The Front Desk Experience
12 steps for upgrading performance
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Training the front desk team on high-performance systems, such as scheduling, collections, the new patient experience, and customer service, ensures a smoothly running practice. Here are 12 ways that you can improve front desk operations:
1. Put Patients First
Demonstrate that your practice is the best in terms of patient care, customer service, and convenience. The attitude, body language, and verbal skills of the front desk team should convey enthusiasm, empathy, and appreciation.
2. Keep Your Cool
Difficult patients can test even the most positive staff members. Front desk team members should avoid getting pulled into emotional confrontations. Instead, try to focus on the issue at hand and address it as dispassionately as possible. If you feel yourself starting to lose control, seek the assistance of the office manager or another team member.
3. Treat the Phone as a Lifeline
Any time the phone rings, it should be treated as an incoming call from a potential new patient. To make a good first impression, the front desk team should always answer in three rings or less. That can be hard to do during busy times, but that should be the goal.
4. Build Value Over the Phone
When prospective patients call your office, they’re investigating your practice. As you gather information from them, build value for the practice, doctor, and team by saying things such as: “We are always excited to meet new patients,” “Dr. Jones was recently recognized by the state dental society,” or “we offer a variety of cosmetic services.”
5. Collect at the Time of Service
Collections issues plague many practices. Train the team with scripting to make them feel at ease when discussing fees. In addition, train patients—through signage, financial policies, and verbal communication—that payment, including co-pays, is expected at the time of service.
6. Update Patient Contact Information
“Are you still at 1 Elm Street, Mr. Hill, and is your cell phone number still 555-555-1212?” These questions should be part of the standard check-in for recurring patients, as updated contact information makes communication and confirming appointments easier.
7. Lead the Morning Meeting
A 10- to 15-minute morning meeting, lead by a front desk team member, should occur before the practice officially opens and should focus on the day’s schedule, including any openings, new patients, patients with incomplete treatment, staff absences, etc. to keep all team members informed.
8. Devote Time Each Week to Contact Inactive Patients
Patients who miss just one appointment can easily become inactive. The front desk team should review patient charts to see who is overdue for hygiene care. Patients who haven’t been seen in more than 6 months should be contacted to reschedule.
9. Support the Doctor’s Treatment Recommendations
Patients will often “sound out” a staff member—usually someone at the front desk—about what they should do in cases of elective or larger procedures. This is an opportunity for the front desk team to support the doctor’s recommendations and move patients toward accepting treatment.
10. Stay on Top of Accounts Receivable
Even when you collect at the time of service, there will be some fees that aren’t paid right away (ie, the amount due can be higher if the insurance covered less than originally thought). Set aside time weekly to contact patients who are 30 days overdue. Send an email or text weekly for 3 weeks. If that doesn’t work, call those patients once per week for 3 weeks.
11. Ask for Referrals
During checkout, always ask patients how their experience was that day. If they respond positively, follow up with this: “We are so glad your appointment went well. If you know of anyone who is looking for a dentist, we are currently accepting new patients.” If you do receive a referral, be sure to thank patients on their next visit to the practice.
12. Be Professional
Staff members should always present the best possible face to patients. If a disagreement with a co-worker occurs, finish the discussion once the practice is closed, or take the problem to the office manager for resolution. No patient should see or hear employees acting inappropriately.
The front desk is where much of the business of dentistry occurs. Give your front desk team the best systems possible, so your practice performs at the highest level as a dental business.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc. Learn more system-based methods for operating at peak efficiency at Dr. Levin’s upcoming seminar in Las Vegas on September 29. For more information or to register, go to www.levingroup.com/gpseminars.