Front office workers are the first and last staff members that patients interact with during an office visit. As such, they often wear a lot of hats, some of which include: clinic gatekeepers, chaos coordinators, brand ambassadors, and even staff cheerleaders. Given their dynamism, any PT clinic owner will tell you that a great front office employee is worth their weight in gold.
While the job requires its fair share of technical skills, what really makes a front office worker really stand out is their soft skills—or, as we like to call them, power skills. To this end, here are six must-have power skills to look for when hiring a new chaos coordinator—er, I mean, front office worker.
1. High EQ.
Front office staff have countless interactions with patients each day—each of which arrive with their own unique needs and feelings. Some are nervous. Others are in pain. A few might be upset. So, it’s essential for the staff to have a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) when getting to the root of patient needs—and ensuring they have the best possible experience. In fact, it’s been reported that healthcare workers with higher EQ can improve trust and patient satisfaction.
Plus, having a good amount of EQ can also help workers keep their cool, retain their composure, and have a calming influence. With a friendly and understanding attitude, employees can build strong relationships with patients and make a positive impact on the overall atmosphere of the clinic.
The front office staff is often the glue that keeps the clinic together, so their ability to “keep calm and multitask” has a big impact on smooth clinic operations. This can be difficult as front office personnel often have a lot on their plate—and there are many times during the day when they have to juggle welcoming patients, scheduling appointments, verifying insurance, and answering employee questions. This can become easily overwhelming, so it’s important to choose someone who isn’t easily frazzled and can prioritize tasks at they’re happening in real time. Of course, it will take some time for any employee to get up to speed with a new a clinic’s processes, so it would also be wise to gravitate toward someone who is self-reliant and a quick learner!
Working as part of the front office calls for a collaborative spirit. Some clinics have multiple front office staff members working together. Others have one front office worker who works with all the other staff members to keep everything running smoothly. In either case, their role requires high amounts of coordination and communication. This lays the groundwork for an upbeat, welcoming environment—and patients are sure to notice the good vibes when they arrive.
By working as a team, they’ll be able to delegate tasks when needed, ask for help when they’re in the weeds, and aid other team members. This contributes to the happiness of all the clinic members and helps them build meaningful relationships with one another. After all, teamwork makes the dream work.
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As mentioned, the front office is what keeps a clinic running seamlessly. As such, even the smallest of cracks can cause an avalanche of issues down the road—which is why having someone who is dependable helming your front desk is essential. A dependable front office employee will be available to welcome every patient on their arrival, keep patients and therapists on schedule, and return patient calls in a prompt manner. Successful front office staff can also be depended upon to bring order by following standard operating procedures, keeping accurate records, and communicating messages effectively.
At times, front office workers need to set the record straight. Whether it’s about scheduling, no-show policies, payment, or following local health mandates, front office staff may be required to communicate tough messages to patients. They may even be responsible for de-escalating conflict—especially in rare cases when patients can get defensive or even aggressive.
Employees handling these situations need to maintain a friendly and understanding demeanor, while also having the confidence to shut down the situation when needed. Taking a “we” approach to problems rather than a “you vs. me” approach is one way to put patients at ease and allow employees to quickly diffuse difficult situations.
Your front office personnel are the first and last faces patients see. They’re also often under the watchful eyes of patients in the waiting room. So, a great employee is mindful of their demeanor, tone of voice, and conversations that they have with other staff members. Good judgment means they’ll lock down the gossip or negativity and keep the conversations positive. They’ll also respect confidentiality. By being discrete and respectful, front office staff can help convey the right message about your clinic to patients—and that lasting impression is priceless in the long run.
Hiring front office folks that have some combination of the skills mentioned can have a tremendous impact on the entire clinic. They’ll make a fabulous first impression on new patients—and be ready to welcome them back on their next visit. If you have any other thoughts about what makes a great front desk employee, drop them in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!