Esthetic dentistry is truly a major part of the future of the fee-for-service practice. There are still many patients who seek high-quality elective care and these individuals need to be swayed to make an initial appointment with you. Whether you reach them through your present patients or through outreach to the community, the important key is your method of handling each of these patients as they join your practice. Customer service needs to be stronger and more obvious than ever before in order to differentiate your practice from others and to attract more referrals. The days of waiting for patients to arrive have clearly come to an end. Managed care and a decline in the need for traditional services has eroded a significant component of the dental market. When you combine that with the realization that only 50% of the population visits the dentist even once a year (and far less in many countries outside the United States), then it becomes obvious that the total available market for the elective services of esthetic dentistry has declined. Esthetic dentistry programs must be better defined, with an ongoing focus to educate present patients and to attract new patients. As I state in my seminars, I firmly believe that any practice today can still be highly successful. I do not feel that I will be making that statement three to five years from now. The time to begin positioning your practice for future growth of esthetic dentistry is now. As managed-care programs increase, it will become more difficult to turn around a declining practice. Having a quality marketing program already in place will make the difference for your esthetic practice. The new patient phone call is critical. It is there that you will begin to help patients understand fully the overall attitude and policies of your office. Successful management of new patients is to win their trust by giving them ultimate customer service while convincing them to fit your present system and schedule. When a new patient calls the practice, you want to get them scheduled within a reasonable time frame while their motivation is still positive. Remember, you only get one first chance to make a great impression. Each office should decide which questions are appropriate to ask. The front desk coordinator should ask these questions calmly and clearly so that the new patient has an opportunity to answer them without feeling that they are going through the inquisition. At the same time, the more information you have about this patient, the easier it will be to gain treatment acceptance because of your understanding of the new patient's needs. Many offices will ask new patients how they came to choose their particular office. Since many practices gain new patients from existing patients, it is appropriate to know when this has occurred and properly thank the referral patient. By thanking the patient who referred the new patient, you will encourage further referrals.