Supporting The Receptionist


 

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I recently held a training session for a group of new Receptionists. They ranged from being in their current posts from 6 weeks through to 6 months.

I particularly enjoy New Receptionists Training. I love the group participation and the eagerness to learn more about the role of the Receptionist. Each person came from a different organisation but all have the same goal, wanting to do their job to the best of their ability.

And they can only achieve their best by being trained to do so. You as employer, a manager team leader or fellow Receptionist owe it to any new members to the team and help them to achieve that ultimate goal. You also owe it to you patients and customers by having well-trained staff.

I try to make they training session interesting, including ice breakers and lots of team participation. One of the exercises we did was “What would you have found useful in your role when you first started ”. This question raised a lot of answers, and we had a great discussion around each one.

Some feedback to the question included:

  • More training – especially around confidentiality
  • Knowing who does what in the organisation (staff list and their main roles)
  • Days and hours of staff working at the organisation.
  • Up to date telephone list.
  • Knowing the 999 policy
  • More training on the phone system
  • Emergency procedure for Reception
  • Disability awareness – especially wheelchair users.
  • Knowing what staff are in and out of the building
  • How to deal with a difficult caller
  • Who to report to when the Receptionist has a query (some were still confused on who to report to)
  • Need for more policies and procedures for the Reception area
  • Daily/weekly checklist for new Receptionists.

We discussed all of the above in great detail. Many of the group had no idea of their emergency procedures. Some didn’t know if their reception area had a panic button and some spoke of having a difficult caller and admitted that they found this really difficult to deal with. 75% of the group didn’t know that their “fancy” Reception desk was in fact a desk designed for people with a disability and everyone agreed that they would have found a daily/weekly checklist helpful when they first started, thus reducing the amount of time they had to keep asking other members of the team.

Many admitted that they felt uncomfortable dealing with people with a disability, the fear of getting it wrong and upsetting the person, and because of that fear they felt that they didn’t approach the person in the way that they deserved.

Some of the group said that they felt inadequate having to keep asking over and over again what to do. Some simply were left to find out everything themselves and others felt that they have been given great support. A mixture but every single one of them all said that they felt regular ongoing training was important.

Receiving feedback after the course brought some of the following comments:

  • Training is very beneficial
  • Understanding the importance of team building
  • Dealing with difficult people at the front desk and over the telephone.
  • The importance of confidentiality in the workplace.
  • Feeling confident and being able to ask if they were not sure
  • Felt more confident after the session
  • Knowing that a lot of what they are doing they are doing right.

I asked what training they would feel would benefit them further in their role and the feedback was

  • Confidentiality
  • Disability Awareness
  • Telephone Skills
  • Dealing With Difficult Situations in Reception.

Do you have regular contact with new Receptionists? Do you have any idea if they are struggling with any aspects of their role?

I always met with a new Receptionist after they had been in the job a week, then I would meet with them after a month, and again at 3 months. The meeting was a 2 way process – for them to understand what we expected from them, and to find out if we could do anything for them to support them in their role and to identify training needs.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved
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Practice Makes Perfect


I was asked recently to help with some Receptionists Training at a GP Surgery.

The surgery was holding an away day for the whole Practice and they closed the surgery for the afternoon. Everyone was involved from the Partners, Business Manager Assistant Practice Manager, nursing staff and all the Receptionists and Administrators. It was really impressive to see so many staff there. There had been a lot of work put into the away day from the Partners and the Business Manager.

When I go into any surgery I never know what I am going to be met with or what I am going to witness in regards to the Receptionists and how well they understand their role especially new Receptionists that perhaps have never worked in this environment before.

Let me share with you my experience on the day…

I arrived at the Surgery at 8.30 – I was going to sit with the Reception team for the morning and see how they worked as a team – and if there was any input or support that I could give.

When I walked into the Reception area I was really impressed. The Surgery was very impressive and the waiting room bright spotless and very welcoming.

There were good signs for everyone to see and the Reception desk was most impressive.

I was met by the Business Manager who made me very welcome and was very friendly and extremely easy to chat to.

I was introduced to the team of Receptionists who were going about their tasks for the day.

I was impressed with what I seen, everything that I would expect from a good reception team. They were all polite to the patients both face to face and over the telephone, well-informed and very calm whilst doing their jobs. There were a few minor things that could be improved on but nothing that could not be rectified.

What did really impress me was the lovely working area that they staff had to work to work in – the reception desk was big and spacious as was the administration office just at the back of reception. They had good quality furniture and the office was love and bright. The team was really lucky to be working in such lovely conditions.

All phone calls were made in the back office, no telephone calls was taken at the front desk. The Receptionist was just dealing with patients.

Patient confidentiality was excellent and this was achieved by the Receptionists accessing patient information by Date of Birth – a much quicker way of accessing patients details.

The surgery closed at 1.00 and the calls were put through to the out of hours service.

The afternoon began with lunch for all the staff – everyone interacting with one another – it was obvious that this was a surgery that valued their staff.

The Partners started the session off with an ice breaking game – it brought a good laugh and really did start the afternoon off well. The feedback from the Reception team was really positive about the interaction from the Partners.

Everyone then broke away into 3 groups, The Partners, the Nursing Team and the Receptionists and Administrators and myself.

We went over Receptionist Skills, Telephone Skills, and Dealing with difficult people and patient confidentiality.

On the whole the staff were very well informed on most of these subjects. But what was really impressive was the way everyone chatted about his or her experiences, sharing good ideas and finding ways forward with different situations that could help them in the future. We all had something that we took away from the training.

It was good to go over, discuss and learn from them and perhaps remind ourselves why we have to do these things (ie patient confidentiality) and perhaps how we could improve on things we are doing.

The most important thing for me was that I could see how much their were valued as a team, and how supported they were from the Management and Partners.

Why? Because their Practice wanted to invest in them – to support them and to ensure that the patients get the best care possible.

The communication between Partners, Management and staff was excellent. 

This was achieved in their working surroundings and the fact that their practice was prepared to invest in their training needs and support them for future training.

Good trained staff are confident staff and confident staff are able to deal with every day events that they are faced with. This is vital for your organisation and for your patients.

I for one would not only be happy to be a part  of this team I would also feel extremely happy to be a patient there.

Can you say the same for your organisation?

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Treat People With Respect


I had a friend contact me this morning in quite a state. Her son who lives over 200 miles from her was sent hospital by his GP last night with head pain, high temp and bad stomach pains. His white cell count was elevated and he had to have a CT scan. She phoned the ward first thing this morning and was met with the most “unhelpful” clerk.  My friend said she was in fact pretty rude to her and it upset her and because of that she didn’t really get much information from the clerk at all.

She has spoken to her son via his mobile and has got as much information as she could. As you can imagine she was out of her mind with worry and getting someone who was really unhelpful has not helped her at all. She asked what she should do.

I did explain that although there is no excuse for someone being rude, the clerk was probably being careful to what she was disclosing to her over the phone – patient confidentiality. I suggested that she get her son to speak to the ward sister and give permission (if he was happy to) that they could pass on information to his mum.  She confirmed that her son had in fact said it was ok to share information with his mum.

I then suggested that she phone back again, and if the clerk were to be rude again that she should challenge her – ask her why she was being unhelpful or rude if that were to be the case – often if you challenge someone they realise that their attitude is not right – and then change it. If she found that the clerk was still not being helpful then she should ask to speak to someone else that could perhaps answer her questions.

Staff that are dealing with anxious family members should do with care and courtesy, I know my friend and she is nothing but gentle and pleasant, she did not deserve to be spoken to in this way.

Staff should have training on customer care – and how to deal with people in person but especially over the telephone. They have to realise that like my friend they are phoning to enquire about loved ones and are worried.  The clerk might be the first person they speak to and they deserve a bit of courtesy.

She did phone back and spoke to someone a bit more helpful. A password was set up – this would be put on her son’s notes and every time she phones she will be asked for the password and then get the information she needs to ensure that her son is doing well.

It’s a shame that she wasn’t given this option the first time she phoned. It certainly would have saved her a lot of unnecessary worry.

I ask myself – how would that ward clerk have felt if she had been in my friends shoes and had been spoken to like that!

 

Always treat people the way you would expect to be treated.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

There is a good reason why GP Receptionist’s are so “grumpy”


I was surfing the net the other night and came across a heading, which was written in January 2012.

There is a good reason why GP Receptionist’s are so grumpy” (I am still not sure that grumpy is the right word to use)

I was interested to read on and clicked onto the link.

The article was by Dr Jenna Ward who is (was) a Senior Lecturer in organisational studies at York University and was interviewed by Kate Wighton.

Dr Jenna Ward and her colleague Dr Robert McMurray from Durham University were embedded with surgery receptionists over a three-year period. They observed 30 receptionists at work in 3 surgeries.

AT LAST – someone who actually seen and understood the enormous pressure that a GP Receptionists can be under.

She talks about emotional exhaustion (yes they certainly do) and the job being emotionally demanding – quite right.

She wrote that there is a stereotype of GP Receptionists as dragons behind a desk – unsmiling individuals with a curt manner and an apparent determination to be anything but helpful. But in fact, their detached manner is not intended to intimidate or belittle patients, it’s actually a form of protection, to help them avoid emotional burn-out.

Although I have to say the surgeries that I have worked in as a Receptionists and as a Manager I really felt that our Receptionists were far from dragons, but I feel that having good training helped us in dealing with the situations that Dr Ward spoke about.

At any one time she witnessed a receptionist dealing with 6 people. The first, an elderly woman tearfully registering the death of her husband. Next, a smiling mum, there in surgery for her baby’s check up. Meanwhile the telephone is constantly ringing with people who are unwell.

She writes about the difficulties the Receptionists faces trying to keep neutral in all of these cases and of course another challenge they face is being caught between the patients and the doctors.

She talks about patients shouting, and violence and calls of help from a disturbed patient.

She goes on to say that there is little appreciation of the emotional strain placed on GP Receptionists and the fact that they receive little training in handling a lot of these situations.

All Receptionists are at risk in the fact that any mistake could result in serious health implications for the patient.

There is a misconception that Receptionists do nothing more than answer the telephone and type data into the computer.

There research found that the role of a GP Receptionist requires a high degree of emotional awareness and maturity.

They also found in their research that Receptionists REALLY do care.

Managers: if there is one thing that you can do to support your staff is giving them the appropriate training in dealing with these situations. Make them feel appreciated.

Here is a link to the article

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2081457/There-good-reason-GP-receptionists-grumpy.html

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Answer machine messages – get it right!


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Are you confident that your answer machines messages are kept updated? Messages can change on a daily basis and often several times a day.

  • Answer phone messages can be used to alert patients of

Your Surgery Opening times

Emergency contact numbers (when the surgery is closed)

Staff on holiday

Staff not at their desk

Other patient information such as special one-off clinics

  • Advise callers of your opening times – ensure that you have the correct up to date information available.

 

Try to keep the messages short and simple – long messages can often lead to confusion.

If you are giving out telephone numbers in the message it is often best to repeat them twice and slowly. How many times have you had to phone a number back just to be able to take down the telephone number because it was given too quickly?

Opening Times

  • If your opening times are the same every day then you can perhaps give out the times in one message ie

“The surgery is open from 08.00 am  – 12.30 and again from  2.30 – 7.00 pm  Monday to Friday. (it is important to use am and pm to avoid confusion)

  • If you have several different times (some early starts and late finishes it might be worth doing a separate message each day – leaving the message the night before for the next day) “The Surgery is open on Mondays from  08.00 am  – 12.30 and again from 2.30 –  6.00 pm ”

then for  the Tuesday change the message again “The Surgery is open on Tuesdays from  08.30 am  – 12.30 and again from 2.30 – 8.00 pm” – and so on.

  • Remember to leave emergency contact numbers – when the surgery is closed – often these numbers can change so it is important to double-check that these are correct.

For staff leaving answer phone messages

Ensure that it gives the correct information ie:

  1. “I am away from my desk at the moment, please leave your number and I will return your call”

 

2.    “My hours of work are 9.00 am to 1.30 pm. Please leave a message and I will call you back on my return.

 

3.    “I am away until Monday 29th July – please leave a message and I will get back to you on my return – or alternatively please call Joan Smith on 34565.

The three examples above both say the same thing “leave your telephone number and I will get back to you” but the actual messages are completely different – why?

  1.  Is telling the caller that their call will be returned within a reasonable time – and the call should be returned asap – the message is indicating that the person is away from their desk and should be back within a reasonable time.

 

2.  Is telling the caller their times of work – so if the caller is calling outside these times   they are aware that the person will not be available until the times given.  Good clear communication and no confusion.

 

3.  Is telling the caller that they will be away for a long period of time and giving the caller the opportunity of speaking to another person – this is important in as much as the caller might need to speak to someone before the 29th. Giving the option of the caller speaking to someone else will also take the pressure of the person that is away until the 29th and coming back to a lot of telephone messages and perhaps frustrated people.

Answer phone messages are great when then work – and can be frustrating for patients/customers when they don’t.  Not having the correct message on your phone can often lead to misunderstanding and often can cause unnecessary added work pressure on others.

Answer phones are great when they work properly.

If you say on your message you will call back – make sure you do and within an acceptable timescale.

 

My recent experience of a message only this week.

I telephone a consultants secretary on Monday morning at 10.30 to hear a message telling me her hours were 9.00 – 13.30 Monday to Friday and she asked for callers to leave their number. I took from this that as I was calling within her working times perhaps she was busy – I left my number for her to call me back.

To speak to the secretary I had to go through the hospital switchboard to be put through to her.

By 1.30 I realised I was not going to hear back from her that day. So I left it, I had not heard back by 11.00 on Tuesday so I telephoned again (again going through the switchboard). I got the same message – so I left my number again. I tried her again at 12.30 and again at 1.20 – still the same message by this point I was on good terms with the switchboard operator. I did not leave my number as I had already left it twice at this point.

By Wednesday I still had heard nothing telephone the hospital again and asked to be put through – the switchboard operator told me the line was engaged and did I want to hold – YES please, I wasn’t going to let her go this time.

I finally got through, I asked if she was the consultant’s secretary I was talking to and was told “No I am sorry but Mary is on holiday this week and won’t be back until next Monday. If you leave your number i will get her to give you a call. Arggggggg

So, the message could have been better. She could have saved me time and money on the calls and also freed up the switchboard (can you imagine how many similar calls that were being put through to that number during that week). The Secretary would be coming back to 3 of my calls and how many more people had done similar.

Perhaps she should have informed the switchboard staff that she was on holiday. This would have saved me time and calls and freed up the very busy switchboard.

Had she put a message advising callers that she was not in the office for the week of (and given dates) it would have saved a lot of time, money and frustration and perhaps misunderstanding (as I was beginning to feel that my call was being ignored).

It is just as important to leave an out of office” message on your emails too – especially if you are going to be away for any period of time – and again very helpful if you can give an alternative person that someone can’t contact in your absence.

Systems like this work well – but they have to be set up properly in the first place.

The Importance of Receptionists Training


imagesCAFXOIRQLast week I held a training course for new Receptionists.

I am very passionate about staff training. As a previous manager I felt that I owed it to staff to give them the appropriate training when starting as a new receptionist, secretary or administrator and to also provide longer service members of staff with more advanced training.

After all you would not hire a mechanic or a chief if they had not had the appropriate training – so why should a Receptionist be any different, after all they are the ambassadors of your surgery and therefore you want them to get it right.

It never ceases to amaze how new Receptionists (and fairly often a longer servicing member of staff) know so little about their role – especially the little things that could make their role so much better, and in turn run a more efficient Reception area and how it could be better for your surgery and therefore giving first class Customer Care to your patients and customers.

It always gives me enormous pleasure to be able to share with the group my experiences; how I gained my knowledge I was sharing with them and tips on how to make their role so much more. How they can become a Receptionist that any Practice would be proud of to have on their team.

What do I base my training on? Simply from experience – I too once sat in their seat, not knowing some of the things that I am now sharing with them. I embraced my role back then with enthusiasm and was hungry to learn more. By doing this I was always first to volunteer to go on another training course, taking on my NVQ and achieving so much more. This all came about from enjoying the courses, learning from the courses wanting to learn even more and putting all of these things into practice. I am forever grateful that my practice believed in me. I hope to pass on that enthusiasm  that on to others.

From a receptionists I worked my way up to a surgery supervisor, and then on to a Manager with another practice. Every single step on that ladder was built on the knowledge that I had learnt the qualifications that I got and the experience that I had gained. You too might have a Receptionist that has that hunger to learn and climb the ladder – can you think of one at your practice? Or are they there but not had the right training for them or you to see the potential they might have.

You might ask yourself why you should give them training. There will be costs involved. Staff will be away their posts to attend courses and perhaps extra costs to cover their hours while they are away.

Investing in staff training is vital. If you cannot afford to send all of your staff on training course why not bring the trainer into your surgery – or better still train one person up in your surgery to then train the others.

What are the benefits of staff training?

  • Staff will value you as an employer by supporting them in this way.
  • Staff will have more confidence in dealing with issues that might arise at Reception.
  • Their job will have more meaning; it will be more rewarding and satisfying.
  • Their job will become more interesting – the more they learn the more they understand
  • They will be valued by your patients and customers as they will be able to offer a first class service.
  • They will enjoy testing and improving on their skills – and hopefully want to learn more.

What are the training needs of Reception Staff?

  • Receptionist Training (aimed at new Receptionists)
  • Patient Confidentiality
  • Telephone Techniques
  • Dealing with difficult patients
  • Basic Health and Safety
  • Disability Awareness
  • Team Leader training (ideal for those that are being promoted within)

 

Invest in your staff – well trained staff are confident staff

3. DNA and the Patient’s Experience


I have had several people contacting me regarding my posts on DNA’s.

The first blog I did was the impact DNA appointments have on Hospitals and Surgeries.

The second blog was in response to a comment made by a Reception Team Leader and how her surgery is proactive in dealing with this problem, which I might add I think is a great system.

This the 3rd blog on DNA’s is from a patients point of view.

Someone contacted my regarding DNA’s and how this impacts on the health service resulting in people having longer waiting times for appointments.

This lady had a hospital appointment a couple of weeks ago, she realised the week before that due to unforeseen circumstances she was unable to keep the appointment the following Monday afternoon, and working in the healthcare sector knew how important it was to cancel the appointment and give someone else the chance of the appointment.

On the Wednesday the week before her appointment she tried to call the consultants secretary to cancel the appointment.

She was greeted with a recorded message saying that the secretary was on holiday and the secretary actually said in the recorded message there was no facility to leave a message. She asked that people call back on her return in 10 days time.

Obviously this would be too late to cancel the appointment. So this lady phoned the hospital and asked for outpatients department, the switchboard put her through and it rang and rang and no one answered. So she had to phone the main switchboard back again. She explained that no one was answering in outpatients, but she was put through again anyway – and again no one answered. So, she had to phone back yet again, she explained about wanting to cancel her appointment, before she could say much more she found she was put through to the “secretary” again, and heard the message she originally heard – and the fact she couldn’t leave a message!

She gave up at this point and left it until the next day when she tried again. She said that she was put through to several different departments, no one wanting to take responsibility for the call she was even told to phone the secretary on her return in 10 days time. She explained that the appointment was in fact in 4 days time and wanted to cancel it and not have a DNA against her name.

She got nowhere – so tried again on the Friday – the same run around.

Monday morning the day of the appointment she phoned the hospital and finally got put through to someone – she explained that she was unable to attend her appointment that afternoon and could they cancel it and ask the secretary to send her out a new appointment.  After taking the woman’s name said she would.

Two weeks went by and this lady had heard nothing so she telephoned the consultants secretary who was not back from her holidays – and to no surprise she found that they appointment had NOT been cancelled, she in fact had a DNA against her name, and the secretary did not get the message about her wanting another appointment made.

To say she was fuming was an understatement.

So, in order to get the DNA rates reduced it takes time and effort from all involved.

Patients have to be more responsible for cancelling appointments and this needs to be dealt with in a delicate manner.

Surgeries and Hospitals need to ensure that if a patient does cancel their appointment that it is recorded and cancelled and the patients does not received a DNA against their name.

Hospitals and Surgeries cannot moan about the amount of DNA’s they have unless they have a policy in order that will actually deal with this when the patients requests to.

And systems have to be in place that these messages are getting through to the right people.

The lady involved felt that no one wanted to listen to her – the operator just didn’t listen to what she was saying which resulted in her being put through to departments that if she had been listened to could have been avoided.

I would suspect that most patients after the first 2 or 3 phone calls would have simply given up trying to cancel the appointment.