Customer service in dentistry takes many shapes. In this post, Trish Lewis-Clark of The Dental Detective shares how you can establish trust with patients by serving them even when closed for vacation or the holidays.

When holidays fall during the week what does your practice do as far as closing?

Do you close only that day?

The day before or after?

The entire week?

Over my many years of experience, I’ve found that every office is unique. Each has different theories on what works best for them.

This decision is typically based on convenience for the doctor and/or team, right?

I have even seen practice let their employees know when they hire them that they would like for everyone to take the same time off and use their vacation time when the doctor takes their vacation or is out of town for a CE course.

All of these choices are based on personal needs but not the needs of the patients.

That’s right, you must also look out for the patients.

One way to get burned during vacation closures failing to have someone take calls while you are gone.

Now, before you say no one will work, or ask how can this be done, hear me out.

Show patients that you are there for them even when you take time off

With careful planning ahead of time, you can have a team member in office answering phones, checking the mail, and helping that emergency walk-in get them scheduled for when you return.

There are even several services out there that will answer the phone as if they are in your office. Why you ask?

The number one reason is … for the patient.

Show patients that you are there for them even when you take time off. This builds on your relationship and shows how much you truly do care about their wellbeing!

Even when you unavailable you have made someone in your practice available for them.

That goes a long way.

Think about this from the patient’s view.

They are having some major mouth discomfort. Who do they think of first?

If they have been to your office at least once they think of you.

They pick up the phone to call because they know, based on that conversation they had with you at their last visit, you’re always available.

Why do they think that? Well, you may have closed that conversation a little something like this…

“Mr. Fireworks, everything looks great today. It was such a pleasure seeing you. Please tell Mrs. Fireworks we loved the poundcake she made for us! We look forward to seeing you again in six months. Mr. Fireworks, do not hesitate to give us a call if you need anything before your next hygiene appointment, we are here for you.”

Well, guess what?

Mr. Fireworks is now holding the side of his face in discomfort and thinks of that very conservation.

How exciting! Yes it is! When he could call or think of anyone else, his fingers are dialing you!

Wait … he gets a voicemail.

He hangs up without leaving a message.

He double checks the number again and redials, this time leaving a message asking for an immediate return call due to this extreme discomfort.

If you do not have an answering service or employee answering you phone you have just put doubt in Mr. Fireworks’s mind about what you told him at his last appointment.

This is the start of loosing his TRUST in you and your practice.

“Mr. Fireworks, do not hesitate to give us a call if you need anything before your next hygiene appointment, we are here for you.”

It takes time to build relationships with your patients. It only takes one unfortunate moment for the relationship to fracture.

A plan in place is much better than the plan not in place

Mr. Fireworks doesn’t hear back from anyone and a little panic sets in.

What if this tooth gets worse? What if no one calls him back? He may or may not call your office again.

From there begin, what I refer to as, the panic calls!

Ever get those on a Friday or Monday from a patient? How about around holidays?


Because they tried to reach someone, anyone, from an office they felt connected to and that connection was broken.

Help were not there when they really needed it. They had built a relationship with their practice and now it is shattered.

Sounds harsh, right?

Not from the patient’s point of view.

We build a practice, keep our employees happy, make sure the schedule is full (no Swiss cheese schedule!), and we love talking to our patients while they are in our office.

But what happens when you close for a long period of time and they need you?

Yes we all need a break or take a vacation. A plan in place is much better than the plan not in place, especially since it could lead to loosing patients.

Sit down with your team and discuss ways to have someone in your dental practice around major holidays. You will be surprised at how many jump at the chance to have hours in-office and catch up on tasks that are impossible to do while seeing patients.

They might also be eager to be there for the patients when you explain things from the patient’s perspective.

Now everyone is well-balanced and taken care of — practice and patients.

Next time you plan to close with no one in office, stop and think about how Mr. Fireworks would feel.

After all, it’s the patients that have built the practice, and they’re the ones who keep coming back to see our smiling faces!

Learn more about how RevenueWell improves case acceptance and creates more close-knit relationships between dentists and their patients.

Trish Lewis-Clark
By Trish Lewis-Clark
Trish Lewis-Clark, FAADOM has over 25 years of experience in the front office and as a CDA, RDA-EF. As a practice coach and public speaker, she trains dental teams to develop conversational skills that improve communication with patients and other office team members. Her years of experience as an office manager and dental assistant inspired her to launch The Dental Detective™, a program that offers common-sense training that helps teams strengthen leadership, overcome in-office challenges, improve communication skills, increase profitability and growth, and work smarter, not harder. Trish has written for the The Observer a publication of American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM), Dental Entrepreneur Woman-DeW, and is an monthly contributor for RevenueWell. As an active AADOM member, Ambassador, and Fellow (FAADOM), Trish was awarded the 2014 AADOM Office Manager of Distinction.