Gatekeeper: One of the most Powerful Positions in a Practice

Mark Clark Gatekeeper DailyOptician.jpg

Whether anyone has thought about it or talked about it, every practice has a gatekeeper. This person is the optical bouncer; they either allow someone to be made known to the office decision maker or immediately file their information in the front desk trash can. This responsibility falls upon one or more members of the office staff. It is an extremely important position, yet it is rarely considered. This position exists not only to keep your schedule running on time, but it also can actually be a source of revenue!

In the typical office, no one has been told that they have the job description of Gatekeeper. It just seems to happen by accident. Intentional management approaches should leave nothing to accident or chance. Yet even in very structured commercial retail settings, this position is ignored. Since no one has been officially given this title or role, there is no one to monitor their effectiveness. I would encourage each office to assign an official gatekeeper and train them. This person can not only keep the day flowing, but they can be an important part of the practice’s future.

A transformation of thought must happen first with the gatekeeper. They must begin viewing every person who walks through the door as an OPPORTUNITY not an ANNOYANCE. Every business to business representative who walks through the door has also walked through 200 other doors just like yours each year. They may be an encyclopedia of information. Granted, not every B2B representative or company has value, so the gatekeeper must learn to be very discerning and ask a number of questions before the business card goes straight to the trash can. I understand that many who walk through the door may simply be a nuisance. But we don’t lock the front door simply because a patient is annoying. Instead we put on a smile and recognize the opportunity. We must realize the same opportunity in the other people who walk through our doors as well.

I cannot tell you how many times a business owner has told me “I wish I had met you years ago.” I usually reply, “I tried, but your gatekeeper threw my information in the trash.” One of the particular owners who expressed this sentiment, later sold me his practice when he was struggling. His very gatekeeper which threw away my information became my employee. And with a little incentive and training, she became an awesome gatekeeper. She would brief me with information each day with the business cards of those who had stopped. Her comments would be “I think this guy has a better deal for our website”, “I heard that the factory in town is switching insurance, do we want to be a provider”, or “this rep said that XYZ office might be closing soon and selling records”. Such information has massive value.

The words of my stellar gatekeeper often saved, or helped us increase revenue. She thrived in her new job while still keeping a handle on my schedule. Instead of constantly slamming a gate with abandon, she now acted more spotter in the eagle’s nest. Her job was now about noticing subtle winds of change and spotting things before our competition. Getting Credentialed ahead of our competition for the local factory’s new plan was one of the largest ways she contributed to our increase in revenue through intentional gatekeeping.

Gatekeepers need to be aware of the requirements of their job. They also need to be given oil to do their job successfully. Arm them with questions like: “What makes you different from the other frame or lens companies?”, “What are you hearing out there on the road?”, “Where is the optical frame, lens, or insurance market going?” or “What are the complaints you are hearing?" With a little intentional management, the gatekeeper can be a very effective office growth tool.