I know it may seem obvious but I think many doctors assume the front desk team is kind, warm and welcoming when patients call the office or walk through the door, giving patients a great experience. In a world where people seem to be on edge, have a lot going on personally, and feel the stresses of life, a warm smile and friendly hello can really make your practice stand out from the rest. We’ve all had that experience when you show up for your appointment and the person at the front desk barely looks up to say hello. I’m sure you can also think of a time or a specific office that you always enjoy going to because from the moment you walk through the door, you’re greeted with a smile and a warm, friendly hello. They are happy to see you and value you as a person. It matters.
When thinking about trying to retain patients or growing your practice, think about what the patient experience is actually like. Is the front desk person creating the type of welcoming environment people would pay more to stay at your practice? Is the clinical team friendly? How is it handled when patients mistakenly miss an appointment or can’t pay a bill? It’s against your office policy but it happens. What is the message from your team and how is that handled?
Evaluating email and phone communication is also important. As a patient, it is always nice to know who you are communicating with, so saying your name when you answer the phone or signing your name on an email (especially when it’s a shared general office email) is incredibly helpful to the patient. Especially in the case where he/she has to call back or follow up and happens to be talking with someone new. The patient can refer to the person they were talking to and get to an answer a lot faster.
The front desk position is one of the hardest in the office because you are constantly interrupted and must maintain your composure so that the overwhelmed feeling is not pushed onto others walking through the door. You also have to deal with lots of different types of people and some may be challenging. You’re always “on.” I know this because I’ve done the job. You have to be like the duck swimming across the pond. Below the surface your legs are paddling away, but on the surface you’re as cool as a cucumber, gracefully floating from one task to the next.
This is just a reminder to take a step back, take a breath, and think about the experience we are creating for patients. Is it one that makes us stand out from the competition or makes patients want to refer their loved ones? Simply being kind, warm and welcoming is a growth strategy that doesn’t cost a penny but can make a big impact.