Patients' first impressions of you dental practice is extremely important. Finding the right front desk person to make that impression is also extremely important. Here's how to find the right fit.
Do you have the right person to make the right first impression for your dental office? The person who greets your patients when they walk in the door or answers the phone when patients call should be a VIP!
Too often bosses hire the first person who answers the employment ad. I’ve found that many dentist/bosses make sure they have an assistant with experience, and a hygienist with experience, but tend to hire a cousin or a friend’s friend or a brother-in-law’s cousin’s wife (you get the picture) who has never worked in a dental office to fill the all-important front desk position.
The truth is, finding the right person to make the right first impression will make a lasting impression for your office. Think about what your team members do for your business. Someone can make or break your business.
Does that sound dramatic? Maybe, but I believe it’s the truth. If you hire someone because they “need” a job but have no experience, you’re gambling that this person will love the job, you, your office, your patients, and dentistry. Sometimes that gamble works out, and sometimes it goes terribly wrong.
When a potential patient calls for an appointment and the person answering your phone has no phone etiquette, does not know what to ask, is rude, or cannot answer an important question, then that potential patient may think this is how the entire office operates. An incompetent front office person will not portray your office the way it should be portrayed. Dentists work hard to build their practices, and they certainly don’t want to hire someone that could damage a reputation they’ve worked so hard to build.
What are the qualities and skills to look for when hiring this important person? Some dentists want a particular software experience, some want a great personality, some want insurance experience, while others want exceptional phone skills. The fact is, the right person should have all of these qualities. I’ve been known to tell dentists that if you have someone who has practice management software experience and can do all the tasks necessary but has no personality, that isn’t the right person. If you have someone with a great personality but no work ethic, then you don’t have the right person.
The most important skill a front office staff member should possess is multi-tasking. Think about that for a minute. Answering the phone, welcoming patients, processing insurance—these call for multi-tasking.
Imagine this scenario: The phone rings, the receptionist answers the phone with a smile, a patient walks in, she waves and smiles to acknowledges the patient, the patient stands in front of her with a new insurance card, and while she’s still on the phone she gets up with the phone on her shoulder, puts the card in the copier, hands it back to the patient, who walks up to be checked out and needs a treatment plan. She finishes the phone call and schedules the patient, prints up the treatment plan, talks to the patient checking out, asks for payment, prints a receipt, schedules the person, and enters the insurance information, all with a smile on her face so she can do it over and over all day long!
Until you’ve sat in that front office chair, it’s difficult to understand what goes into being a great first impression. If you’re getting ready to hire a new front person, here are some items for a first impression checklist.
1. Check their background. A background check is imperative since they will be running your business, working with your team, and working with your patients.
2. Carefully read and check resumes. Resumes are a window to the applicant. Don’t get in a hurry and choose the first person.
3. Check references. When calling to check on former employment, ask the employer if they would hire this person again. Their answer speaks volumes.
4. Make sure the person is a multi-tasker. If they cannot handle multiple tasks at once then they are not going to be an effective and efficient first impression.
5. Pay them sufficiently. You get what you pay for. Literally.
6. Invest in education for the job. Whether it’s software training, front skills training, phone skills training, or clinical verbiage training, invest in your front team member.
You want your patients to have a great experience in your practice. Each team member is important and all have an important role in the patient experience. It begins at the front and ends at the front desk. The assistant, hygienist, dentist, and front team members combine to make the ultimate total package for an awesome experience. Make the right choice for your lasting first impression!