This post is taken from an original podcast with Jerry Durham and Paul Gough. Listen to their full discussion here.

How do you find the perfect person to man your front desk? What traits do you look for in the person who will be your patients’ first point of contact with your clinic, and how can you tell if the person you’re interviewing fits the bill?

The two most important traits…

The most important thing to keep in mind when hiring for your front desk is that you’ll have to hire someone who is both great at customer service AND great at sales. Remember that an important part of the front desk role is to “sell” open time slots and do so in a customer-centric way. As time goes on and your clinic grows you can start to separate these two roles out but ultimately, this is critical when your practice is new.

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Critical interview questions…

There are two critical questions I always ask when interviewing for the front desk. The first is:

  • Tell me about the last time you had a difficult customer. Tell me how you handled it, and tell me what the resolution was.
    • This question really gets to the customer service side of the equation. I don’t want to know how you’ll answer the phone, or how quickly you respond to emails, or verify benefits. That should be a given. I tell candidates that 75% of the time it’s going to be great, and 25% of the time, because we’re dealing with people in pain, and we’re dealing with people in healthcare in pain who don’t always know what it’s going to cost, it’s going to be tough. We’re going to do our best to minimize all that, and yet, it’s still going to occur. How are you going to manage that?

The second question can be a bit of a trick, but it’s one of my favorites:

  • How much is too much to pay for a physiotherapy visit?
    • I love this question, because we tend to project. We believe the person across from us is worried about cost without ever asking them about cost. I ask this question, and they give me a number. Then the follow-up is, okay, how much is too much for our customers to pay for physiotherapy?
    • The purpose of this question is to get them to acknowledge, even at the interview level, that they will be asking people to pay more money for something that they don’t believe they would pay that much for. How many people self-discharge after their second or third visit? Really, you’ve got to convince them all the way through until that plan of care is complete. If the person at your front desk is comfortable having the money conversations, especially the difficult ones, your clinic will benefit immeasurably.

Tackling dreaded patient calls

Here’s an example: The, “I need to cancel my appointment,” call. If your system is set up well, then you’ve empowered the person at your front desk to say, “Okay Mr. Smith, I hear what you’re saying. I do know that you and Dr. Jerry have signed up for a longer care plan, and I know it’s important for you.”

Then they’ll start addressing the patient’s goals that are in the system (i.e., to get back to playing those nine holes of golf), and say, “I know it’s going to be really important for you to make all your visits, so do you absolutely need to change this appointment today?” You’ll be surprised how many times the patient will say, “You know what, after second thought I’ll keep that appointment today.” All of a sudden your front desk person has not only saved that appointment, but likely the relationship with that patient.

Remember, it’s all about the end game

Remember, everything is about the long game. It’s never about setting just one appointment. It’s about getting someone in, having them complete their plan of care, achieve their goals, and creating a happy patient  – one who is so happy that they tell all of their friends and family and become your loyal customer. Any business that invests in creating loyal customers will grow and be successful, and that is something that your front desk person is uniquely positioned to help you achieve.


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