The “serial-position effect” is a term in psychology that refers to the tendency of people to remember the first and last moments of an experience best. Consider the experience a patient has while at your practice – who do they typically interact with at the beginning and the end of their visit? Your front office staff.
So, while a trip to your office may be just a blip in a patient’s week, they will not soon forget a negative interaction with a member of your front desk team. Therefore, these employees need to have the right support and drive to provide a positive experience for every patient that schedules an appointment and walks in the door.
Members of your front office staff face a lot of responsibility for the success of your practice. They are the first and last people a patient sees and speaks with at every visit and are often also the first and last people a patient interacts with when a problem occurs.
There’s a lot riding on the people in this role – who are often undertrained, under empowered, and lacking visibility into their contribution to your business.
What can you do as an employer to ensure employees perform at their best to keep patients happy and your business running efficiently?
Generally defined, motivation is “the desire or willingness of someone to do something.” You want to motivate your front office staff to take a number of actions – have a positive attitude, help patients with their questions or concerns, complete the responsibilities of their job properly – but in order to do so, you’ve got to understand what their motivations are. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivations refer to behaviors performed due to interest and enjoyment of the behavior itself and for personal reward. These include:
Extrinsic motivations, on the other hand, are driven by the outcome of performing a certain behavior. They include:
Understanding every single employee’s motivators gives you insight into what you can do as an employer to encourage them to perform at their best. Some members of your staff enjoy the work itself and are driven to work hard by this alone. On the other hand, some may be driven by money or rewards. This is where incentivization comes into play.
Incentives are defined as “things that motivate or encourage one to do something.”
Depending on your staff’s motivations, you can offer a variety of incentives or rewards that push them to do their best work. These can include added perks, like extra paid time off or a free “sick” day; experiences like tickets to a concert, sporting event, play, or theme park; continued education and professional growth opportunities like training courses, seminars, and networking events; or fun in-office occasions like “bring your pet to work day,” casual day, or a day where a massage therapist comes into the office for stress relief.
Awarding employees in this way demonstrates not only that if they perform well, they will be rewarded, but also that you consider them a valuable part of your business.
Front office employees should be held accountable for their end of the bargain as well. Institute goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely – also known as SMART goals – that allow you to track business and individual staff member performance. While it’s helpful to base employee assessment on your own judgment and observation, SMART goals provide clarity and consistency, and leave nothing up to opinion or guessing. You have a clear-cut picture of where staff is excelling and where they may need to improve and can definitively say whether a particular goal was met.
Establish KPIs like no-show rates, opportunity appointments, and future booked appointments that track business success, as well as process metrics like outbound calls and email collection. Evaluate these metrics for your business as a whole as well as on an individual level.
It may seem like a huge endeavor to set goals and methods for tracking them over time, but it doesn’t have to be perfect when you get started. Kick off the process by talking to your front office employees, asking them what they value and what they think would make an impact on their day-to-day and overall performance.
Start small, with one or two KPIs and metrics, and work with staff to create suitable SMART goals together. Keep things simple, with one goal per metric. Most importantly, don’t overpromise or fail to follow through with what you discuss and agree to with your team.
Empowering your front office staff to give patients the ultimate experience starts with effective training that includes information about your practice, instructions for carrying out day-to-day tasks, call scripts, handling patient complaints, and other details that will help them be the best employee possible.