Training your chiropractic staff has changed over the years. Back in the day, the role of the front desk assistant was a combination of order taker (“What would be more convenient, morning or afternoon?”) and traffic cop. It’s much more complicated today. Even more so since you need a Digital Advocate.
Back when financial issues were largely irrelevant because just about everyone had generous insurance coverage, it was about optimizing the appointment book for the greatest yield.
Today, besides showing up as an enthusiastic and knowledgeable hostess, chiropractic assistants must be trained so they understand chiropractic principles, be capable of fielding financial questions, provide reassurance for the nervous, offer hope for the disillusioned while being sensitive to HIPAA issues. All this and more while serving the patient standing in front of them as the phone rings. In other words, it’s practically an impossible task.
This, for a position that is often the entry point for your newest staff member with the least amount of training and experience. Helping a new chiropractic assistant understand the basics is crucial.
The Internet has added still more complexity, in which questions and appointment requests are increasingly arriving by SMS or email.
Before exploring the new implications brought on by the Internet, you’d want to make sure you have the basics covered so your staff training is fast and effective.
Staff Training Requires a Procedure Manual
If you take your enterprise seriously and want to rise above that of a hand-to-mouth cottage business, you need a procedure manual.
You may already have one.
Yet, when I ask doctors if I, who have never worked in a chiropractic practice, could read their manual and perform the necessary functions to run the front desk, I’m often greeted with a sheepish expression.
You want an up to date procedure manual for two reasons, 1) so you can accelerate future team training and, 2) so you can never be held hostage because you don’t know how to operate the practice software, file an insurance claim or properly close out the day.
If this seems insurmountable, break it up into a 100 pieces and complete it over 3-4 months. The key is to get this information out of the heads of your team and captured onto paper.
And don’t forget to describe all your spoken and unspoken practice policies about dress code, jewelry, perfume, punctuality, gossip, drug use, sick leave, getting adjusted, privacy issues and the legal implications of diagnosing patients.
Staff Training Begins With a Complete Job Description
There’s often the temptation to sugarcoat the job responsibilities when interviewing for a new staff person. Since you’re a people person, it may be difficult to present the opportunity without romanticizing it and soft peddling the challenges. Having a clear job description not only avoids this issue but avoids surprises and misunderstandings later.
Besides the how-to processes described in your procedural manual, be sure it includes everything from keeping an eye on the cleanliness of the bathroom to maintaining office supplies to occasionally watching children while a parent is receiving care.
And don’t forget to mention any overnight travel that might be required to attend seminars, working Saturday mornings once a month, accompanying you to speaking events, attending evening in-office lectures or anything else that might be considered “normal” in a chiropractic setting, but seem unusual to someone who has worked a traditional nine to five job or worked clearly defined shifts at a restaurant.
What you want is something you can review with each team member during an annual review to compare with performance with.
Training Your Digital Advocate
We’ve all had the experience of going to the website of a local service provider, indicating our interest by surrendering our name and email details—and then never hearing from them. It’s often enough for the company to lose you as a customer.
Is that happening in your practice?
Someone on your team needs to be across this or you’re likely to miss out on a growing number of patients and prospective patients who would rather interact with your practice electronically rather than picking up the telephone.
You would want to train your Digital Advocate to assume the following responsibilities:
1. Liaison with your website company. You want this individual to make sure your website is current and that any dated announcements about practice events are taken down promptly after the event. Plus, make sure staff photos and biographies reflect the current team, as well as add new patients as website subscribers so they receive your electronic newsletter, birthday greetings and other practice communications.
2. Handle online appointment requests. These need to be attended to promptly. What’s prompt in an era of instant email communications and text messages? At the bare minimum it means checking emails first thing in the morning and right after lunch. If you’re in a major metropolitan area it may need to be even more frequently.
3. Make regular social media posts. Recent research suggests that almost 50% of the public considers the social media profile of a business when making a buying decision. In other words, if it’s been a month or more since your last social media post, it appears you’re asleep at the switch. Make sure your Digital Advocate makes consistent posts that reflect your philosophy and can serve to cultivate your tribe.
4. Monitor customer review sites. More and more people make buying decisions based almost entirely on the reviews they read on Google and Yelp. And it seems clear that Google considers the quantity and quality of patient reviews when it lists chiropractic practices in the local maps section. Not only get an ample number of five star reviews, but respond appropriately when the occasional negative review emerges.
It’s probably not a full time job, but an important one. Perhaps your front desk CA is the one who claims this opportunity. Or the person who does your practice marketing. Or your spouse. Or you. The key is to make sure someone on your team is well trained and is responsive and properly reflects your practice in the digital realm.