Telephone Etiquette


The person who answers the phone in your practice plays a crucial role. They must multi-task, sound pleasant and happy, have enthusiasm and joy in their voice and love working with people. This attitude ensures patients understand it can be enjoyable and fun at the dental office.

How To:

SMILE!! You are on the phone! People hear your smile or lack of a smile when you answer the phone. Your tone tells them if you are busy or if you are focused on the person at the other end of the line.  Here are seven tips on telephone etiquette.

  1. Studies show the majority of people prefer to hear a live voice on the other end of the line when they call.  Answer the phone by the 3rd ring.
  2. Have a mirror posted where you can see it as you answer the phone. Use the mirror to check on your attitude and smile!!
  3. Say “thank-you” at the beginning of your call. “Thank-you for calling Dental Smiles, my name is Jody, I can help you!”
  4. When you answer the phone be happy, warm, energetic, and enthusiastic. The person that answers the phone sets the tone for the practice.
  5. Hang up last. No one likes the sound of “click” in their ear. The caller might think you were in a hurry to get rid of them and go on to the next patient.
  6. Train everyone on your team to answer the phone in the same way. Assign primary responsibility for answering the phone. When the phone rings more than twice, on the third ring someone else will be responsible for answering.
  7. Watch your intonation and make sure everyone who answers the phone sounds confident and enthusiastic. If you sound stressed and busy, patients will not refer to your practice.

We know that the phone only rings when someone is at the desk trying to check out and you are on hold with an insurance company on another line.  Answering the phone in the practice can be challenging and frustrating.  Here are our recommendations regarding the hold button:

  • Do handle the patient that is first, first. If someone is checking out complete the transaction before answering the phone. If you are on the phone finish with the caller prior to handling the patient. Best case, your team is cross-trained and someone else can check the patient out.
  • Don’t answer the phone with a “Hold Please” – it sounds like you are too busy. Greet the caller the same way you always answer the phone and let them tell you why they are calling. Then ask if they would prefer to hold or if they would prefer you to call them back.
  • If you put the patient on hold, do so for as short a time as possible. 30-45 seconds is the maximum most people withstand. If they hold longer, you will notice a change in their attitude, and it’s not for the better.
  • Try this experiment: Find a clock with a second hand or time yourself on your smartphone. Sit and do nothing for 2 minutes, out of view of the clock or phone. Then glance at the timer. As long as the wait seemed, you probably did not come close to 2 minutes. It is frustrating to be on hold, especially for our time conscious society.
  • If you really cannot answer the phone, have your rollover set to the 4th ring so the caller will get a voicemail that sounds something like this:

“Thank-you for calling Dental Smiles, this is Jody, your call is important to me. I am assisting other patients at the moment and would be happy to call you back within the hour if you leave your contact information after the tone.  I’ll look forward to talking with you soon!”

  • If you say you will call them back, then call them back within the hour. Know how your phone system notifies you of messages during business hours and follow up with the calls.