Opinion: Who has the most influence over your patients and practice growth?
In this Apex360 opinion piece, R. J. Adolfi, the founder and managing director of DentalSense, explains how the most important person in your practice, in terms of patient influence and practice growth, might not be who you think it is: It's your front desk staff.
In this Apex360 opinion piece, R. J. Adolfi, the founder and managing director of DentalSense, explains how the most important person in your practice, in terms of patient influence and practice growth, might not be who you think it is.
Who has the most influence over your practice growth? Easy question, right? It’s the professionals who treat the patients: the dentist, the hygienists, and the dental assistants. After all, they have completed extensive schooling, they adhere to the local dental board standards, and they have taken an oath to observe the highest ethical principles when treating patients.
Unfortunately, this line of thinking is all wrong. In fact, the person with the most influence over your patients—and your practice growth—is the patients' first and last point of contact. It's the person who answers the phone, greets patients upon their arrival, and takes their money when they're leaving. This person has the most impact when it comes to your patients' overall impression of the practice.
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The scary part of this scenario is that, despite this importance, this person is usually the least trained and the lowest paid member of your staff. No college degree is available for interpersonal skills. There is no license to acquire, nor are there boards to pass. How your auxiliary staff treats your patients is completely at your discretion. Realizing that this position is one of the most valuable components of your practice is important.
Most patients trust the education and experience of the dentist and the professional team. They have no technical reference by which to judge the care, but because of regulations and governing bodies, they expect that their caregivers are adequately prepared.
The patients do, however, have a very good reference by which to judge how they should be treated by the person who greets them and processes their payments. They expect this person to keep accurate information on file and have knowledge of payment processes and insurance. But more importantly, they expect this person to have empathy, understanding, and a pleasant demeanor.
Spend some time reviewing and training your staff on people skills and reinforce how vital this role is to the health of the practice. Since the professionals who are in the operatories don’t have the time or the vantage point to assess how patients are being treated by the front office, look for other methods of monitoring these interactions. Enlist friends or trusted advisors to pose as patients calling the office or coming in for "appointments." Make sure that they are brutally honest with their feedback.
How the patient is treated before and after they sit in the dental chair is of the utmost importance, and fine-tuning these interactions is the best way for your auxiliary staff to enhance the patient experience and affect the practice’s bottom line.
R. J. Adolfi is the founder of DentalSmart and DentalSense, and he is also one of the individuals responsible for developing Upstate Dental Health Services PC, the first "dental super practice"-known today as Aspen Dental. Upon his retirement from professional hockey, R. J. was called to run the overall operations of the family business, which then consisted of dozens of practices throughout the Northeast. Now, he brings this expertise to dentists across the country through DentalSense, which provides dentists 100% ownership, with the advantages of corporate dentistry yet no interference in clinical care.