Let's say the average practice's client retention rate is 70 percent. If you work in a two-doctor practice with 2,400 active clients, this means you lose about 720 clients a year. Some attrition is inevitable. Pet owners move; pets die. But let's say you could keep 10 percent of those clients with better service and communication. That's 72 clients a year. If each of those clients visits once in the next year and pays an average transaction charge of $100, you'll earn $7,200 a year in additional revenue.
Marnette Denell Falley
More assumptions: Let's say you pay your receptionist $12 an hour—or $24,000 a year. Could you afford to pay more? Maybe you could get someone with amazing communication skills and experience who would learn every client's name and handle any complaint with finesse. What would that be worth? Maybe you could find a team leader who'd turn in the best front-desk performance you've ever seen and help other team members achieve more too.
If you're paying $24,000 now, and you could earn $7,200 more by hanging on to more of your current clients, you'd have $700 to $1,500 more available each year to pay that receptionist. Could you attract better candidates at this rate? If not, what would it take?
In many practices, the team manages the most critical marketing efforts; they provide the great service and care that keep clients coming back. And your front-desk team sets the tone for the entire relationship. Just think about these critical points of client contact:
The introduction. When the client or potential client calls to ask a question, it's your receptionist who offers more information, asks for the appointment, and schedules the visit. So it's your receptionist who makes that important first impression with her approach on the phone and the tone and information she communicates about your practice.
The greeting. Your receptionist leads the charge again when the client comes in for the first time. Ideally, she makes the client feel welcome and starts building bonds with that client and pet.
The handoff. Now, at this point, your receptionist will likely introduce another member of the team. He or she will start educating the client about the pet's basic needs and then assist you with your exam and run any diagnostic tests you ask for.
The closing. After the client leaves the exam room, your receptionist takes the lead again. She reviews the invoice, makes sure the pet owner leaves with the products you recommended, schedules any follow-up care, and thanks the client for his or her business.
In our cover story, advisory board member Gary I. Glassman, CPA, offers tips for practices that are experiencing wimpy growth I want to offer one more idea: Spend more to get an incredible receptionist. This is an area where you get what you pay for.
Marnette Denell Falley, Editor