Converting emergency cases is a skill worth mastering, as it allows you to maximise opportunities that fall right into your lap. In the wake of the 2020 COVID pandemic, a lot of practices were limited to emergency-only treatment, and this is the framework that allowed them to capture and convert those emergency cases into recurring and loyal patients.


Common mistakes

A lot of dentists treat emergency cases as an inconvenience, feeling like they’re an interruption to their otherwise scheduled day. But it’s crucial to recognise that this is an opportunity to build a relationship and convert your emergency into a loyal patient.

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By helping someone in their hour of need, being empathetic and accommodating, and solving a potentially painful problem, these cases often become incredibly grateful and loyal patients.


Inbound phone call

In greeting your caller, they might be in a bit of stress or discomfort due to the situation, so it’s important to validate their experience. This could be as simple as, “I understand, that must be very uncomfortable. I’m glad you got in touch.”

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You can then demonstrate your concern for their care by offering a consultation in a way that reflects the urgency of the situation. Something along the lines of, “The simplest way to handle that would be…” or “The fastest way to sort that out…”

This affirms that your suggestions and offers are all in pursuit of helping them and solving the issue at hand.


Offering an Appointment

Here is where we use a technique known as “cascading series of alternate choices.”

If we appear too available to the patient, it can often make the practice look a bit desperate and needy which suggests that you’re not all that in demand. This can lead to doubt in your expertise, and makes patients more likely to cancel because they’re confident they can find another time.

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Instead, it’s better to ask a series of questions, starting with “Which days are best for you?” and following up with “Is morning or afternoon more convenient?”

You can then offer up one or two times that suit their needs, which shows them that you’re making an effort to address their issue – despite being busy.

It’s also crucial to get a verbal confirmation that they will in fact attend. A simple, “So you’ll come in on Wednesday at 3pm?” is will draw on the psychological principles of commitment and consistency and increase the show up rate.


In the appointment

Rather than giving palliative care, you want to open yourself up to comprehensive and ongoing care.

You can do this by pre-framing the patient and explaining that you will, of course, address the issue at hand and get them out of pain and discomfort. But, depending on the complexity of the situation, it may be necessary to have them back in the practice and provide extra care.

Get a comprehensive patient history, offer the full scope of potential treatments, and let them know if you see another issue that they should be aware of.

This primes the patient for case acceptance, and could see them return to the practice multiple times.

A common example would be to explain the underlying cause of why they’ve had this dental emergency, how you could treat the issue and get them off a cycle of emergencies and pain, and present a case for them to accept.

This is a super effective framework, and once you nail it, you’ll be well on your way to converting more emergency patients!


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