It's no secret that the pressure on our FOH teams is immense at the moment and doesn’t seem to be easing…in fact it feels like we are trying to manage conflict at the front desk daily, as opposed to occasionally.
Many of my clients and Practice Managers who are members of ADAM (The Association of Dental Administrators and Managers are talking to me about their experience of managing difficult conversations and sadly, sometime difficult patients.
The first thing I suggest is that we must try and remember that these sometimes-difficult patients have contacted us because they need our help. They want to access healthcare, NHS dental care, and as we very often get told, they are entitled to.
Its vital that our FOH teams have been given training to manage these conversations effectively and do not feel that they are defending the barracks and fielding a constant attack.
There are lots of reasons why FOH teams are stressed, from lack of appointments, fee increases, clinicians cancelling sessions, pre-payments or deposits, to new patients seeking NHS care. I think certainly one of the trickiest for many FOH is the NHS enquiry…
Are you taking on NHS patients?
If you are then that’s straightforward, however for those who aren’t able to, or are a private practice then its important to be clear on the whys.
The answer should not be a straight no, before you have asked the patient what their concerns are or what has prompted them to call today.
You should never use a “no, but we could see you privately” type of response.
While you shouldn’t be sorry if you are a private practice, we need to be sorry that we can’t provide what it is they think they want.
So how can we know this without finding out more?
Many NHS patients who are unable to access care may not understand the difference between private and NHS care….so talk to them about it. You will be very surprised how grateful they are.
The teams I have been working with are having NHS to Private lead conversions of around 30% and many report that others come back to them after a fruitless search, but they remember how you tried to help them.
We all know the saying “people won’t always remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel” Definitely an oldie but goody!
Do your team understand why you cant see new NHS patients…I've been shocked to realise that many FOH really don’t understand the whys... and how the heck can they then be expected to explain this to patients.
I have lost count of how many teams I hear say “I’m sorry we have had to close our NHS lists at the moment, maybe you can try again in a few months”
I literally want to weep at this and wonder what difference a few months will make…surely, we are just buying ourselves a bit of time before the patient rings again and we say the same thing. Only this time they are getting tetchy!
Maybe you have a staff shortage, or an associate is poorly, maybe you have a specific contract or maybe you just don’t want to provide NHS care. Everything needs to be backed up, because while we shouldn’t feel like we must defend our decisions and the way we practice, it's your FOH team that will be getting it in the neck from patients if we can’t give reasonable and truthful explanations.
Maybe you have handed back some or all your NHS contracts. This is a common occurrence now and many owners are talking to me about how they can protect their FOH team from irate patients.
It all comes back to the same thing…..communication!!!
Don’t leave your FOH team exposed and unarmed. Talk to them about the whys, reduce their stress levels and keep patients satisfied.
I can provide team training for your FOH/reception in conflict management and how to ensure your FOH teams can communicate effectively with patients.
Please contact www.practicemanagementmatters.co.uk or message 07964867286 for more information.