Dental assistant dreads answering phones: What can she do?

When this dental assistant who works in the back of the office is asked to answer the phones in the front, she panics. How can she handle this situation?

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When we first unveiled our #DAFails campaign, the goal was to have dental assistants write in and share those times in their careers when they didn’t meet expectations, and what they learned from those experiences. At IgniteDA, we believe in #TogetherWeRise, and that means learning from each other, even in the not-so-glamorous moments.

By the way, you can click here to be a part of this great learning opportunity and to share your thoughts and experiences with your colleagues.

More than 800 dental assistants joined us for a day of education and empowerment at our recent IgniteDA day at Yankee Dental Congress. One of the focuses of the day was on cross-trained assistants and how to ensure that assistants who work in both the back and front can succeed in those areas.

One of our speakers at Yankee Dental was Laura Hatch, the founder of FrontOfficeRocks.com. Laura and I’ve talked many times about the challenges that cross-trained assistants face, and (spoiler alert), we’ve worked on some pretty cool solutions that will be debuting very soon.

This question was submitted through our #DAFails campaign during our Boston visit. Since it had to do with the front desk, I asked Laura to answer it. Read on to see if you find yourself in this same position.

Question: I have a phone phobia. The most challenging task for me is working the front desk. I’m very confident in my clinical skills, but whenever I’m asked to cover the front desk, it’s a nightmare for me. I don’t feel comfortable talking with people on the phone if I don’t know them. Do you have any advice?

Answer from Laura Hatch of Front Office Rocks: I totally get where you’re coming from because I have the same feelings when I have to work in the operatory. I become very uncomfortable if I’m asked to assist in the back, and it feels like a nightmare to me. It sounds like you’re a superstar in the back and that’s amazing to me. However, there will be times when you’ll need to be able to jump in and help with the phones, just like I have to jump in to help in the back. This is just part of being on a team and working in the dental office. Here are some tips to help you feel better about working the phones.

First, talk to your doctor or office manager about your discomfort with the phones. It’s good to be up front and honest with them so they know how you feel. Next, if they know about your discomfort, they might be more willing to have someone else from the back help answer the phones. Lastly, you can talk with them about the need for more training and guidance to help you become more comfortable in this area.

Second, practice makes perfect. Answering the phones will become easier if you receive some training around how to do it, and then you practice it. What I mean by this is watch videos on answering the phone so that you know what you’re supposed to do when you answer them, and then practice it. If possible, practice with coworkers or friends. Have them ask you typical questions you’ll hear on the phones and practice how to answer them so that you become comfortable when real patients ask you these questions.

Third, understand your purpose, which is to connect with the person on the phone and make that person feel comfortable. I suggest that you realize and accept that you won't know the answer to every question, and you might need to defer to others for help. That is OK! I would rather someone be honest with a patient and say something such as, "I’m a dental assistant helping out with the phones. Your question is super important, and I want to make sure to get you the right answer, so I’m going to take a message and have someone call you back when they return soon."

If you recognize that you don't need to know it all, but that the most important thing is to make sure patients feel heard and know that they’ll get answers, you will do an amazing job with the phones.

We invite you to share your #DAFails story by clicking here. We would love to have you share your best advice from daily practice with your colleagues.

Here’s to assistants helping assistants better themselves and the profession!

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