Is your front desk betraying you?

I went for my two-yearly eye check earlier this week. I really like my optician, I’ve known him for years, he’s a clever, caring clinician, he runs a fabulous business on three sites (I coached him a few years back) and he has embraced change and technology, which is keeping his business firmly ahead of the corporates.

However, he needs to sort out his reception, as do many dental practice owners. Here’s the story:

A couple of weeks ago I popped into the optician and asked the receptionist for an eye test appointment with my man. “NHS or private?” she asked. “Err, private, I think,” I said. “You’ll want the Platinum Test, it costs £165, I’ll book you in.” When I turn up for the appointment, the receptionist says, “Oh yes, you’re here for the Platinum Eye Test, it costs £165.”

I sit and wait and get called by an assistant to have the myriad of scans, photographs and tests that precede sitting in a windowless room with my trusted optician. As I sit opposite her with a machine between us, she says, “You understand that you are here for the Platinum Eye Test and it costs £165?” Feeling somewhat bemused and annoyed by the repeated reminder of the fee and curious as to what else I could have chosen, I say, “What other types of eye test do you do?” “Well, you could have the silver eye test” she says.

At this point she rather huffily disappears in order to get the receptionist to explain to me the difference between the two tests. By now, I just want to get on with the examination although I can’t help feeing disturbed by not having the eye test options explained to me and so when the receptionist eventually shows up, I agree to continue with the Platinum Eye test at £165!

Now, this isn’t about the fee. I don’t mind paying £165 for the eye test, I trust my optician to do the right thing for me. What annoyed me was the assumptions, the lack of explanation and the repeated reminder of just how much I was going to be charged (as if the receptionist and the assistant either doubted my ability to pay or thought I was mad to agree to it!).

There are parallels for private dental practices here. Most dental practices I visit or mystery shop have not trained their receptionists in what to say to a client who enquires about the value of a new patient consultation, what happens during this appointment and what the benefits and value are in attending this appointment. And inevitably, much like the optician’s receptionist, they make it up and in the absence of knowing what to say, they focus on the fee (not the value)!

When we train and role play receptionists to respond to new patient enquirers, we suggest they give this information to the client:

  • Dr Xxxx will spend some time with you gathering information about your health and your previous dental experience
  • He will then examine your mouth thoroughly and point out to you using digital photography any areas he is concerned about
  • If you need any treatment he will explain this to you and make sure you understand what your choices might be in order to solve your problems. He will also identify any problems which need urgent attention
  • You will probably be in the practice for around an hour and…
  • With Dr Xxxx for about 45 minutes
  • The fee for this appointment (including any tests that are necessary) is £70, payable in advance in order to secure your appointment
  • How would you like to pay?

I suggest you create your version of this, write it on a crib sheet for your reception team and role play it over and over.

And if you would like some help with training your receptionist team, please contact me for a chat on:


m. 07770 430576

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