Private Practice Owners very often consider the front desk position an entry-level job. So they staff it with someone just out of their teens (maybe) and pay as little as possible. In reality, this position can make or break your entire business.
Why is this job so important? They’re the face of your practice. They’ll be the first person every patient or parent sees when they walk in. That person is making your practice’s first impression.
This person is going to have to learn a long list of skills, so they need the capacity and willingness to learn. To get the right person (hopefully on the first try!), here are the attributes to look for in applicants:
1. Upbeat. Your front desk must be a friendly, smiling person who greets each arrival and makes them feel important (which they are). This doesn’t just make a good impression on your patients and their families, it will make a good impression on other employees too.*
2. Motivated. You know better than anyone that pediatric PT, OT and ST require a special level of dedication and heart. If the front desk person is just there for a paycheck or they are watching the clock to see when they can leave, they simply won’t sync with your other staff. They need to be self-motivated to excel at their job every single day.
3. Proactive. Your front desk person must grasp the necessity to be proactive with your clients and pick up the skills they need quickly. They’ll need to learn the correct procedure for cancellations, late arrivals and no-shows and have the maturity to deal with each situation.
- Cancellations? The front desk person should reschedule them before they end that call and gently handle the reason for their cancellation to prevent it from recurring. Patients who cancel regularly should be put on a flex (flexible) schedule.
- Chronic late arrivals? The front desk also needs to handle frequent latecomers so they arrive on time. This needs to be done with finesse as the parents are often stressed and not intentionally late.
- No-shows? The front desk follows up, finds out what happened and reschedules them
4. Skillful communicator. This person is going to be communicating from morning to night with parents, patients, caregivers, other staff, delivery people and staff applicants. They must have a bright and intelligent ability to communicate.
5. Self-assured. They’re going to be managing some essential and sensitive aspects of your practice. They’ll be collecting co-pays and outstanding account balances. They may be receiving and relaying sensitive medical information. They must have the self-confidence to be fairly unflappable and handle these transactions gracefully.
6. Customer service oriented. This is a service industry and for the kiddos, the service they receive can greatly improve the quality of their lives and the lives of the entire family. Your front desk person must get this. Caring for your patients and their families is paramount among all their duties. Their job may require them to schedule a new patient at the first available opening or ask clinical staff to modify their schedules so that patients get the services they need. When their hearts are truly in the right place, these tasks will all go so much more smoothly.
7. Fast-paced multi-taskers. You know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re on the phone with a cancellation; a new patient walks in with their parents; the UPS man arrives; someone also needs to make a copay. They’ve got to have the ability to sort through these demands quickly and respond to each demand in the right sequence. This requires a person who can think quickly and act even more quickly.
* As a side note, I recommend implementing a policy of no personal cell phone use at the front desk (or even the entire office). The front desk is a high-velocity, high-traffic area and cell phones are a damaging distraction.
You see what I mean about this not being an entry-level position! This needs to be a well-paid position. Don’t fret about not being able to pay more than an entry-level wage. The right level of competence in this job will pay you dividends.
When this position is properly staffed, you’ll hear about it from your patients and their families. And I bet your other staff mention it too because they’ll no longer need to pick up the balls dropped by your front desk person.
Interview intently, choose carefully, pay well and watch your operations smooth out and become more profitable with fewer outstanding balances.