Your front desk: Friend or foe?

June 1, 2007

Your front desk personnel are what your patients first see when they walk into your dermatology practice.

Your front desk personnel are what your patients first see when they walk into your dermatology practice.

As the voice and face of your practice, these people project the image of your practice, both on the phone and in person.

When it comes to customer service, every contact a person makes with an organization can be considered a "moment of truth." Here are tips to make sure your practice's image is projected professionally and consistently to assure that each contact with your patients is a meaningful moment of truth:

For a consistent, professional image, establish a dress code for your practice.

Standardize greetings

Develop - and require that staff use - a consistent greeting to all patients.

Establish a telephone greeting such as "Dermatology Associates. This is Elizabeth speaking. How may I help you?" and a face-to-face greeting such as "Welcome to Dermatology Associates. How may I help you?"

On the surface, scripting the greeting may sound trivial, particularly to staff who already excel at customer service, but it guarantees that every patient garners a consistent experience. Using your practice's name in these contacts is important for branding your practice. Extend the use of this greeting to all personnel who answer your phones, not just staff at your front desk.

Make note of names

Train your staff to note each patient's (or caller's) name at the beginning of the conversation.

Often, we miss a caller's name as we focus our attention on the reason for the call. Then we have to ask him or her to state that name again at the end of the conversation. Keep a pad of paper at all phones. Encourage your staff to use the patient's name during the call. When your patients hear their names used, they'll know you're listening and will be impressed.

Emulate others

Here's an experiment: ask your staff if they're delivering bad customer service.

Of course, everyone will say "no." Everyone thinks they're delivering satisfactory service, but to deliver truly exemplary service that "wows" your patients, think outside of the box. Try a field trip. Send - or accompany - your staff to the one place in your community with the best reputation for outstanding service. Watch what they do there. Discuss it afterward and "trystorm" it (brainstorming with a twist: Don't just talk about it; try it!).

Hire good attitude

You can't force your staff to be nice.

Find and hire service-oriented personnel with experience in the retail and hospitality industries. When you discover a great employee, ask him or her to recommend a friend. Stellar employees are often your best sources for potential hires; they want to work with other high performers. Hire for attitude; train for aptitude.

Equip for efficiency

Give your front desk employees the equipment they need to get the job done.

Install high-functioning equipment, such as computers, scanners and copiers in addition to telephones. Orient and train your staff to use that equipment. At least once a quarter, take the time to ask your staff if they have additional equipment needs.