By David Crooks President, Easy Pay Solutions, Inc., CMT Special Contributor
Your concierge practice would be better with an empty front desk rather than one populated by low or minimum waged employees. Why? Because anyone who can successfully shoulder the responsibilities of a good front desk person is worth their weight in gold! Your front desk person is no less important than your best medical assistant.
Leave your front desk empty rather than populate it with minimum waged employees.
No, we haven’t been retained by the ‘front desk staff employees union’. We simply want to encourage you to make your concierge practice as professional and patient-friendly as possible. We believe one important way to do so is to retain the most professional, competent, and friendly front desk staff you can find. Why do we think it’s important?
- They are your first impression
- They must obtain vital patient information
- They are (or should be) customer service experts
- They are (or should be) payment experts
- They initiate good office organization
They are your first impression.
An article in the Association of Psychological Science Observer quotes a study done on first impressions that concluded it takes only one tenth (1/10) of a second to form a first impression. After that, our minds are generally trying to reinforce or bolster that first impression. The upshot is that your patients are forming an idea of what they think of you (the doctor) before they ever get to see you.
BUSINESS and COLLECTIONS: Double your patient base by reaching “The Untapped Market of Concierge Patients” ~David S. Crooks
The question for you is, ‘Does my front desk staff favorably represent me?’ You may think that a bad impression from your staff stops there, and that when they meet you, that impression can be overcome. That may not be the case. Everyone in your practice represents you. They are a reflection of your professionalism, your care, and your overall personality. If a patient forms a negative impression of your practice via your staff, the patient will have a difficult time overcoming that impression when they meet you. Think about when you were at a restaurant or office and the receptionist ignored you or was rude…what got off to a bad start probably didn’t improve much.
The importance of first impressions emphasizes the importance of ‘hiring for first impression’. Hire people that will make your patients feel welcome…your patients are paying a premium to obtain the level of care you offer. Your staff should reflect that level of care and your own expectations for service, along with your level of expertise, to avoid suffering from a bad first impression. Remember also that your patients will need to trust this person with some very private information. A good first impression will help put them at ease for the next role of the front desk staff
They must obtain vital patient information.
According to the article mentioned previously, a good first impression leads to a higher level of trust. Trust is essential in your relationship with your patients. You and your practice are privy to their most closely held personal information; their health and their finances (or at least their ability to pay their memberships and any additional fees). Your patients must be able to trust your front desk staff to handle such sensitive information.
The question here is, ‘Would I trust my personal information to this person?’ If your patients have the slightest hesitation then your practice could suffer in the long run. It is essential that your front desk staff be professional and trustworthy. These qualities are not easy to find in someone looking for a minimum wage job. Professionalism requires training, experience, and a level of maturity that isn’t easy to find in entry level job applicants. Trustworthiness is harder to discern, but as we referenced above, your first impression is probably correct.
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‘Would I trust my personal information to this person?’
You are an expert, a professional clinician who has spent grueling hours and large amounts of money to create a great concierge practice. Don’t risk all that hard work and investment on less than professional front desk staff. Hire experts like yourself.
They are (or should be) customer service experts
Customer service is both a skill set and an attitude. Your front desk staff should know how to serve (care for) people. Good customer service skills are acquired only by rigorous training, experience, and constant practice. Some folks are naturally better at customer service but everyone has to work hard to exercise good skills consistently. Skills though, have to be backed by concern for the person. Do your front desk staff members genuinely care for people?
If you will hire true customer service professionals with a genuinely caring disposition toward people you will set your practice up for success. Patients come to you to be cared for. If they feel they are being well treated from the moment they walk in the door they will not only keep you as their doctor but will recommend others make you their doctor. Great front desk staff may just be one of the most important investments you’ll ever make in your practice.
Remember that expertise doesn’t come cheap. Yours didn’t. Hire the best and pay them accordingly. In addition to being trustworthy, competent, friendly, and caring professionals they also need to know something about business and personal finance.
They are (or should be) payment experts
Why would your front desk staff need to know business and personal finance? Why would we suggest they be ‘payment experts’. For the same reason you probably became an expert in patient-centered concierge care. It’s not enough to generally know medicine if you are concentrated on delivering the best care. In the same way, it’s not good enough to be a generally competent and friendly person in order to man the front desk.
Front desk staff need to be experts in collecting payments from your patients.
Front desk staff need to be experts in collecting payments from your patients. This means they need to know that your practice is a business. They need to know that the business needs to be paid in order to be healthy. They need to take personal responsibility for the health of your business. Knowing how personal finance works will also be helpful when they speak to patients about their payments. Empathizing with patients while firmly obtaining payment is a difficult skill set to master. It takes expertise and experience.
A good front desk person is adept at obtaining payment without causing stress to the patient or practice. If you are not looking at your front desk as the ‘front line’ of payment, and ultimately, the health of your practice, then perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look. We’ve already mentioned several essential qualities that make your front desk staff more than entry level personnel but there’s one more that needs attention.
They initiate good office organization
A great front desk staff sets the rest of your practice up for success. An accurate patient schedule and timely appointment reminders are important so that you are not left waiting for patients to arrive…and patients don’t have extended wait times once they get to your office.
In addition to scheduling, your medical office has numerous documents, calls, emails, and other items that need to be routed or sent out to the right person at the right time. Many of these originate at the front desk. That makes careful organizational skills another necessary expertise for the front desk.
Have you ever wondered what is the cost of a misplaced document? According to Konica Minolta it can cost up to $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document, and 25 hours of labor to recreate a lost document. (http://www.amsimaging.com/blog/bid/154872/How-Much-Does-it-Really-Cost-When-You-Lose-a-Document) Imagine the cost of hiring a careless person and making them responsible to keep your office running smoothly!
Your front desk is your ‘front line’ to ensure the success of your practice.
The hard numbers concerning lost documents, coupled with the need for expertise in the above mentioned areas, should give concierge doctors pause when it comes to selecting the right candidate for the front desk. Can you really afford to settle for a minimum waged level candidate with little experience? Can you trust such an important job to someone you obtained on the cheap?
Take some time to reflect on the person(s) in your office you’ve trusted with this critical front desk job. Do they meet the qualifications? Can they be trusted to represent you? Do they ‘own’ their responsibilities for the health of your practice and the care of your patients? Are they truly professional, competent, trustworthy, and friendly in every aspect of their job? Take the time to evaluate your front desk, then make any changes needed, and you will be amazed at the results that run all the way through your practice. Your front desk is the “doorway” to the success of your practice.
About David S. Crooks, President,Easy Pay Solutions, Inc.
CONTACT INFO.: David S. Crooks and/or Jim Turner, VP Marketing Easy Pay Solutions www.easypaycollect.com | TEL: 877.715.7166
Mr. Crooks is currently the president of Easy Pay Solutions, Inc., a Chicago-‐based company focused on helping healthcare providers expedite patient payments while reducing bad debts and patient receivables. The company’s Easy Pay cloud-‐based software provides an enhanced way to utilize credit/debit cards, storing the patient’s credit card information for later processing. This puts the provider in control of when he/she gets paid by patients. In addition, Easy Pay provides the traditional single payment feature, as well as the ability to use credit/debit cards for payment plans and phone collections.