Home Issues2023 OSH Issue The Front Office – What Exactly is Their Role?

The Front Office – What Exactly is Their Role?

Role Clarity Drives Practice Success

by Denise Williams Jones

There seems to be a lack of understanding of the role of the front office team. If you ask the doctor, clinical, and the actual front office team what their role is, you will likely get three different answers.

  1. The clinical team usually thinks the team in the front answers the phone, makes appointments, and takes money from patients.
  2. The doctor usually thinks the front office team does about five or six things and the office runs smoothly.
  3. The front office team knows there are a million little things that need to be done to keep the office running and newsflash…

There are no front office fairies that come in at night and do this stuff. And yet, somehow, someway, it seems to get done or there’s a disaster at hand!  

It is amazing how much emphasis is put on investing in the top equipment for an office – and yes, it is important to have the best equipment, but oftentimes the same level of attention IS NOT given to investing in the front office team. The result of this is poor customer service and a lack of role responsibility and accountability. The team doesn’t fully know what to do or what is expected…and lack of role clarity drives lack of success.  This in turn leads to a poor patient experience as it is truly a trickle-down effect that begins with ambiguity over role responsibility and accountability, finger-pointing, blaming and it goes downhill from there.  

Lack of accountability breeds unhappiness and most find it easier to complain than actually put the work in to fix it. When team members are unhappy at work, if it is not fixed, if things aren’t consistently done in the right way, a front desk can become complete chaos. Or as most like to say, “A Hot Mess!”

A practice can have the best equipment money can buy but if the front office team is not aware of what they are supposed to do and how to do it, the patients won’t ever book an appointment to come in and that top-of-the-line equipment won’t matter. See the problem here?

Front Office - this is your role!

Front office, you are the initial representation of the practice. The face and voice of the company. You are the first impression of the practice. You do so much more than answer phone calls and take payments. You are the rock of the office, and you hold things together. Remember, first impressions are lasting impressions, it’s just the way it is, so how you represent your office is crucial. It sets the tone. It can make or break the practice because it can and will affect the bottom line. We must change our mindset and start to realize that this is just as important as making appointments. We must look at this role in a different way and pay attention to how we are welcoming our patients. How we are making them feel. Once we do this, we will be able to close those treatment plans. People buy on emotion so how will you turn their visit into an emotional visit? When you go shopping whether it be for food, clothing, or other things, and you see things you want and just have to have so you buy them, do you wonder why you did that? It is because you had an emotional trigger and you wanted it at that moment, and you justified it later with logic. Target is the leader in triggering this emotion. You can do the same for your patients in your office.


Basically yes – you are! Now before you turn your nose up and frown, hear me out. Not all sales are bad. You are selling the patient something that is good for them. Patients come to the office to get help with a problem so when the doctor suggests something that will fix that problem, we sell the treatment to them. However, remember that it is for their own good. Having a healthy mouth can add years to someone’s life. When we change our mindset to this thinking, we won’t shrink back when presenting those large treatment plans.

You see, you are in a unique place to help settle and reassure the patient that they made the right choice right from the start. That they are in the right place and that you are going to take care of them, and that it is a safe place. We take for granted someone opening their mouths for treatment because we have become desensitized to the office since we are there daily. The fact of the matter is it takes a lot for some people to trust you in their mouths. It is very intimate to have your hands in someone’s mouth and creating that safe environment for them right from the start sets it up nicely for the doctor to do his or her job.


 Taking authority and responsibility for your role in this way is an essential element in operating efficiently. It may seem like a lot to do but that is what you signed up for. But don’t fret, here are a few tips to make it all happen:

  1. Suggest to your doctor the possibility of outside training. When you have someone come in from the outside, they can see blind spots and help you grow as a team.
  2. Get a clear understanding of what your doctor expects of you and what you expect from him or her.
  3. Create a system of how to do things in the office. They should be done consistently in the same way by everyone.

The Bottom Line…

So, what is your role in the office? You are the gatekeepers that make the patients feel they are in the right place. You are the influencers of creating an emotional, wonderful relationship with the practice. Own it, wear it like a badge of honor and make a difference in the experience the patients have in your office.  Create an emotional, wonderful relationship with them. Make it happen!

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