The front office is one of the driving forces behind a successful dental practice. It is the first thing patients, and new patients experience when they walk into your office.
The first impression that you give as the front office team member is the first impression a patient will have of your entire dental practice.
Organize Your Desk For You
It’s important to give yourself as many organizational methods that you know work for you and your processes as possible. If you like your certain desk situated in a specific way, then make sure you do that when you come in in the morning.
Even if you are sharing this desk typically with someone else, it doesn’t mean you can’t orient things on the desk a little bit differently to fit your own effective methods.
Now, this does go past just formatting things on your desk how you would like them to be. All of these begin with having your desk and all of your files in an organizational method that you get to know backward and forwards. That means no more cluttered desks with files strewn across it.
Instead, get a file folder holder and organize them by whatever method works best for you, or your practice.
You don't have any file folders or holders? No problem, ask your office manager or if you are the office manager, submit a request for a couple to be ordered.
Although it may look like a little bit more of an upfront cost versus how things have currently been done, a lot of these organizational tools will help and benefit the practice as a whole. This will allow anyone working the front desk to be much more organized, calm, orientated, and successful with helping patients in managing all incoming calls and appointments.
Book Evenly Instead Of Overbooking
One of the most stressful things for a team is when they are overbooked. In the world of dentistry, as you already know, time tends to be pretty tight in regards to fitting all patients into appointments in a timely manner. Make sure that you are booking evenly across the board for all of your dental hygienists and in relation to what you think the schedule may hold as far as the number of dental hygienists working.
This may sound a lot to organize especially when you’re planning appointments months ahead of time, but take a look at the year-over-year.
Look at what scheduling software you are using and your process to determine if it could be improved or optimized in any way.
Do you find that some dental hygienists seem to be getting booked significantly more often than others?
In the worst case that a dental hygienist is completely booked for one week, and their respective patient that is requesting an appointment is only available that one week that they are completely booked; it may be a good idea to explain the situation to them and schedule them for another hygienist.
You can also decide to bring in a temp to assist during that workweek. One of the best places to find a temp can be found here
Always Answer The Phone, And Request To Call Them Back Or Place Them On Hold If You Are Already With A Patient
One of the most important parts about working at the front desk either as the office manager or as the front office team member is answering the phones.
It’s always considered a good courtesy to pick up the phone before the third ring.
Why is the phone so important?
Someone could be calling the dental practice for a plethora of reasons. They could be calling to confirm their upcoming appointment that we’re going to talk about in the next section, or they could be calling due to an aggravation that they are experiencing.
They could also be someone calling to sign up as a new patient and schedule their first time coming in. If you aren’t able to get to that phone you may miss out on a new incoming patient, and then miss out on the benefits that come with getting a new patient.
Now we know, there are tons of things that are happening in a dental office that might prevent you from picking up that phone, including patients that might be right in front of you.
In that case, we would recommend asking the patient in front of you to give you a couple of seconds to go ahead and answer the phone and make sure it’s not an emergency.
If you think the current conversation that you’re in with a patient, or situation you’re dealing with will take an extended period of time, request the information of whoever is calling and tell them that you can call them back soon. Although this situation is not ideal, it is better than letting the phone ring continuously where the individual feels aggravated and hangs up.
If you feel the situation you’re currently dealing with will be resolved momentarily then go ahead and answer the phone and request that you put them on hold for a couple of moments while you help another patient. Just as before, of course, this is not ideal as we are still putting someone on hold, but it is significantly better than having to have them hang up and do you call them back.
The best reaction if possible it is to answer the phone and assist them with any questions, needs, or further assistance that they may require while on that phone call.
Follow Up With Patients A Few Days Before Their Appointment
This is an important one because people tend to forget about their appointments. Especially, when you have an appointment scheduled months or sometimes even a year in advance.
To start preventing no-call no-shows we would recommend reaching out to patients a couple of days before their scheduled appointment.
This will work as a gentle reminder to bring it to their attention if they have forgotten, or they will be able to make you aware if they will no longer be able to attend that meeting so then you can get them rescheduled for a better time slot.
Knowing this in advance makes the life of your dental staff easier, as well as being able to open up that slot for another patient.
See What You Can Automate Or Improve Up Front, And Then Explain And Request These Improvements
There is an age-old saying that has always told us to work smarter, not harder. While we definitely are a big proponent of hard work, there are some things that you should be able to automate throughout your day.
Let’s take for example what we just previously spoke about, following up with patients a couple of days before their appointment. It may be worth looking into if your scheduling software has a way to send the email reminder to patients a couple of days before their appointment to ensure that they remember. This may be something already part of your program that you may not be utilizing, or it might be a paid addition that may be worth investing in.
If patients are only able to sign up in person or over the phone, it might be worth investing in building a way for them to schedule or modify their own appointments via a portal on your website.
If you are asking patients to fill out survey cards after their appointments, your program might have a way to follow up with them via email once it knows their appointment has been concluded. On the other end of that, you can automate an email to send the required forms to new patients a day or so before their first appointment so they can come in with everything prepared.
We also know that as a front desk team member or office manager, it might not be within your power to authorize all of these changes, or possible payments. That’s why we always recommend doing your research and then presenting them to your respective supervisor to determine if these options would be valuable to the practice.