What’s the most important position in your practice? If you said “doctor” you’re wrong. It’s actually your front desk customer service staff.
They are the “gatekeepers,” and typically the very first contact experience a patient has with your office. If it’s a bad front desk customer service, they won’t be seeing your doctor at all.
Patients are paying more out-of-pocket for healthcare, so they’re becoming more aware of where they go to receive care.
Front desk customer service has become more important than ever in attracting and retaining patient because it’s a quality that can distinguish one practice from another that provides the exact same services. Staffing the front desk is anything but easy. What is easy is letting things get out of control.
That results in lost patients, lost revenue, and frustrated staff. Luckily, most customer service disasters can be averted with an extra dose of kind, empathetic communication.
Keep reading for how you can avert these three front desk customer service disasters.
Disaster #1: Your Front Desk Customer Service Staff Is Terrible on the Phone
Anyone can have poor phone etiquette, but this is more and more becoming a generational problem. Front desk customer service staff are often younger, entry level folks.
And younger folks today don’t talk much on the phone — they text instead. Unfortunately, that means they’ve lost proper phone etiquette along the way. Regardless of age, you actually have to train your front desk staff on phone etiquette. Try these tips:
- Everyone in your practice should know how to answer the phone and take appointments. This ensures that no matter how busy you are, the phone never rings more than two or three times.
- A good greeting has four elements: the greeting (such as good morning), your name (this is so-and-so), the full name of the practice (with Dr. Smith’s office), and how you can be of service (how may I help you?).
- Use a “phone voice.” This is an extra-friendly, cheerful version of yourself. Answer the phone with a smile. If you’re having a bad day, fake it. Patients don’t want to feel like they’re bothering you.
- Get the patient’s name and call them by name throughout the call. You can ask them something like “With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”
- Your front desk staff should be able to answer the most frequently asked questions about your practice. For example, what services you offer, your physicians’ credentials, etc. Try creating quick, short, cheat sheets to keep at the front desk.
- Do not immediately put a patient on hold; always ask first.
- At the end of the call, if the patient has made an appointment, repeat all the information back to him: the physician’s name, appointment time, appointment purpose and location.
Disaster #2: Your Front Desk Staff Aren’t Making Patients Feel Welcome
It’s no always fair, but patients often equate how they’re treated with the quality of care they receive. As the face of your practice, your front desk customer service staff has an opportunity to make patients feel welcome upon arrival:
- If you can, stand up to greet patients. If you can’t, that’s understandable, but at the least you want to make sure you can greet them by name.
- Pay attention to the condition of the lobby. Are magazines scattered everywhere? Is there a tissue on the floor that could be picked up? Signs of disrepair (like dusty fake plants) leave patients with a negative impression of your practice.
- If you still have a sliding glass window, consider getting rid of it. It makes patients feel like they’re an interruption and it cuts the front desk off from the practice. Plus, little notices and information signs tend to get pasted all over the windows and that does not look attractive.
Disaster #3: Your Front Desk Staff Can’t Deal with Angry Patients
The majority of your patients will be friendly, but sometimes you will have patients who are hard to manage. How your front desk staff handles angry patients can make or break your practice. If possible, the best answer is to head off the situation before it becomes a problem.
For example, if the doctor is running 40 minutes behind, don’t tell the patient “It will be just a few more minutes.” Patients really don’t like being lied to. Instead, give your patient options.
Ask them if they’d like to wait, reschedule or leave and come back. If they decide to wait, maybe offer them a bottom of water or snack.
If your patient walks in angry at the world, here are some strategies your front desk staff an use to defuse the situation and hopefully keeping the patient relationship in tact:
- Tone: Keep the same calm, professional tone that you have had throughout the conversation, even if the patient is raising his voice. You can try to calm him by saying something like “It would be really nice if you could lower your voice, and we could probably talk to one another a little bit better if you’ll help me out with that. This will help be better resolve your issue.”
- Name: While responding to the patient use their name. This will let her know that it is a personal conversation that doesn’t really involve everybody out in the practice or facility.
- Listen: Give the person time to vent without reacting. Let him say all that he needs to say, whether it’s taking up all your time or not. He might just need to get things off hischest. Actively listen to what the complaint is. Often, the patient just wants to feel heard and understood.
- Document: Write down the compliant. That way, you can repeat it back to the patient to make sure you understand the issue. You can also use that complaint as part of your quality assurance plan or your individual patient assessment plan.
- Resolution: Finally, investigate and try to resolve the issue. If you can’t resolve it on your own, then ask others to help you, and then respond to the patient that’s making the complaint.
Commonly Purchased Online Trainings and Resources
Head Off HIPAA Front Desk Nightmares$247.00 – $257.00
Front Desk: Head Off Patient Service Disasters$247.00 – $257.00
Front Desk: First-Rate Phone Etiquette for Your Practice$247.00 – $257.00