Chapter 4: Receptionist

Study Guide and Resources

Ask Yourself

  • Do you value the role of receptionist?
  • How does your reception area look and feel?
  • Have you heard your phones being answered? Did you like what you heard?
  • Is your receptionist ready to take new patient phone calls?

Ask Your Staff

  • Does the reception area feel controlled and well maintained?
  • Does each staff member know how to answer the phone?
  • What happens when the phone rings?
  • What happens when a patient walks into the office?

Take Action

  • Create a daily process to maintain control and order in the reception area.
  • Schedule mystery calls to your office, so you know what’s being said or what’s not being said to potential new patients.
  • Maintain a New Patient Call-In Form.
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Put Yourself in Their (Your Patients’) Shoes

Okay, humor me for just a moment. Right now, let’s forget about running a dental office. Instead, imagine yourself in any of the scenarios described here.

Scenario 1

You walk into a medical office. As you’re standing at the front desk, you can clearly see two employees in the back talking, and one looks up at you. You smile at the her and she smiles back, but then she continues her private conversation. You look around, hoping maybe someone else can check you in. You don’t see anyone else.

Now you must decide—do you wave the first employee over to help you, do you look for a place to sign in and hope you get it right, or do you sit and wait for someone to help you? Hmmmm. How do you feel at that moment? A bit uneasy inside? Annoyed? Ready to walk out but know you shouldn’t? Not a great feeling, is it?

Scenario 2

You go to a fast food restaurant for lunch. You can tell they might be a bit short-staffed but there’s no line, so you decide to go ahead and order. The employee who’s in the back flipping burgers with gloves on walks up to help you. He rings up your order very efficiently. You get out a $20 bill to pay him, and he takes it with his gloves on and puts the money in the register. He pulls out the appropriate change and counts it back to you. You step aside to wait for your food as you watch the employee walk back to finish the food he was preparing—with those same gloves on.

Great customer service, right? Who doesn’t love an employee who can multi-task? However, all you can focus on is the fact that he handled money with the same gloves that he is now using to prepare your food. You hope that everything is clean, but doesn’t that make you lose your appetite?

Scenario 3

You need a new outfit for an upcoming event, and you finally find a store that has dresses you like. You select a few to try on and head to the fitting room. While trying on the dresses, you can hear employees in the back of the store talking. No big deal, right? You’re busy trying on dresses. But then you realize that the employees are discussing how their company is laying off staff and they’re worried they’ll be next. Then one employee complains about her boyfriend. They’re talking quietly and you’re trying not to eavesdrop, but you can still hear more than you want to. The conversation continues, focusing on a customer who was a pain in the behind, and then on how much some customers annoy them.

After trying on a few dresses, your mood has changed. You’re no longer excited about the upcoming event and a new dress. Instead, all you can think about is leaving this store and its negative atmosphere. You hope you can find another store without all the drama.

Did you notice a common theme in these scenarios? What do they have to do with dentistry and dental offices? Everything! Anytime you walk into a business, you’re a customer making the decision to spend money in this office or not. It doesn’t matter whether you walk into a doctor’s office, fast food restaurant, or department store.

Your experience as a customer is based on much more than the actual service or product offered by that business. In fact, you’re more likely to decide about a business based on the intangible aspects of your experience—the pleasantness of the environment, the nonverbal cues and etiquette of employees, and the quality of customer service.

The same goes for dental offices. From the moment patients walk in, they’re deciding if they’re going to get dentistry done at your office, and everything that you do makes an impact on that decision.

It’s important for everyone on your team to understand and value this philosophy, and that you review it with the doctor and team on a regular basis. Look at what goes on in your office each day and make sure it is nothing but top notch.

Make sure your office is one you would choose for your dental health, one where you would be willing to spend your own hard-earned money.

Let’s look at just one more scenario…

You wake up with tooth pain and need to schedule a dental visit ASAP. You’ve been avoiding dentists for a while because of how unpleasant your last visit was. You look online to find a different dentist in your area, and you choose a local office with friendly looking staff featured on the website. Then you cross your fingers while dialing the dental office, hoping they can squeeze you in that day.

The person who answers the phone says you can be seen that day, and her reassuring tone puts you at ease. The paperwork can be done online, so you’re able to complete it at home.

When you arrive in the dentist’s waiting room, you’re greeted warmly by the front office staff. A dental assistant comes out to meet you right on time, and you can tell from her caring attitude that you’re going to be comfortable here. Maybe you won’t have to hate going to the dentist after all.

Are you doing everything in your power to make this scenario happen for your patients?

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What’s the Most Important Piece of Technology in Your Dental Office?

Hint: It’s probably not what you think!

If I were to ask 100 dentists, “What is the most important piece of technology in your dental office?” I can imagine what the responses would be—CEREC, digital x-rays, Invisalign, 3-D CT, and many, many more. However, the most important piece of equipment is not what you think.

Of course, those are all amazing technologies that have advanced how we practice dentistry. But none of them are the most important.

To me, there’s one technological device that can make or break a dental office, and it’s not anything that was recently invented. In fact, it made its first appearance back in 1876 in the laboratory of Alexander Graham Bell. You got it … the telephone. Are you thinking I’m crazy to suggest that an invention more than 100 years old is more important to your office than your high-tech state-of-the-art equipment? Well, the phone is not the most high-tech device in your office, but it’s the most important.

Why is the phone the most important piece of technology in a dental office?

Without it, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to use all those other pieces of equipment. The phone is the technology that keeps us connected to our current patients, and it’s what allows potential new patients to reach us. That phone is our connection to the outside world.

Technology in your dental office imageBut my real point is this—is there any way you would allow a brand-new assistant to use CEREC without training? Would you let your hygienist take digital x-rays without training on how your system works?

Would Invisalign allow you to start doing cases with their technology without the required training? Absolutely not. And that is how we need to treat the telephone.

Just because the new, untrained employee knows how to physically use the phone doesn’t mean that the employee will be able to interact effectively with the person on the other end. Think of all the money and training time you’ve invested in every high-tech piece of equipment in your office. Now, start thinking of the phone as the one piece of equipment that makes possible every other interaction in the patient process. Greeting them in the waiting room, meeting with them in the consultation room, performing examinations and procedures, billing and rescheduling—none of these things will happen without appropriate handling of that initial telephone call to get a patient scheduled in the first place.

What does that mean? In a way, the person answering the phone is doing the most important job in the entire office. He or she paves the way for the rest of the jobs to happen. So, are you going to trust the most important job in the office to a totally new, untrained person who just set foot in your practice? I hope not.

Instead of putting an employee on the phones the first day to “try out the person,” I suggest that you put your best front office staff on the phones, and let the new employee observe what is said and done. Have the person take notes and then discuss it with management. Then make sure the person is given a clear, step-by-step outline of what to say and how to say it, and make sure the employee continues to be monitored after training.

If your office prides itself on having high-tech equipment and a highly-trained staff, then make sure that you also view the phone as an important piece of technology that requires significant training.

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The Purpose of the Receptionist (Webinar)

Welcome to the Purpose of the Receptionist

The Receptionist is an important role. Whether greeting patients when they arrive or speaking with them on the phone, the Receptionist sets the tone for the office.

Along with being professional, friendly and welcoming, the Receptionist has numerous other responsibilities that play an important role in the day-to-day operations of the dental office.

This video describes the purpose and function of your Receptionist.

Please enjoy this free video as part of your study guide.

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Sample New Patient Call-In Form


Patient Name:_______________________________________________________________________________________

Guardian’s Name (if patient is a child):____________________________________________________________________



How did you hear about us?___________________________________________________________________________

Things you learn about the patient while getting to know them?________________________________________________


Do you have any discomfort or other dental concerns?______________________________________________________



Home Address:_____________________________________________________________________________________

Home Phone:__________________________________   Cell Phone:__________________________________________

Family Members Name/Age (if looking to schedule too):



Prefer AM or PM?            AM         PM         ANY                       Best days of week?________________________________

Date/Time Scheduled:________________________________________________________________________________

Reason for not scheduling:____________________________________________________________________________

INSURANCE THAT WE CAN VERIFY FOR YOU?  (IF YES: list information below)

Name of insured person:_____________________________   Relationship to patient:______________________________

Insured’s Employer:_________________________________   Ins. Co. Name:____________________________________

SSN and DOB of insured:____________________________   SSN and DOB of patient:_____________________________

EMPLOYEE NAME:_________________________________   DATE OF CALL:___________________________________