From the VetPartners Experts: 5 Ways to Support Your Front Desk Superstars

Dec 3, 2018 at 2:19 pm
Debbie Boone

I’ve always felt that the most challenging job in a veterinary hospital is held by the team on the front desk. This is a position that is always “on.” No hiding in radiology for a few reflective moments. No alone time writing up chart notes in the office. Just 100 percent on stage, from clock-in to clock-out.

I clearly remember one of my students coming up after a class to tell me I was the only person in the 20 years since she had been working the front desk to tell her she was important. How sad.

How can we better support and recognize the hard work and superpower people skills of our exceptional client service representatives? Here are a few ideas.

#1: Show support and understand the difficulty of the work.

Spend the time to choose the team wisely. This position requires grace under pressure, a love of people, and attention to detail. Acknowledge that, without these folks answering your phones in a manner that draws clients in, none of your brilliant medical team gets to do their jobs.

#2: Train them well for all situations.

It is incredibly unfair to put people in a position with no training and doom them to fail. Thirty-three years later, I still remember my first hit-by-car emergency as a part-time receptionist. Because our practice had “follow her” training, no one thought to teach me what to do in that situation. Fortunately, the puppy was just bumped and ended up being OK. But, what if it had been more serious? Put solid training into place, role play difficult situations, and then test the team on their knowledge.

#3: Preach a consistent message.

In a single-doctor practice, this is easy—there’s only one opinion. But, as we grow larger and have multiple doctors, we find those doctors often have varying medical beliefs. This is fine, unless you are doing price quotes to phone shoppers. In one practice, I discovered an almost $200 price swing between two doctors for a spay! The poor receptionist had learned to ask clients which doctor they wanted before she could quote a simple fee. Create minimum standards of care for commonly quoted services and train your team to the standards.

#4: Grow good people.

The people who shine need to be polished to brilliance with a growth path that advances their skills and leads them to move upward in the organization. Recognize and reward extraordinary efforts. Send them to classes focused on client service skills, like Wendy Myers’ online training or the Patterson Veterinary Supply—Communication and Service classes.

#5: Use their ideas and give them power to serve and satisfy the clients.

Your front desk team hears the good, the bad, and the ugly. Wise managers will learn to listen to the feedback of this client-facing team and adjust if needed. Give them the autonomy to make small concessions to solve client problems. We want an engaged staff in this vital position. The happier they are, the happier they will make your clients.

Consider this simple fact: Your client service representative team has three client interactions for every one by your medical team: the phone call, the check-in, and—the last thing remembered—the check-out. We want clients to carry home a healthy pet and a positive emotional experience. That last financial encounter can’t be about the dollars—it should be about the value. A great reception team can always help make that happen.

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Debbie Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM, Fear Free Certified, has worked for the veterinary profession for more than 30 years. After earning her bachelor’s degree in animal science from North Carolina State University, she began as a client care representative and quickly moved into hospital administration. Debbie has experienced the management of small animal, mixed animal, specialty, and emergency practices. Debbie is considered an expert in team communication, creating positive practice culture, and developing monthly paid wellness plans for veterinary practices. Her business, 2 Manage Vets Consulting, helps practices develop extraordinary team communication and business skills, enhancing patient care, improving profitability, and increasing practice value. She strives to improve the lives of animals by using her expertise to improve workplace culture and the well-being of veterinary professionals.

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