Spike in number of dentists using live chat and telephone answering
More UK dentists are opting for telephone answering and live chat services to handle high patient demand.
Figures reveal a 300% increase in uptake – within both NHS and private dental practices – during January when compared with the monthly average for the last three months of 2019.
According to the data from communications provider Moneypenny, the boom mirrors the ever-increasing need for dental practices to manage a variety of growing pressures.
Stephanie Vaughan-Jones, commercial manager for healthcare, believes the spike is down to the need to handle high call volumes, reduce missed appointments and secure private clients.
She also highlights the influence of interest in cosmetic dentistry, thanks to social media platforms such as Instagram.
She said: ‘Demand is outstripping supply so practices face a high volume of daily enquiries.
‘The demand we’re seeing suggests that practices are focusing on face-to-face customer service and patient care.
‘Live chat in particular is helping practices to respond to the growing popularity of cosmetic dentistry. It also aids the need to reduce missed appointments. It makes it easy for patients to contact practices on their terms, whatever time of day or night.
‘Access to care and appointment availability are two of the sector’s biggest issues. Therefore, it’s encouraging to see dental practices embracing new ways to help meet the growing demand.’
For Stephanie, practices need to make three key changes.
Receptionists should be free of interruption and the number of missed calls needs to be reduced. Practices also need to be open to accessibility outside of traditional working hours.
A sharp focus on the patient journey and increased patient expectations are also driving demand, according to Mark Greenwood, freelance business coach and adviser at Your Dental Manager.
He said: ‘More dental practices are recognising they must make changes if they are to provide a positive patient journey.
‘Telephone answering and live chat services help to solve the customer care bottlenecks that arise. For example, receptionists are expected to answer calls and deal with patients face to face at the same time, when the practice is closed for lunch or meetings, and to field those inevitable out-of-hours calls from increasingly busy patients.
‘For private practices, this is particularly important. If patients can’t get through to someone who can answer their enquiries, they will soon take their business elsewhere.’