Ask Jay: Mistakes with new-patient calls and when to part ways with an employee
Jay Geier answers a reader’s questions about best practices for answering the phone and managing difficult employees.
Do you have a question about managing your practice? What about growing your practice or becoming a better business leader? If you have questions, Jay Geier has answers. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jay will answer them in the magazine column and an online video.
Q: Hi, Jay. I have two questions. What’s a common mistake that team members make when taking calls from new patients? Also, I want to make change in my practice, but I don’t know if my team is up for it. What are some red flags that I won’t be able to train an employee and that we should probably just part ways?
A: Let’s talk about phones first. There are usually several things that need to be corrected on new-patient intake calls. This includes the greeting, the close, and call prioritization. It’s important that all elements are correct to make sure the patient is scheduled and welcomed into the practice. However, these mistakes are just consequences of a deeper issue: too much improvising. And it has nothing to do with the front-desk team members being insubordinate or unqualified to handle new-patient calls.
Most team members simply want to do what the doctor wants them to do. Many times, the problem is that the doctor doesn’t provide enough clarity as to exactly what that is. It’s critical for all team members to be clear about their core purpose in the practice. But it’s especially important for those team members who answer the phone because they are the practice’s first impression for all your patients.
Improvising is dangerous because it leads to a lack of both consistency and accountability. This ultimately creates a poor experience for the patient. Team members are forced to operate this way when no direction or proven process has been put in place. As the leader of the practice, it is the doctor’s responsibility to set the standard for them, communicate why it’s important, and show how it should be done. When new-patient calls are being handled correctly, front-desk team members are intentional and proactive. This can only happen if they’re given a clear process to follow.
In order to explain this in more detail, I recorded a short video that accompanies the online version of this article. After watching, you’ll fully understand how to take control of new-patient calls every time.
Regarding your second question about parting with employees, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. It’s understandable that before you invest money and time into training your team, you want to make sure they’ll do things the way you want them done. You might even have conflicted feelings on training if you’re not confident this will happen. On the one hand, you know that changes need to be implemented in your practice. On the other hand, potential resistance from your team has you questioning if it’s worth it. So, it makes sense that you’d want to qualify or preempt the situation by identifying employee red flags ahead of time.
But the fact is that it’s your practice. You shouldn’t hold back investing in your team because you’re not sure how they will respond. This is your livelihood.
Don’t spend valuable time speculating on where problems might happen. Resistance is a very common showdown that occurs in a practice implementing change. This will happen even before training starts. Plus, it’s likely that even your top team members will resist training before they embrace it. Change is never easy, but when it is badly needed and can hugely benefit your practice, you need to move forward.
Ultimately, the training will clearly reveal which team members want to rise to the challenge and grow with you and expose those employees who will continue to resist.
Also, you may have concerns because your team has a track record of not following through with training in the past. However, their noncompliance probably has less to do with them and more to do with how the implementation was managed. Don’t get me wrong, you may need to make tough decisions about some employees. But most of the time, I find people are eager to learn and grow and just need proper training.
To further explain this, I’ll again refer you to the video. After watching, you’ll feel confident about moving forward with the training your team needs and deserves.
Jay Geier is the founder of the Scheduling Institute, a private-practice consultancy that grows independent private practices into thriving businesses that can either be sold for maximum value or kept for a lifetime of revenue. To learn more, visit schedulinginstitute.com.