How Front Desk Efficiency Can Make or Break Your Private Practice
By Nancy Mura, Senior VP Public Relations
Your front desk employee is the first person your patients see as they walk in the door. Is this employee friendly and welcoming? Does he or she get patients quickly and smoothly to their therapists? Or are they too busy with paperwork? Harassed or, even worse, impatient?
You probably won’t be able to hire someone right off the street who’s already perfect for your front desk—who greets every patient by name and asks after their well-being or family—who keeps up with paperwork and never loses a message. These skills need to be trained into the person you choose for this job.
Efficiency is defined as “the ability to perform a job properly or accomplish a result with a minimum of effort, time and cost; producing something without waste of time, energy or materials.” The only way you get this result in an employee is by providing training. Allowing inefficiency to persist in your practice will cost you money and frustrate your staff.
Front Desk Protocol
Front desk staff should be trained in these points of etiquette:
- They should immediately and warmly greet each arrival and say goodbye to each departing patient. Failure to do so makes your patients feel ignored and unvalued. They should say the patients’ names, for example, using phrases like “Have a good day, Mr. Jones” or “Take care, Mary” as a person departs after their appointment.
- When scheduling the patient’s next appointment, repeat the appointment time two or three times. Example: “You’re all set for Tuesday, November 3rd at 4 p.m., Mr. Jones. Send my regards to Mrs. Jones. And we’ll see you again on Tuesday, November 3rd at 4 p.m.”
- They should make a point of remembering details about each patient. When they ask how that person’s vacation was or if their children are doing well in baseball or ballet, it creates a warm and personal atmosphere and an emotional connection between staff and patients.
- They should never be too busy with paperwork or other tasks. They need to understand that patients are the lifeblood of the practice and take higher precedence over any other duty. At the same time, whoever supervises the front desk needs to be sensitive to the possibility that there are too many administrative duties being covered by the front desk. If they truly are overloaded, it’s time to hire another person or redistribute the duties.
- This person must be 100% willing, interested and skilled in communication. You never want to put a shy or frosty person on your front desk or someone who has communication issues.
Making a Great First Impression
The welcoming attitude of your front desk person is by no means a small thing. When a new arrival is a potential new patient, that first impression could be a contributing factor to whether the person stays with your practice or not. It takes a lot of work to undo a bad first impression. Getting patients rapidly and efficiently to their treatment room is great, not making scheduling or paperwork errors is also great. But if the front desk person is gruff, dismissive, distracted or unfriendly, it costs you business.
When the arrival is a patient who’s been coming to you for years, your front desk person’s attitude is what maintains that welcoming, familial atmosphere that your patients love and appreciate so much.
The front desk person’s attitude is the front line of the welcoming and caring attitude of your entire staff. It is worth the time and training to ensure that your front desk employee epitomizes the care you feel for every patient.
Front Desk Do’s and Don’ts
Here are some important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Every patient needs to be handled with respect and good manners.
- Never permit the front desk person to be rude or abrupt with patients cancelling or calling to say they will be late to their appointment. That will drive those patients to some other practice.
- Anyone calling to cancel must be politely rescheduled before the call ends.
- Appointment reminders must be sent either through an automated system or manually using emails, texts and or/phone calls. No-shows and cancellations can undermine your practice’s viability. We recommend the 3-3-3 approach: Send the first reminder three weeks before the appointment, send the second one three days before the appointment and the third one three hours before the appointment. You should strive for a 100% confirmation rate or as close to it as possible.
- All messages from patients and referrals must be responded to the same day. Delays in responding to these calls cost you money.
We know there are many areas you have to keep under control if your practice is to succeed. Having a great front desk person makes so many things go right that it really is a high priority.
If you need help achieving overall staff efficiency or training a great front desk person, we can lend you a hand. Contact Survival Strategies at 833-221-8002.