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Top 5 Ways to Help Client Service Representatives

Katie Newbold, LVT, CVPM, CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets

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Top 5 Ways to Help Client Service Representatives

The client service representative (CSR) team can be vital to a practice’s positive reputation and overall success1 and can potentially impact the bottom line, so a highly functional front desk team is well worth management’s best efforts. However, maintaining consistency and excellence among CSRs can be challenging.

Following are 5 common issues that can cause difficulties and suggestions for solutions or prevention.

1

Establish Clear Channels of Communication

 

  • Issue: Lack of communication between front and back team members (ie, CSRs not knowing what those working in the treatment areas are doing and vice versa) is a frequent complaint. 
  • Solution: This can be easily solved with team discussions about protocol and workflow. Try to involve the whole practice team to ensure that any decisions and procedures implemented meet the needs of the entire team and to provide each team member the opportunity to understand everyone’s viewpoint and perspective. The importance of clear communication should also be addressed at regular team meetings, which should be scheduled at times that do not interrupt practice workflow and therefore do not cause any team member added stress.

2

Ensure High Quality Work

 

  • Issue: Some CSR teams lack the knowledge to answer clients’ frequently asked questions, or they may routinely make mistakes in their record-keeping, invoicing, or other basic tasks, all of which can affect revenue.
  • Solution: Lack of training is the likely cause. All CSRs should undergo well-defined, comprehensive training programs that include basics of the position (eg, greeting clients and their pets by name, knowing the answers to common client questions, knowing how to handle emergencies). The training should also include more detailed information (eg, all services offered, protocols and procedures, answers to common client questions, handling emergency cases).

Similarly, with bookkeeping mistakes, management should perform, at a minimum, routine checking and coaching. With regular oversight (ie, weekly at first, then monthly for more seasoned team members), managers can also determine if additional training is necessary to help the team member meet the desired performance level.

How Much Should CSRs Be Paid?

The top 25% of CSRs in WellMPs earn between $15 and $25 an hour.

SOURCE: Benchmarks 2017: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. Columbus, OH: WMPB; 2017:97.

3

Prevent High Turnover

 

  • Issue: Veterinary CSRs are frequently among the lowest paid team members, earning on average 13% less than unlicensed veterinary technical team members.2 Many practices hire inexperienced entry-level people whom they pay at low rates, even though this is an important, high-stress position. The problem can be exacerbated by a lack of adequate training and support, which probably contributes to the high turnover of these team members.3 
  • Solution: Practices need to rethink how they consider their CSRs, acknowledge their contribution to practice success, allocate sufficient budget expenses, and compensate them appropriately. Management should also reconsider their hiring practices and recruit and hire applicants with client service experience who have worked in industries that emphasize excellent customer service (eg, retail, hospitality) and a good work ethic.4

4

Teach Teamwork

 

  • Issue: In the author’s experience, a distinct “us versus them” culture often exists between the front and back teams. This culture can be caused by the physical barriers between the client service and treatment areas and can hinder conversation and collaboration. Lack of understanding about the demands and stresses on each team can also affect this culture.
  • Solution: Respond to this situation by creating a one-team culture by promoting cross-training to create awareness of each team member’s duties and responsibilities for each team member “on the other side.” Consider instituting brief morning meetings during which each team member can communicate his or her priorities for the day, and issues that may affect workflow (eg, scheduling challenges, technical difficulties, team members out sick or on vacation) can be addressed. When team members know what fellow team members are doing and are aware of the problems that may occur that day, resentment between front and back teams can be prevented.

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5

Avoid Chaos

 

  • Issue: Particular times of day can be chaotic for CSRs, which can lead to poor client and patient service as well as team member stress and burnout.
  • Solution: The most chaotic times in a practice are often predictable and extra help can be planned, but various things can be done even when the chaos is unexpected. (See Making Life Easier for Client Service Representatives.)

Making Life Easier for Client Service Representatives

Early mornings and late afternoons are usually the most chaotic and stressful for CSRs. Call volume is high, and clients are dropping off or picking up pets, checking in or out, paying bills, or purchasing medications and products, all at the same time. These ideas may help reduce the chaos.

  • Add wall and/or floor coverings to reduce noise in the reception area.
  • Consider using a telephone auto-attendant (ie, an electronic menu with options to transfer to an extension, leave a message, or wait for a team member to pick up) if the practice has a high volume of phone calls.
  • Ensure smooth, efficient workflows (eg, for clients purchasing products, for CSRs checking patients in and out).
  • Ensure CSRs have enough workstations, printers, and scanners that are all in good working order.
  • Ensure the CSRs’ workspace is uncluttered and well-organized.
  • Have other team members (eg, veterinary assistants, veterinary nurses) help process clients checking in and out during high-volume periods.
  • Move telephones from the front desk to a room elsewhere in the practice where a designated team member handles all the calls; this allows the CSRs at the front desk to focus on the clients without interruption. 
  • Process client payments in examination rooms to avoid congestion in the reception area.

Conclusion

CSR teams are integral to every practice because they impact client satisfaction, patient care, and the team’s work environment, and any extra effort and resources expended to ensure the success of these teams will benefit the entire practice.

1 Appreciate the important role of the CSR team, and ensure team members receive enough support, training, and compensation.

2 Avoid the “front versus back” mentality and create a one-team culture by developing workflows and procedures with input from the entire team to ensure every team member knows everyone’s role and responsibilities.

References

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