5 key performance aspects for new dental office receptionists

2018 01 10 19 29 6759 Hatch Laura 20180110192623

In a way, the receptionist has the most important role in the dental office. That's because the receptionist is responsible for the most important person in the office -- the patient -- and the most important piece of technology -- the telephone.

Laura Hatch is the founder of Front Office Rocks.Laura Hatch is the founder of Front Office Rocks.

Most new hires in a dental office start as a receptionist. The perception is that the receptionist basically just answers the phone and greets patients. Consequently, the person often gets very little training to prepare for the receptionist's role. Typically, the assumption is that the position can't be too difficult.

In truth, being a receptionist is one of the most complicated and important jobs in the office, and it can also be one of the most stressful, especially for someone who is brand new to the dental field. There is a lot more to this role than just smiling and answering the phones.

The receptionist is responsible for creating every patient's first and last impression of the office. The receptionist is also the person in the office who must respond to the highest volume of questions from patients, every day, all day. Putting someone without dental experience in the receptionist position is stressful for that person and not ideal for the office.

5 key aspects

It is important for the dentist, the dental team, and the new employee to understand the skills necessary to be a good receptionist, including what to do and what not do in this position, as well as generally how to rock this role. The good news is that when hiring a receptionist, it is more important for the person being hired to already have great people skills than it is for them to understand dentistry right away.

1. The first and last impressions

The underlying mantra for the receptionist position is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Every time the phone rings, a call is picked up, and a patient is greeted, this is the time to shine. Each interaction with the patient must be crafted with the highest level of customer service possible.

2. Don't answer questions when you're not sure of the answer

“There is a lot more to this role than just smiling and answering the phones.”

The worst thing a new receptionist can do is to answer a question when they don't know the answer. I tell my clients that if they have not been trained in the specific area that the patient is asking about, don't try to provide an immediate answer. Instead, find out more about what the person is asking and then find someone who can help the patient immediately. Another solution is to let the patient know you will get an answer as soon as possible.

Patients and other employees will understand that receptionists don't always know the answer. The key to keeping the interaction positive is to make the person you are talking with feel confident that you understand what is being asked and that follow-through will occur.

3. It's OK to say you are new

Managing the front desk can get stressful. When that happens, a receptionist has to be able to handle this stress and thank patients for being patient. People who initially seem anxious or aggressive will often become more understanding when they hear you're still learning the job.

People like to help an underdog, and when you are new to the office, you are that person. Just be sure to reward their patience by finding the help or information that they need, either immediately or as soon as possible.

4. Be easy to work with and willing to grow

A new receptionist won't know all the idiosyncrasies of an office, but a positive attitude can get everyone through the early days. Being easy to work with, having a great attitude, and being open to constructive criticism and feedback, will smooth any difficulties.

Any new employee, not just a new receptionist, should commit to learning and improving every day and keep trying to make other people's day as nice as possible. This kind of attitude puts both coworkers and patients at ease.

5. Rock the role

If the receptionist becomes a rock star at handling patients and phone calls, this will benefit the team and also offers the chance for career progression.

I tell my clients not to take on too many other responsibilities until they are good at the basics of dealing with patient interactions and phone calls. A new receptionist's first few days and weeks should be spent just focusing on patients and the phone. For now, focus on creating a rock-star first impression for your patients.

Laura Hatch is the founder and owner of Front Office Rocks, a dental practice front office training firm. Her new book, Step Away from the Drill, is now available at amazon.com. She can be reached at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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