This area includes receptionists, insurance coordinators & even office managers. Front desk often handles marketing and other miscellaneous duties. This is the voice & first & last impression of the practice, and it must meet a minimum standard of aesthetics & professionalism. A bad receptionist will kill a practice faster than anything, outside of a bad dentist.
Good receptionists have excellent communication skills, in person and on the phone. They have computer skills, and can multi-task. Bilingual is nice, if it is fluent & polished. Front desk must understand scheduling, in terms of what the providers can do, and what the practice needs to make. Speaking of money, the front desk must collect it. Throw in insurance verification (with everything that brings), and we start to understand how vital this much-neglected nerve center is to a practice.
For office manager’s (OM’s), hiring & firing is their most important function. Office manager doesn’t have to be a designated position; it can be the lead assistant or receptionist in a smaller practice. In a larger group practice, the OM’s function is to problem-solve and keep each location running smoothly, while delegating as much as possible. Basically they need to know the front and back, meaning an OM needs to have worked as a dental assistant, AND have been a receptionist whose duties included scheduling & collections. I’ve seen far too many dental OM’s who have done neither, and every one is useless.
Dental staff training flows from the doctor, and must be followed-up by the office manager. There is no substitute for experience here, and all-around expertise is worth it’s weight in gold crowns. Office managers must be able to spot problems such as malicious gossip, laziness, and sabotage; which staff can hide from the dentist who is too busy to notice. Terminations must be handled professionally, preserving dignity on all sides and avoiding recriminations. Identify and eliminate bad employees as early as possible. Re-train & reward those you keep, while bringing in new talent. This dovetails with marketing the overall image of the practice, internally & externally, which is a primary responsibility of management.
Internal Marketing: If the practice is producing good dentistry, collecting the money, and paying everyone on time; then internal marketing takes care of itself as patients will sense the harmony in the office, which encourages referrals. Internal marketing is all about referrals, which is always the best source of new patients. It’s a top-down deal when it comes to practice image, so dentists need to look themselves in the mirror on this one. Ask yourself, “Do I look healthy & attractive? Are my teeth healthy & beautiful?” If no, then you have a marketing issue that’s really tough to get around. This also applies to staff, as attractive works. This is another business law, so don’t fight it.
External Marketing: Social media is ubiquitous, so a Facebook page for a practice is minimum. Social media must be constantly engaged and updated with fresh & interesting content, otherwise it’s useless. Just 10-15 minutes a day from a saavy administrator is all it takes, and if done correctly the payoff can be huge, with virtually no cost. A website is now required, as no one uses the phone book anymore. Effective sites are clean & well organized, with nice photos & basic practice info. No blood & scary stuff! It must be easily manageable & updateable by the OM and/or dentist. Tie the site into Facebook and any other social media platforms. Use Word Press, or something similar. If the dentist presents well, a video can be a huge boost, as it introduces potential patients directly to the doctor. That build trusts, even before you two meet, which is amazing when it happens to you!