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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor July 2, 2003 - Tip #76 
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Reception is a tough job; needs training

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One of the hardest jobs - and most important jobs - in the optometric practice is the receptionist position. This person can do wonders to help grow the practice and make it function more efficiently, or she can just as quickly hurt the practice reputation and cause patient volume to decline. Yet, when you think about it, this job position often receives the lowest wages, and receives the least training. When new receptionists are hired into a busy practice, to replace someone who quits, it's easy to let the fine details of the job slip.

This tip is to remind practice owners and office managers to pay attention to the receptionist's performance, and offer supportive training. As the person on the true front lines of the office, the receptionist should be a goodwill ambassador for the practice.

Here are a few points to consider:
  • Discuss the importance of a cheerful, caring attitude as part of the job description. While it is hard to be pleasant and smile all day, it is an absolute must for receptionists. If a receptionist can't achieve this goal, openly discuss the reasons for the unhappiness and consider moving the employee to a different job position.
  • Patients who approach the front desk must be acknowledged quickly. Discuss the importance of multi-tasking. Receptionists are often very busy at times, and then have nothing to do at others. If the receptionist is on the phone, or working with another person, she should make eye contact with a new person who walks up - a nod, a smile, a hand gesture that says "I'll be right with you" does wonders.
  • The front desk should not be left unattended. Discuss your plan for what the receptionist should do if she needs to get something from another part of the office, or use the washroom.
  • Telephones must be managed efficiently - such as answering quickly and not leaving callers on hold too long.
  • Appointments are the lifeblood of the practice. Effort must be made to keep today's and tomorrow's schedule filled before scheduling next week. Encourage callers to make appointments by instilling confidence - engage the caller by asking him questions. Don't rush to give answers and hang up.
  • The receptionist should function as an office coordinator and should be resourceful and flexible to try to keep the doctor on time for appointments. Communicate with waiting patients in a caring manner when appointments are running late.
  • When patients come to the desk at the end of their visit - they want to go! Make the check out process complete, but quick.
  • Receptionists should be good at remembering patient's names - and use their names when they know it.
We could go on and on. Reception is a complex job that requires a pleasing personality and innate intelligence. If it seems like your receptionists can't possibly achieve the goals mentioned here, even with the best intentions, consider the possibility that your practice might need an additional employee.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

A Proud Supporter of

Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
Advertiser Disclaimer: VISTAKON® is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. © JJVCI 2003. All Rights Reserved.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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