Just how important are Telephone Messages #AnswerMachine


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Just how important are telephone answering machines? VERY important as it keeps your customers informed of you’re opening days and times.

Last week I needed to contact my dentist for an urgent appointment. He is a one-man dentist, with a hygienist and a nurse/receptionist. When he has any time off the practice closes.

I rang at 09.00 last Monday morning, the telephone just rang and rang, no one answered and there was no telephone answering message. I thought they might be starting at 9.30 so I range again – still no answer. I did think this was strange as usually when he has been away on holiday he has answered the phone via his mobile and has advised from there. This time there was nothing.

I tried again just after lunchtime and again around 4.00 pm. I wondered if perhaps he was having a long weekend off. I even checked that I was ringing the correct number.

I tried again the following morning, at 9.00 and 11.00.

The worse part for me was the not knowing. Had there been a message to say how long the surgery was going to be closed for I could have then made a decision to either wait and see him or to seek treatment elsewhere.

As I needed an urgent appointment I telephoned another practice locally and was luckily enough to get an appointment that same afternoon.

Just as well I did as I was told that had I left it any later I would have probably lost the tooth.

I have been with my dentist for over 9 years. No reason to change to be honest, I am not fond of the dentist at the best of times, but he always seemed to be good enough.

I actually found the new dentist to be extremely pleasant, she made me feel very much as ease. The surgery surroundings were very relaxed and the Receptionist was lovely, she chatted away.  I felt far more relaxed when I went in to see the Dentist and she talked me through what she was going to do. The surgery was also much closer to home and there was free parking where I used to have to pay for parking at my other dentist and to add to it all the new dentist’s overall charges were considerably a lot cheaper than my regular dentist.

Taking everything into consideration I have decided to move to the new Dentist, it suits my needs much more, but I didn’t realise that until I was forced to visit the new surgery.

Had my old dentist had a telephone message advising how long the surgery would be closed for I would probably still be going there now.

So, it is vital that you have a good telephone message set up on your phones. Ensure that the message is appropriate and you might have to change a message if you have the following:

  • Morning opening times that differ
  • if you close for lunch – state what time you open again at and leave any emergency numbers as appropriate.
  • Evening closing times differ – again leave any emergency numbers
  • Friday night – leave messages appropriate for weekend closing and again leave any emergency numbers
  • If there is a bank holiday, please ensure that this is mention in the last message before the holiday.

Get someone who has a good clear voice to record the messages. It is essential that they speak slowly and clearly and repeat any emergency telephone numbers twice.

Get someone to check the messages regularly to make sure they are the correct ones.

If you do not want anyone leaving messages add this to your message and make it clear that the service does not accept telephone messages. If you don’t people will use it as a message machine.

There is nothing worse that getting a telephone answering message that is out of date or wrong!

Having the correct telephone message on your answer phone is important. You could lose customers if it’s not.

Why are feedback forms so important?


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Your organisation tells you that you are booked in for some training — what are your thoughts? Do you dread the forthcoming training, do you embrace it with a view to learning more and thus helping your career to move forward, or are you happy to go along with an open mind?

Every trainer has a mixture of these candidates at the start of most training sessions. There are those that don’t think they need training and those that will embrace the training wanting more, and those with an open mind are often pleasantly surprises.

Staff often have to attend outside of they’re working hours, even on their day off, some are lucky enough to do the training in their normal working hours. So as a trainer you have to make sure that the candidates have felt their time has been worthwhile.

As a trainer my goal is to have everyone “reading from the same page” by the end of the training session. It is important to involve everyone in some way throughout, turning negatives into positives and most of all making the sessions relevant, interesting and interactive.

Training can be tiring and after a 3-hour session people are more that ready to go on their way and then bang —  at the end of the session I produce the dreaded feedback form to be completed asking for comments on the training session. I sense the silent groans as people rush through their form before they leave.

Have you ever stopped and wondered what is done with these forms and how important it is to the trainer and future training?

As a trainer I take the forms seriously. Firstly, they rate the session from 1 – 10 (ten being top marks) and my ability to hold an informative and interesting session. I pride myself on getting mainly 9 and 10’s.

I take great care in analysing the forms. I pride myself of getting mainly 9 and 10’s, but if I every get around 6-7 I would be looking at that part of training and asking myself was relevant to that group – or is it a part of the training that I should be changing or updating.

I look at what the candidates found the most interesting in the training, what did the candidates feel they gained from the training and how will they will hope to apply this back in their workplace. Deciding what material to keep in the next few training sessions ahead.

No two training courses are the same either  — this all depends on the candidates and the part they play in the training, and for me an important part of the training as this is where I can learn from them. Questions are asked, solutions discussed and new ideas thrown around. The training offers many different scenarios that often raise questions and answers.

So next time you are faced with a feedback form, not only are you helping the trainer identify future training needs you are also helping future candidates in getting a well planned and thought out training session.

 

 

Infection Control in Reception


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Infection control starts the minute someone walks through the front door of your organisation.

It is important that sufficient information, training and support is put in place for all Receptionists and frontline staff to help them deal with the various daily challenges involving infection control.

Staff need to be reassured that the job that they are doing is done well and that they continue to be supported and motivated to provide a good service to your patients.

Staff should be adequately trained to deal with infection control and this training should include cleaners and all Reception staff.

Training

Infection control training should take place on a regular basis for all staff. Do you include cleaners in your training? Some practices have outside agencies; if so, do they hold a copy of your Infection Control Policy?

Does your organisation have a designated person for Infection Control? Is all your staff aware of whom this is?

Do you have a report policy in place for identifying any risks of infection control – Reception should be included in this policy and know whom they should report to.

The Infection Control lead person should carry out the following:

  • Help to motivate colleagues to improve good practice
  • Improve local implementation of infection control policies
  • Ensure that infection control audits are undertaken
  • Assist in the training of colleagues
  • Help identify any Infection Control issues within your organisation and work to resolve these.
  • Act as a role model within your organisation.
  • Ensure that Infection Control protocols are reviewed and updated on a regular basis – or delegate to an appropriate person.

Hand Washing Procedures – Public and Staff Areas

Wash hand basins with suitable taps, liquid soap dispensers, alcohol rubs, paper towels and waste bins are essential items for all clinical care areas.

Whilst it is normally the responsibility of the cleaner to ensure that all of these areas are kept well stocked, some things might run out during the day. Therefore it is important that staff are made aware that these might need to be replenished throughout the day.

I have lost count of the number of times I recently have gone into hospitals and surgeries finding empty alcohol rubs, and toilets without toilet tissue or paper hand towels. It simply is not good enough.

Staff Immunisation Protection

Your Reception staff will be dealing with many Infection Control issues on a daily basis.

They will be receiving samples at the desk from patients. They will be dealing with patients that could possible come into your organisation with an infectious rash and could be asked to help with spillage. It therefore is important to include them in protection against Hepatitis B.

You should also offer your staff annual influenza immunisation.

Any immunisations given to your staff should be recorded. I would recommend that you record those that declined to have any immunisations.

Handling Specimens

Samples should come in a sealed container. I have had experience where many samples have come in all different shape and forms including:

  • A faeces sample in a child’s bucket
  • A faeces sample inside a plastic sandwich bag.
  • A urine sample inside a Tupperware container – the patient in fact asked when we had tested the urine could she have the container back as it was one of her “best containers”
  • A urine sample inside an empty perfume bottle.

These of course are not acceptable, for one it is not acceptable to expect the Receptionist (or nurse) to deal with this, and of course it is not in a sterile container.

Each and every sample should include all the necessary information about the patient, failing to do so could result in the labs refusing to carry out the necessary tests, resulting in the patient having to do the test again and possibly delaying any treatment that may be required.

All blood or potentially infected matter such as urine or faeces for lab testing should be treated as high risk and the necessary precautions taken.

The Reception Area

At the end of each day the Reception area should be left tidy. Often cleaners are instructed not to move paperwork or other items and work around them. Untidy desks therefore do not get cleaned as well as a clear desk.

Ensure that there are disposable gloves available in Reception for the receiving of samples from patients.

Any spillage in reception should be dealt with immediately and reported to the appropriate person.

Magazines and books should be replaced on a regular basis.

Toys made available for children should also be cleaned on a regular basis.

Public telephones should be wiped at regular intervals.

There should be a designated room for patients that might present themselves with a possible infectious disease i.e. chicken pox, measles etc. It is also important to inform the Doctor or Nurse that the patient is in the designated room, as often there is no tannoy facility to call patients in and often they could be missed.

Ensure that there are sick bowls available in Reception as this will be the first place the patient will come to if feeling unwell.

Ensure there are bins available in the waiting room, especially important for the disposal of used tissues, and possible a sign asking patient to place their used tissues in them.

Receptionist play a big part in Infection Control, more than we might sometime realise and its vital that they get it right, and also get the support that they require to do their job well.

Ensure that new staff have Infection Control as part of their induction training, and the necessary protocols are put in place for the Reception Area.

Talk to your Receptionists in a team meeting, often they will identify an area that may not been covered with a protocol. They are the experts in their area – RECEPTION.

 

 

What does it take to become a good Team Player


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A good team player has the ability to work together with others working towards a common vision and the ability to direct individual accomplishments towards organisational objectives.

 

  1. Reliable.

A good team player is constantly reliable day in and day out, not just some of the time. They will strive to get the job done; they will have a good all round understanding of their role and will provide a consistent quality of work. A good team player will have great commitment and will develop a good honest working relationship with the members in their team as well as good communication with others within the organisation.

 

 

  1. Honest and Trustworthy.

Great team players communicate their ideas honestly and clearly and respect the views and opinions of others in the team. Clear, effective communication done constructively and respectfully is the key to getting heard. A good team player will be valued within the team.

 

 

  1. Meets Deadlines.

While getting the work done and doing their share a good team player will know that taking risks, stepping outside their comfort zones, and coming up with creative ideas is what it will take to get ahead. Taking on more responsibilities and extra initiative sets them apart from others on the team. Ensures that the team meets deadlines set by the organisation.

 

 

  1. Adapts quickly.

Good team players sideline and see change, adapt to changing situations and often drive positive change themselves and will strive to encourage change with fellow team members.

 

 

  1. Appreciates other’s work styles.

A good team player takes the time to make positive relationships with other team members a priority and display a genuine passion and commitment toward their team. They come to work with the commitment of giving it 110% and often will expect others on the team to do the same. A good team player will work well with others strengths and support those that have weaknesses. They will value other team members and their experience.

 

  1. Works well within the team.

To be a good team player, you don’t have to be extroverted or indulge in self-promotion. A good team player will be an active participant and do more than their job title states. Put the team’s objectives above theirs and take the initiative to get things done without waiting to be asked. A good team player will always be valued within the team. In return they will build positive perception, gain more visibility, and develop influential connections to get ahead in their career.

 

and remember…………..

Always treat someone in the way you would want to be treated. 

Communicating with your Receptionists #Managers


Being a doctors receptionist is no easy task, and certainly not the job some people seem to think it is, some think it’s sitting at the desk booking patients in to see the doctor and handing out prescriptions, oh no it’s so much more and more again. Being a doctors receptionist is a bit like marmite, you either “love it or hate it”. The receptionist that ‘loves’ his/her job will be loyal, hard-working and very proactive. They are the ones that can see problems ahead, make the best suggestions and really want the best for the practice. They are the ambassadors of your practice.

It saddens me when at some of my training sessions I hear that they sometimes do not feel appreciated and they don’t feel part of the team. They often blame Management for lack of communication who are occasionally not caring and unapproachable. This might not be true, but it’s how they feel. Lack of training is also another complaint that I hear of often. Many Receptionists feel that they could do so much more in their role, if only they had the appropriate training. This is where I step in and defend the managers! I know how hard the role of a manager can be, often being piggy in the middle; the Partners shouting on one side and the Staff on the other. There are budgets to follow and targets to hit, whilst trying to stay loyal to both sides. Being a manager can often be a very lonely job. Who is there for the Manager when it gets tough?

My role of manager soon taught me that communication is key. In communicating with the receptionists I came to learn, first hand, what the problems in reception were, before it got too late and became a bigger problem than it already was. Receptionists need to know what is going on, if they don’t they often jump to the wrong conclusion. They will often gossip between themselves and make up their own minds, which can often cause bad feeling within the team. Having a team with a low morale is often extremely hard to turn around.

What is the best way to communicate with your receptionists? Hold Regular staff meetings; weekly, twice monthly or monthly.

  • Ask the staff to contribute to the agenda, make the meetings their meetings.
  • Make the meetings interesting! If they are interesting the staff will actually want to come, they will contribute and as a result they will be a success.
  • Rotate the meetings on different days and times to enable part-time staff to attend at least every other meeting.
  • It’s your chance as a manager to give the facts, to tell them as a team what is happening within the practice; it’s a great way to avoid rumours and discontent.
  • Take minutes for future reference and make copies available for those that were unable to attend. Make a copy for the partners too.
  • Ask a Partner to attend a couple of meetings a year, this shows support, and in my experience, always goes down very well with the receptionists. It also gives the Partners an insight in what is happening in reception and how hard their roles can often be.
  • Use the meeting to discuss any issues that have occurred and ask the team how they feel it could have been dealt with, often they will come up with the solution. This will help in the future as they will then start to solve problems themselves, rather than running to you every time, expecting you as the manager to have the answer. Meetings can often make the team more proactive.

Another complaint is lack of communication. Often, many of the staff will be told something but others don’t hear about it. This can lead to confusion and often anger, which can result in jobs not being done properly, as some staff have not been informed. A lot of the time this happens to staff who are on holiday or that work part-time. Memos or emails sent to every member of the team seems to work well. Having a receptionist message book works extremely well. Receptionists can leave messages that everyone can read before they begin their shift.

Communicating with your team will often highlight concerns, and often they will share good ideas,  after all they are the “experts” in their field and will often offer very productive ideas. Many of my training issues, ideas and changes came from my experiences of “walking in their shoes”

Another way of communicating with your staff is to simply show your support. Go and see what they are doing and praise them regularly. Most importantly, always remember how difficult your job as a manager would be if the receptionists did not do their job well.