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Hiring & Keeping Excellent Dental Receptionists

How do you hire — and keep — excellent dental receptionists?

Here are three steps you can take to make sure your finding the right person for your practice.

Value the position

 Know that the receptionist is a key position for your office and understand why.

Fred Joyal, author of “Becoming Remarkable” and founder of 1-800-DENTIST, says you have to realize that person is usually the first and last person your patients see. 

“A lot of dentists don’t realize that it’s such a critical position,” Joyal said. “Understand that this person is making the first impression for the office and the last impression. And they can fix anything that happened with a really nice farewell. Or they can ruin it by not even saying goodbye.” 

Find somebody really, really nice.

 “I hire people who are nice and happy all day, that are compassionate and nonjudgmental and know how to listen, then I train them to do everything else.” Joyal said. “I don’t expect them to know everything else. But I want that quality in there, so don’t be afraid to go out of dentistry to find somebody. If you find somebody working at the counter at Macy’s, or whatever, and you go ‘this is a fantastic personality’ . . . get those people at your front desk.”

Pay them more than you think you should.

 If you pay barely above the minimum wage, they won’t be there long. You want them to invest in your office like you’re investing in your employee.

 “(Dentists) look at it like a parking lot attendant, or something like that, and they underpay that position,” Joyal said. “I’m constantly telling doctors to overpay that position because you want them to stay and you want them to feel involved in the practice, and you want to attract somebody good.

 “Retention is important. You don’t want constant turnover there.”

 Free them up

 Amol Nirgudkar, CEO of Patient Prism, whose company analyzes phone calls at dental practices across the country, said if they receptionist is too busy to pick up the phone, you’re losing patients.

 “Thirty percent of phone calls go to voicemail — during business hours. How is that acceptable?” he said.

 It’s so crucial to fully staff that position, that doctors should consider a bold idea, Joyal said.

 “They don’t need one receptionist, they need two,” he said. “Because you want spare time. You want them to always pick up the phone — within three rings. When you’re not doing that, you’re missing the basics.”

 Incentivize them to retain them

 The receptionist position is not always an upwardly mobile job, so make them feel part of a valued office culture by creating ways to earn bonuses for such things as raising their conversion rate, Joyal said.

 “You’ve got love and money — so you create a great place for them to work and you bonus them,” he said. “And that's how you keep happy employees, consistent employees that help create a great culture. That’s what the patient is going to respond to.

 “When that remarkable experience is happening, the patient is going to accept more treatment. When your patients are accepting the treatment they should have, you’re doing what you should for the community. The practice is fulfilling its purpose.”

 It all begins with getting patients in the door. Your dental receptionist plays a key role in making that happen.

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