Welcome to question of the day #275

Eyetools question of the day #275

I realise that reception staff are very important to the success of my practice. How can I ensure that they do a good job?

The first impression a patient has of your practice is not of the eye specialist, but of the reception staff. If the patient gets a negative impression from the reception staff a potential patient may try another practice.

Phone and face-to-face manners

Being pleasant on the phone is a very important attribute for reception staff to have. No matter how busy or stressed they are they must be polite on the phone as well as to people they are dealing with face-to-face. Each patient must receive the staff’s undivided attention. Problems can arise when all staff are dealing with patients face-to-face and the phone rings. It’s up to you to develop a policy on whether the face-to-face discussion is interrupted to take the phone call or if the phone is left to ring.

Train your staff on how you prefer phone calls to be handled. Create guidelines for answering the phone, the greeting each patient should be given, and a format for how you think patients on the phone and in person should be juggled. Obviously, there are times when exceptions will be made. Make a policy, let all staff know it and stick to it.

Personal gadgets

Distractions from personal gadgets could lead to errors in data entry, incorrect recording of information, inattentive customer care, and an overall air of impoliteness. If the wrong thing is said or data is entered incorrectly, it puts the practice at risk. Gadgets that beep, ring or vibrate are distracting and move the reception staff’s focus from the patient to the gadget. Ban the use of personal gadgets. The office phone number may be given as a contact number so that if someone urgently needed to speak with staff, they would be able to reach them via the office’s landline.

Personal use of practice computers

Using practice computers for personal use also causes a distraction and takes time away from job responsibilities. It could pose a risk if a virus is mistakenly downloaded or if indecent material is associated with the computer’s IP address. It will look unprofessional to patients who see or hear someone using the computer for leisure and suggests that the employee is not attentive to their job and is indifferent to patients. Employees should be focused on work responsibilities that will help the practice run more efficiently such as filing, calling patients, cleaning/dusting the office, or rearranging the frames.


Patients are sometimes rude. They have bad days. Train staff to remain calm, not to raise their voice, keep their tone professional, maintain good eye contact and listen to what the person is saying. If a patient feels like she or he is not being heard during a complaint, the situation can escalate.

It is important for staff not to talk about the situation after the patient has left. Other patients in the waiting room may hear and you don’t want any patients thinking that they might also be talked about when they leave the practice. An eye care practice is no place for gossip. Problems with patients should be discussed and documented behind closed doors in another room.

Desk environment

A dirty and cluttered reception area may give the impression that the practice is run inefficiently. Also, some patients have allergies or chemical sensitivities to dust, pets, smoke, or perfume. Strong smells on the clothes of the employees or at the desk such as fast food might be offensive. Some patients may also see food and drink consumption (even tea and coffee) at the desk as out of place, unsanitary or impolite.

The reception desk should be clutter-free. Staff should be dressed smartly and as ‘scent-free’ as possible. Eating should be discouraged. Drinks should have lids on them and be kept in an area where they won’t get spilled. Keep the reception desk clean and neat.

It is important that patients enjoy the time they spend in your practice and look forward to coming back. Reception staff have a very important role to play in a positive patient experience.