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Frame your front line's first impression
Receptionists are the first and last people that your veterinary clients communicate with in every visit. Make sure they leave the right-and lasting-impression.
No matter how happy clients are when they leave your exam room, if they have a less-than-ideal encounter with a member of your front desk team on their way in or out, you'll probably hear about it through a negative online review or worse—you may never see them again.
That's why Dr. Jason Anderson, owner of Marshall Animal Hospital in Marshall, Texas, considers the receptionist position the most important one in the practice. "Upbeat, friendly receptionists will defuse many problems just by their nature," Dr. Anderson says.
His practice's guidelines for receptionist-client interaction are simple: Stand and greet clients with a smile when they enter the practice. Definitely greet the pet by name, too. Review the appointment book and be aware of who's coming through the doors each day. And always answer phones promptly with a smile. It's these little details that make clients feel welcome and appreciated, and hopefully, much more likely to return.
But at Dr. Anderson's practice, it's not just about being a friendly face at the front desk or being cordial on the phone. His receptionists are also tasked with sharing the hospital's message of pet wellness.
"Even if a client brings his or her dog in for itchy skin, that client should leave understanding the importance of dental care, vaccinations, preventive health screenings, and so on," he says. "That starts with education at the hospital's front desk."
Dr. Anderson understands that with all of the other front-desk responsibilities—answering phones, greeting clients, and discharging patients—it can be tough for receptionists to remember every bit of pet wellness education they need to share with clients. That's why he gives them the tools they need to excel.
"We have a checklist that covers every aspect of pet wellness and 'cookbooks' it so they don't have to remember everything off the top of their heads," he says. (Go to dvm360.com/receptionistchecklist to download a free wellness checklist for your front staff). Plus, he takes advantage of staff training opportunities to role play different scenarios with receptionists and put the checklist to work in real-life situations.
So has all this work behind the scenes actually paid off? Absolutely, says Dr. Anderson. His practice grew revenue by 22 percent last year and is nearly matching that figure this year, not to mention the rave reviews his front desk staff gets from clients.
"We invest in our staff and train to a stellar level of performance," he says. "In my opinion, any area of the hospital can get things wrong and still do pretty well, except for the reception area. This one area can make or break a practice."