When we leave our homes and step out into the world, our appearance and how we carry ourselves determines how we will be received by those around us. Let’s face it, we all invest a lot of time and money honing our image so we can either fit in or stand out. We all want to make some type of an impression on those we interact with. Which is why first impressions matter. Not only does an impression paint an image of who the person is, it will also speak volumes about the person’s character and their values. In the dental world, the same concept applies and the front desk serves as the face of the entire organization. It is whom the patients first sees and interacts with when they arrive to the office and the last before they leave. Thus, mastering front desk etiquette is critical to the success of a dental practice. Here are the top 3 ways how your front desk personnel can make an everlasting impression on your patients and keep them returning for years to come!
GREETING. You want to make a great first impression on every patient who enters through the door so the first thing to do when patients arrive for their appointment and present themselves to the front desk, is to greet them. Your staff should welcome the patient with a smile and the tone of their voice should be pleasant and inviting. In addition, it’s important that they make direct eye contact as they talk with the patient. This will indicate that the patient is being listened too and is being heard (as well as seen). It’s also an excellent way to nonverbally communicate with the patient when it’s busy and verbal acknowledgement isn’t possible (i.e. when the receptionist on the phone or helping another patient). It will convey that you are paying attention to them and have acknowledged their presence without the use of actual words. Your front desk should also be offering refreshments to patients as they wait as well as communicate to them of any unexpected delays.
CHECK-OUT PROCESS. Making a good impression shouldn’t end after the front desk welcomes and checks the patient in for their appointment. It should continue throughout their entire visit and how their visit ends is just as important as to how it begins. Besides arranging future appointments and collecting the proper payment, your front desk personnel is responsible for the check-out process to run as smooth and pleasant as when the patient has first arrived. They should be trained on how to answer questions regarding treatment and if there are any concerns about the visit, the front desk should address them with a calm and friendly demeanor, maintaining eye contact as they talk. Your front desk should never speak in a condescending tone and just like they greeted the patient with a smile, the end of the visit should be finished with one as well.
PHONE ETIQUETTE. The front desk is not only the face of the organization, it is also the voice. Although many appointments are now scheduled electronically, there are plenty of existing and new patients who prefer to call. It’s important that the front desk is trained to answer calls in a certain manner as it will form an impression of the office and convey the competency of your entire practice. Additionally, what is said on the phone is just as important as how it is said. Calls should be answered by the second ring and every team member who answers should smile when picking up. This will really transform how the greeting sounds, making the tone with which you answer more positive and friendly (as well as act as a mood booster!). Lastly, if you need to put a patient on hold, get their permission before you do so. Putting them on hold without a warning will disrupt the flow and taint the relationship building process.