Is Your Front Desk Killing Your Private Practice?

The skills of your front desk staff are really the make or break point of a successful practice. Let me tell you a story that makes this fact all too real. 

I called my doctor’s office when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to keep a future appointment. My call was answered, and I said, “Hi, this is Nancy Mura, a patient of yours.” The obviously frazzled person on the other end said, “Hi, Nancy. Can you please hold?” And I was subjected to really awful music filled with static. Finally, someone came on the line and I said, “I need to cancel an appointment.” The staff member said, “Okay. Thank you for calling.” Click.

And that was it. No one got back to me, and no one tried to reschedule that appointment. I found myself another doctor where I could get better care. 

The point is this: if your front desk staff aren’t keeping your patients scheduled and doing it in a smooth, friendly, and service-oriented manner, you are losing both visits and patients. This failure tells your patients that no one cares about them. You may care with all your heart but this message has to carry through to every caller that reaches the front desk. 

The Importance of Good Customer Service

Why is this so important? Here’s two reasons: 

  • Acquiring new patients or customers costs six to seven times more than retaining existing ones. 
  • According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, sixty-eight percent of customers stop doing business with a company because they’re upset with the treatment they’ve received.

I hope you’ve just resolved to improve your customer service! Because now I’m going to give you some advice on how to make sure the customer service at your front desk is top-notch.

Excellent Customer Service in a Private Practice

First, a definition: what constitutes good customer service? It’s a caring, responsive and solution-oriented service.

Here’s another example of how NOT to do it: Another time I called my doctor’s office, a woman answered the phone saying, “How can we care for you today?” That’s not too bad, right? 

Except it was delivered in a rushed monotone: “Howcanwecareforyoutoday?”

Believe me, I got the impression that care was the furthest thing from her mind. 

If she had slowed down and delivered that phrase like she meant it, I would have been completely happy. The way it was, I just felt like an imposition. 

So from these two examples, we can distill this knowledge about good customer service skills in healthcare:

  1. Don’t rush your communications; slow down and mean what you say.
  2. Maintain a caring attitude and let it show.
  3. Don’t put a person on hold right away. If you’re so slammed you absolutely have to, start having conversations immediately about adding more staff to the phone lines. 
  4. Show you care by helping your patient get another appointment at the first possible opportunity.

There’s only one way to achieve this level of customer service in your practice: You’re going to have to train your staff on how to do it. 

Developing Good Customer Service Skills 

Start with hiring the right person. They should be innately friendly, caring, and responsive. Now you’ve got something good to work with. 

Next, write clear policies outlining your customer service guidelines. Include these instructions:

  1. Always be friendly, caring, and respectful when dealing with patients.
  2. Communicate in a positive manner and use positive language.
  3. Although it may be unavoidable at times, always try not to immediately place callers on hold. If you start having to do so, inform the office manager or HR manager. 
  4. Whenever a parent or caregiver calls to cancel an appointment, reschedule them in the same call. Express the fact that it’s in their kiddo’s best interest to receive the care they need.

You can tell staff these guidelines and they can understand them but what really gets them implemented in the real world is practicing this level of service. Pair up a new staff member with one that already has proven good front desk skills (if you have one!). Have them practice these skills until the new person stops fumbling and has to think about what to say. 

Still, you’re going to have to be aware of what’s happening on your front desk. What you could do is, every day at three o’clock, call the front desk and ask, “Do you have any cancellations for tomorrow?” Being proactive about ensuring these skills are used during every call is often the only way they will be maintained. 

Is it possible that your front desk is killing your pediatric private practice? We can help get your front desk under control. Visit Peds-A-Palooza Community & Conferences.