How does your receptionist greet your patients when they first walk in your dental office? Are they warm and welcoming? Do they have a big smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye? Do they offer your patients a big “hello”? So many dental practices I visit this is not the case.
I cannot tell you how often when I walk into a practice the receptionist is engrossed in his/her own activities and I have to stand at the counter and wait to be greeted. When my presence is finally acknowledged it is begrudgingly and I’m made to feel like I’m interrupting something much more important than me. This obviously, does not make me feel good about my visit. This does not make me feel special, relaxed, or glad to be there. If I’m already anxious about my visit for any reason, this welcome only serves to heighten the feeling of anxiety rather than calm it.
A critical part of building a strong dental practice is to build a strong interior brand, and a key element of an interior brand is the human interaction that transpires between staff and patient.
How often do you walk into a dental office to find the receptionist sitting behind a glass window? All too often has been my experience. I’ve even found that I’m forced to push a buzzer, like a door bell in order to get someone’s attention and let them know I’m there. This reception certainly does not make me feel like I’m welcome in the dental office. I feel more like I’m an intruder or robber and the staff feels threatened by my presence. They have to be protected from the invasion of the patients and really set up an “Us versus Them” scenario!
I’d like to introduce a new concept – the Receptionist as Concierge. Think about instead of squirreling the receptionist away behind glass or even an imposing counter, we place them at a desk instead? Isn’t this the way the finest hotels set up their concierge staff? They have a secretary (desk not assistant), a phone, computer monitor, and usually a couple of chairs for clients, and they interact on a very human level to make the guest at the hotel feel at home and assist them in making their stay more rewarding. Why can’t the receptionist in a dental office do the same? Aren’t they performing many of the same functions? They greet the patient, they notify staff of the patient’s arrival, they book on-going appointments, and they answer questions – just to name a few.
Of course, there are HIPPA requirements that, like in any good dental office design, must be addressed, but these can be over come short of hiding the receptionist behind glass doors. As part of a good dental office design and interior branding project the design of the human interaction must be considered. I’ve never put a receptionist behind glass yet and can’t imagine a scenario where I’d want to.