Typically, the receptionist position is known as an “entry-level” position. The problem with dubbing it as “entry-level” is that it gives a false idea that the receptionist position isn’t as important as other jobs in the practice—and this simply isn’t true.
The receptionist is one of the most important jobs in the practice! All the money you put towards advertising is coming through to your receptionist. And if your receptionist isn’t able to schedule the patients who call in, you’re wasting your advertising dollars.
And not only that, but your receptionist has the important job of being the first contact the patient has within the practice. When they call in, the receptionist and the attitude they portray is the first thing they hear. When a patient walks in for the first time, the receptionist and how they greet them is the first impression they have of your office.
Let’s take two examples:
Example 1 – A patient walks into your practice and walks up to the front desk. The receptionist is on the computer, typing away, and doesn’t acknowledge the patient. The patient stands there for a minute until the receptionist looks up and says, “Oh, hi, what’s your name?”
Within the first 5 minutes of that interaction, the patient has already formed a judgment of your practice and how their experience is. At this point, they may be thinking, “They don’t really care that much about me here. I bet the doctor is the same way.” Not a great start, right?
Example 2 – A patient walks into your practice and walks up to the front desk. The receptionist sees them and immediately stands up to greet them. The receptionist already looked at the schedule for the day and knows who should be coming in at what time. Having this information, she says, “Hi, you must be Bob!” The patient says, “Yes, that’s me.” The receptionist continues, “Welcome to ABC Dental! Please sign in here and then you can sit down in our waiting area. I’ll let the doctor know you’re here and they’ll be ready for you in just a few minutes.” And then a few minutes later the doctor was ready to see the patient. The patient sits down and thinks, “Wow, what great service! Maybe my appointment will be easier than I thought.”
These two examples are to show you the difference in opinion the receptionist can create. In example 1, the receptionist made the patient feel unwelcomed and not confident in the office as a whole. Whereas in example 2, the receptionist wowed the patient with professionalism.
This brings me to my first key point:
1. Train your receptionist beyond just the “typical” duties
When you think about the duties of a receptionist, you probably think of the typical responsibilities, such as:
- Answering the phone
- Sending emails or letters
- Welcoming patients when they walk in
But, what about the other duties that may not seem as obvious? Such as:
- Their attitude and how they come across over the phone and in person
- Making patients feel welcomed
- Ensuring their communication (over the phone and in person) is well received
- Influencing the attitude of the patient
- Knowing enough about the practice and basics of dentistry to be able to direct the patient properly when they have questions or concerns
What sets a receptionist apart from the rest? How does one become a great receptionist?
Truthfully, nearly anyone can become a great receptionist. All it takes is the right training. Of course, they need to be trained on the systems of your practice and how to do all of the typical duties mentioned above. But what about their attitude and the way they make your patients feel? That can be trained too!
As a side note, if you’re not sure how to train your receptionist, we have a course on our online training platform, DDS Success, that is dedicated to training receptionists. It’s been a game changer for many dentists and their receptionists – I highly recommend checking it out here.
2. Make sure they understand the purpose of the receptionist position
This goes along with my point above, but one thing that most practices don’t think about doing is sharing the purpose of the receptionist. Why are they important? What do they do for the patient and practice?
(Note: We’ll focus purely on the job of the receptionist here. If your receptionist also schedules patients, collects money, etc., those are separate roles with their own purpose and duties, which we cover on the Scheduling Coordinator Training Course and Financial Coordinator Training Course.)
The receptionist’s main job is to route people, phone calls, mail, etc.
When patients come through the door, they route them to where they should go by telling them what to do next.
When mail deliveries come into the office, they route them by bringing them to the correct area or person.
When the phone rings, they route that phone call to the correct person or they are able to handle the call themselves.
Simply, their job is all about handling and routing people and things so that the practice runs smoothly.
A receptionist who doesn’t understand this purpose may cause confusion within the office and create a bad image. On the flip side, a receptionist who understands the purpose behind what they do and why they’re vital to the practice can make the office and a well-oiled machine and create a positive effect.
Most of the time, if a receptionist appears not to care about their job or isn’t doing as great of a job as you had hoped, they likely haven’t been told why their job is so important.
They aren’t just “answering a phone call.” They’re answering important questions and getting the patient scheduled so the doctor or hygienist can see them. And in turn, they are helping them restore their oral health.
They aren’t just “greeting patients.” They’re creating a welcoming environment and positively influencing the patient.
And they aren’t just “handling deliveries.” They’re making sure the office stays organized and that things are running smoothly so that the day-to-day activities of the practice can continue without a hitch.
You get the point. The receptionist position is much more important than most people believe and as soon as the receptionist understands that, they tend to take full responsibility for their position.
I hope these tips can help you and your receptionist! If you have any questions or need help applying these tips, request a free consultation here or you can call us at (800) 640-1140.
Until next time!