Working for many years manning the front desk, I have seen and heard my fair share of strange situations. The front desk or receptionist is an ambassador to your office. It is from this first interaction with the patient that sets the tone for the coming appointment and subsequent visits. You can have the most accredited doctor but in truth if your staff is lacking, then so does your ability to keep patients.
Why is the front desk such a crucial and intricate part to the practice? Well, the receptionist is the first person to meet your patient/client and as such typically sets the tone for how the initial visit and impression of your practice/office will go. Think back to your last visit at the doctor’s visit; were you greeted when you came in the door? Was it a simple hello, good afternoon? Or did the front desk go above and beyond and use your name? (Although using someone’s name is a small gesture, it is one that is largely recognized and is associated with identification of care.) Was eye contact used? Did they ask you how your day had been or try to strike up a conversation in any other way?
These small tools can help guide your receptionists through many a happy customer. Employ them and see the how your patients, clients notice! No matter how prepared we think we are there can be those days that seem to be made to break you.
Despite having the happiest of front desk associates, you will still have those days where the ominous meltdown occurs. It could be a forgotten copay, or worse yet, they ran out without acknowledging you trying to get their attention with a counter full of people in front of you, an argumentative patient, someone upset over their insurance deductible or copay, and a whole host of other little quarks that happen throughout any given day. Whatever the reason, remember, as an ambassador for the brand you work for you are expected to represent and conduct yourself in a well preserved manner. When the pressure has grown to epic proportions one form of “self reset” I have always found to work wonders is meditation. This can be a difficult thing to master at first, but once you get the hang of it rather handy!
Another way in which the front desk gains control of a situation that may be at the brink of spiraling, is to remain both calm and collected. When someone is stressed and upset they tend to not think the most rationally. Most times when a patient is explosive the underlying issue has nothing to do with what is going on at the desk. Be a good listener; this encourages a new dynamic for your relationship with the patient. I have found that some of my best patient relationships were founded on a distressed moment between myself and the patient.
Lastly, kindness. You catch more bees with honey. In my field our patients come to us because they are in pain and are suffering. A little empathy can sometimes go a long way. Ever stubbed your toe on something and someone asked you repeatedly, “Are you o.k.?” and you just could not manage to answer them due to the throbbing pain that had overcome your being precisely at that moment?! Well, in some cases this is the reaction of people in pain. They are dealing with a condition and situations we are not preview to, they are coming into the office to get treated and hopefully a reprieve. The reprieve can be both a physical and a mental one. As the pain subsides and the circumstances unfold it is more common that the patient will be thankful you were there and aided them, however little your part. (At least in my experience.)
Taking a few steps to ensure your day runs smoothly will help you set up your week for success! Don’t be afraid to tackle the difficult natured things, you may just be what makes that situation a little brighter!