and put it the front? Well, they are also the one that will determine your income, what kind of car you drive, what kind of house you live in.

Mark: Right.

Sandy Pardue: But with the leadership.

Howie: Yeah, nothing happens to have a revenue consequences in a practice until or unless the phone rings, and then how that’s handled is really important.

Sandy Pardue: And treatment presentation and follow up. Whenever I ask these people that you know, they’ll call and say, well, Sandy, my schedule is empty. Well, how many calls are going out every day?  “What do you mean by call? Like, what do you mean confirmation calls?

Mark: Ew, ew calls. Ew, ew.

Sandy Pardue: None, we’re not doing any. Well, that could be part of the problem.

Mark: Yeah, it could be so all right. So we have patient inquiries coming in we have staffing is one of the main barriers, I think, I think everyone listening to this podcast would definitely agree. I think I know from our perspective, we run into our own clients who don’t even want to listen, because they’re afraid they don’t want to listen to the recordings of the calls. Yeah, because they’re afraid and mostly what they’re afraid of is now they are afraid of the truth. And the truth is that that they’re now going to have to confront the person that they actually liked yesterday.

Sandy Pardue: You really hit it there, Mark. Because what happens is the staff, that’s another thing, the staff puts pressure on the dentist. And like, I’m going to quit Well, if they’re going to record me, I’m going to quit, I’m not going to work here. And so what we’ve done, what we do is we’ve recorded some depending on the state, but we’ve stopped the recording and we’ll call and then evaluate and send that in. But and that’s been working really well with along with the coaching and then our you know, the drill training videos that we now have. So that helps.

So but what happens is another thing I want to say is that a lot of practices, give patients a guilt trip. You know, they call in and make them feel bad about their mouths. So, we already know that less than half the people are going to the dentist, right? Finally get up the nerve to go, Hey, they see they get this marketing piece. They see this and they say You know what? I might like that practice. Let me check them out. Their dental office website looks good. I’m going to call. So, the first thing they hear is well, when was the last time you saw a dentist? And the poor guys thinking well, it’s been like seven years.

Mark: When was Jimmy Carter around?

Sandy Pardue: Yeah, that are we was last time you had your teeth cleaned. And you know, if you break this appointment, we’re going to charge you $75. Yeah, geez. And so that’s how they’re starting these relationships.

Mark: No, I know.

Howie: Yeah. That ends them too right there.

Sandy Pardue: Especially when they get in hygiene chair and the hygienist shakes her finger and says, “Did you floss today?”  So, we’ve got to not have little signs hanging around the office saying, well, when was the last time you’ve flossed? The reality is, in the real world. People are not lined up outside of any practice waiting to come in. And you guys can do your part to call and get them to want to go there. But he can all stop with that initial contact within five to 10 seconds.

Mark: Exactly. Exactly. Well, no Sandy, don’t you? Doesn’t Classic Practice have, what, you guys have, like destination courses that people can send?

Sandy Pardue: We do.

Mark: They can send us their staff too. Do you have any of those scheduled now?

Sandy Pardue: We do. We have a “spice up your practice” and that’s going to be in November in New Orleans, it’s going to be on the third and fourth of November. And then we’ll be naming new dates for 2018 really soon. And we have an Academy of scheduling excellence, which is great for the team. It’s a day and a half. And its team training with role playing and I send them back ready to handle these front desk situations and systems. All the systems at the front desk with new patients and scheduling and insurance and collections and just improving accounts receivable and treatment plan presentation and my favorite, recall and reactivation.

Mark: Okay, so the 2018 schedule is not out yet, but it’s going to be out.

Sandy Pardue: No, it’ll be on our website. It’ll be on your website, and I cover those topics at the spice up your practice.

Mark: Oh, okay. And just for the, I mean, I know what it is. But just for the listeners what’s your website domain.

Sandy Pardue: It’s Classic, like a classic car practice. Like you practice the piano .com

Mark: There you go. Sandy, we have to do this. We’re out of time.

Howie: It’s just part one.

Mark: Yeah, we gotta do this.

Howie: We’re going to rope you in for another.

Mark: Yeah, I mean, this is this is the Down Home real, no fluff, even sometimes in your face, if it’s the truth, right. This is the time. This is the kind of stuff right that dentists need to hear.

Sandy Pardue: It’s all about results, Mark.

Mark: I know, I know, I know, I know! But there’s so much fluff out there that what we try to do, you know, outside of promoting ourselves, obviously. But what we try to do with these podcasts is, it’s making it real. And when we get you on the phone or we get you on a podcast, it’s all it’s like I mean, we’re just real. You know, no, no, Doctor, you can’t do it that way. And here’s why. And whatever. It’s just the truth, right? We got to do this every three or four months. So, I know how busy your schedule is. So I’ll just I’ll send Dana a bottle of wine or something.

Howie: We’ll bribe you both.

Sandy Pardue: Happy to do it.

Howie: Well, thank you, Sandy. And that, that’ll wrap up things for today. We certainly appreciate you being with us and we know our audience does as well. So, to our audience, we will see you again soon. Hang in there now. Bye now.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our podcast today. You can find more podcasts on our YouTube channel, on Stitcher, and iTunes. Also on our websites, and