You’ve worked hard to establish a solid reputation in your field. Your training and experience set you apart in your community. But all of that can be undone by one unpleasant experience in your office with your front desk staff.
Your front office staff is your first impression for new and existing patients, so it’s important that your first impression be positive. Taking the time to ensure that your front office is comprised of the right mix of talents and personalities, as well as providing adequate training and cross training, is one of the most important elements in practice management.
Present the Total Package
Patients come to your practice because of your experience and skill, but they also come for the overall experience they receive. One of the first rules of practice management is that your front desk staff is the first impression patients receive upon arriving, and the last impression before they leave. To ensure that you are offering patients the total package, consider the following suggestions:
1. Always Check References Against a Resumé: Excellent experience is only the beginning. A candidate who looks exceptional on paper may not fit in with the front desk image you want to cultivate. Ask for and check references, but also contact former employers. Verify the information provided by the candidate, and also ask if the employer would rehire that employee. A negative response isn’t necessarily a strike - some personalities just don’t mesh with others, but if there are problems, you want to know that in advance.
2. Let Your Staff Reflect Your Patients: When patients are greeted by your front desk, they should feel comfortable with who they see. If purple hair and tattoos are common among your patients, then it’s not a problem at your front desk. However, while it may seem unfair or not politically correct, if your patients are more Polo than piercings, you want to be certain your front office reflects that.
3. Personality +: Obviously your front desk staff needs to be friendly and personable. They represent the personality of your office, so welcoming and hospitable go without saying. But for good practice management, front desk employees also need to be self-motivated and work with little or no direction, as well as have self-control. While you hope it doesn’t happen often, there will be times when a patient has an issue and creates a difficult situation. You need a front desk staff who can keep their cool with a challenging patient.
4. Juggling Skills Are a Must: Front desk employees play a huge role in your practice management. They answer phones, check patients in, handle insurance questions, input new patient information, check patients out, and answer billing question. Not only do you need staff who can handle these varied tasks, you need to ensure you are providing adequate cross-training for your staff as well. No patient wants to be told that the person who handles their question is out of the office this week.
Providing an environment that is both personable and professional is an essential component of excellent practice management. Employees who feel they are valuable and are valued are more like to stay. This reduces the cost of hiring and training replacement staff and builds stronger employee bonds. It also helps to build patient loyalty. Patients become familiar with your staff and look forward to seeing them on their return visits. When you focus on your front desk staff as the face of your practice, the overall experience for your staff and patients improves - the best of both worlds.
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