How important is the role of your receptionist in overall patient experience?
While all dental team members interact and communicate with patients, we may, at times, underestimate the essential role our receptionist(s) play in our practices. Research shows that although patients do not visit the dental office to see the receptionist, the attitude of the receptionist impacts the overall satisfaction of the patient’s experience and can affect patient retention. Today’s patients base their customer experiences on those of retail, financial and service industries.
The following tips will assist receptionists enhance their interactions and as a result, patient experiences in the dental office.
- Create the right first impression
- Ensure the waiting area is clean, calm and comfortable as it reflects the practices’ attitude toward overall patient comfort
- Professional appearances
- Receptionists should be well-groomed, clean – do not underestimate the impact of clean and neat hair and hands
- View the professional image that is portrayed through the patients’ eyes
- Greet patients
- Perceptions formed at an initial meeting of 2 people are the basis for their relationship
- Positive interactions including making eye contact, smiling and engaging in polite conversation lead to more cooperative relationships
- An important component of patient interaction even when reception is extremely busy
- Telephone interactions
- Patients’ first contacts and impressions are often made when they call the office as such the greeting should be clear, concise and friendly
- Consistent telephone technique also helps to project a professional image
- The style and protocol for answering the phone should be outlined in the policy manual
- Ideally, telephones should be answered away from the front desk to allow the receptionist to focus on the present patient
- Inspire trust
- Patients who have trust in the receptionist tend to feel more relaxed
- Receptionists who inspire trust are more successful at negotiating with patients
- Receptionists often act as mediators between the dentist/dental team and patients
- Clear protocols
- Consistent systems to ensure positive customer experiences lead to cooperative and collaborative relationships
- Planned and recorded protocols kept in a procedure manual
- These systems should be communicated to all staff
- Effective communication amongst the dental team
- Receptionists tend not to use technical jargon which leads patients to seek their guidance or assistance in “translating” explanations or information they have received from the clinical team
- As such, receptionists should be aware of and understand the information that was given to the patients by the clinical team and reinforce this message
Source: Dental Reception and Practice Management, Wiley 2007.