How Your Dental Practice Can Recruit An Awesome Front Desk Team

Hiring a great receptionist for your dental office is so important on many levels. This person can uplift and support other team members and they can be champions of your business when they interact with patients (and they will do that a lot), or they can unintentionally or even covertly have a negative impact on both.

One of the things I’m most proud of at Patient News is our team. Client feedback consistently reports – I mean consistently for 20 years – that we have a great team. You love calling Patient News; everyone is engaged, positive and helpful.

Just this week a business consultant told me again just how different his experience with Patient News is from so many other companies that he consults for. He has mentioned before how impressed he is when he calls (Yay Virginia, Sarah, Louise & Allison), but last week he was here for meetings and when he was coming in from our parking lot, a team member who didn’t know him at all cheerily greeted him and welcomed him to PNP. He was wow’d again. (Yay Carrie).

I’m telling you these little tidbits about Patient News so you know that this article about hiring a great receptionist for your dental office is coming from successful experience. 

It’s cliché but always hire for attitude. We didn’t always do this and we’ve learned our lessons the hard way over the past 24+ years. As many of you already know we follow the Fish! Philosophy at Patient News (I can’t believe it’s been 17 years). We have posters up when you enter our workplace. It shows that we value a positive attitude and having fun in the workplace. Yes, hire the skills you need, but never hire for skill alone.

The reception position at your dental office is one of the most important at your practice. That person will be “the practice” when new patients call. They will set the tone and determine whether tons of new patients book an appointment, or if tons turn away and try another dental office. They are the image that greets you, your team, and your patients when you walk through the door. Yup, it better be positive in person and on the phone. I can guarantee you that gone are the days of any successful dental practice having a gruff receptionist that answers the phone “dental office” or who doesn’t raise their face when someone approaches the desk. It’s sad how many practices still struggle with this realization.

So how do you hire a great receptionist? Create an interview questionnaire that uncovers personality traits like attitude, maturity, and openness to coaching. A 3-year study of 5,000+ managers who hired more than 20,000 employees (including healthcare companies), revealed that within 18 months almost 50% didn’t work out. The primary reasons were due to an inability to receive and implement feedback and an inability to manage emotions – theirs and others. That’s costly for employers. We spend time, money, and resources bringing people up to speed. It can take 6 months to a year to get someone really rolling, so it’s critical that you have a clear vision of who you want to bring into your organization. And you need to know they will thrive in their position for the long term.

The front desk call handler position is a revolving door for many of you. That’s not good and it’s not necessary. Is it due to the value the practice team puts on the “reception” role? I think that this is often underestimated. I love that our Admin Team at PNP is dedicated to their craft. We need people who know everything and anything about the operation of the business – and front desk is usually the glue for a myriad of administration flows. You want people that will be rock stars on your phones and that should be elevated in everyone’s eyes. That position has the power to drive the practice forward. That’s why you need staff members that are dedicated, open to learning, open to feedback, and determined to improve. You could view this as an inside sales position. When that person gets a new patient on the phone, they must have the skills and attitude necessary to woo the patient.

When you walk through your reception area you also want that person or team to bring a smile to your face.  You want to make them feel great and you want them to make you and your patients feel great too. You want to be able to say to this team – you are amazing, thank you, keep up the great work.

So how do you hire the right attitude for the front desk at your dental office?

After you’ve reviewed resumes and covered backgrounds, here are a few questions that could be interesting for your next interview:

  • How have you gone over and above in a previous situation
  • How do you deal with changing priorities
  • What has provided the most satisfaction in a previous role
  • What type of professional training are you interested in
  • Describe a situation where you received employer feedback and implemented change
  • What is your problem solving approach
  • How do you deal with group conflict … describe a challenging work situation
  • What key qualities do you like in a business / leader
  • And finally, of all our candidates, why should we hire you? My favorite answer to this one happened many years ago … “I don’t want to smell like meat any more” (they had been working in a deli). Needless to say that was not the reason I was looking for and they didn’t get the job!

Here’s one from Zappos that apparently reveals the positive nature of someone: “on a scale of 1-10 (1 being bad things always happen to me), how lucky are you in life?” The answer is reported to provide an indicator about the candidate’s attitude and outlook. I’ve yet to try this one but I’m planning on it soon.

And of course, you want to see if they’ve researched you … what do they know about your practice and what have they heard from friends or neighbors? A good candidate should have been through your website and should feel enthusiastic about what they know so far. We also like to ask what friends, colleagues, and family would say they like most and least about a candidate – that’s a fun one. 

Here’s to successfully recruiting a great front desk team for your dental practice. As always, your Account Manager can help you coach your call handlers and it’s especially enjoyable for us when the team involved has a great attitude and an interest in learning and improving. That’s when we can help you appoint a lot more new patients.

Ask your Account Manager to show you our new “What-If” Calculator. It can show you what just a few tweaks to your call handling metrics can mean to practice revenue. Here’s to your success!

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