Sticky Front Desk Situations and Maintaining ‘Over the Top’ Customer Service
From time to time, sticky situations occur at the front desk that can potentially create unhappy patients. Let’s explore a few examples.
Example #1: You are responsible for the doctor and hygiene schedules, and there are four 10-minute openings in the morning because the appointments were not scheduled back-to-back, or maybe a patient cancelled and the slot was filled by an appointment with less time units. The end result… openings in the schedule which are causing lost production. You call the patients who are scheduled after these openings and leave messages asking them to come in earlier if they can. You move them up on the schedule, assuming they received the message and are excited about coming in earlier.
What just happened? First, these appointments should have been confirmed two days in advance by the patient, so let’s assume they were. The patients who were called to come in earlier did not retrieve their message. As a result, they arrive at their originally scheduled time. Another staff member who is checking them in may not even know their appointments were moved, and could say: “I was worried about you since your appointment was 10 minutes earlier, but I’m glad you are okay!” Your patient is now confused, as he/she already confirmed the appointment time two days ago.
Result: Unhappy patient and embarrassed front desk staff. Solution: Never move a patient to another time slot until the move is approved by the patient. Ten minutes is a lot of time for you and a lot of time for patients. Add an appointment note if you have to leave a message so if the patient calls back and someone other than you takes the call, they are aware of why the call was placed and can handle it accordingly.
Something I often hear in larger offices where more than one person answers the phone is: “Gosh Mrs. Jones, I didn’t call. Do you know who did and what it was about?” This does not make the practice appear to be very organized. If you have multiple business team members, make it protocol that when calls are placed and messages are left, the name of the team member who called should request that the patient ask for them specifically when calling back. In addition, the team member should make very complete notes in the Patient Journal, Account Screen, Contacts, etc. indicating who placed the call and what the call was regarding. This will allow anyone who answers the phone to go directly to the patient’s contact location and read the note. This protocol should apply to all personnel in your office who attempt to contact patients, whether it’s about a balance, insurance information, an appointment, a post-op call, etc.
Example #2: Mrs. Jones is scheduled for her next appointment without a clear understanding of what the appointment is for and how much her expected financial responsibility will be. When the appointment is confirmed the patient asks what the appointment is for. The doctor didn’t explain last time that it was necessary to come back.
Result: An unhappy patient who may cancel the appointment. Solution: When you are checking out patients, be sure they have a complete understanding of what and why they are scheduling AND what their expected “portion” is going to be. If you are unsure yourself, this is a breakdown in communication between you and the clinical team and a failed “hand off.” This is what should happen:
“Susie, we completed Mrs. Jones’ tooth colored fillings on the upper left side today and Dr. Smith would like to see her again as soon as possible for an hour to complete the fillings on the lower left side.” The hygienist then bids Mrs. Jones goodbye and hands Susie the completed routing form.
When the appointment is entered into the schedule, make sure it has the correct ADA codes and enter the payment estimate that Mrs. Jones was given into the Appointment Note. Our goal is to always have happy patients and provide over-the-top customer service. Communication is key to achievement!
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