How To Empower Your Intake Coordinator ft. Jamie Mache & Luci Carrillo

Your intake coordinator cares for the lifeblood of your practice - your intake process. Join Luci Carrillo & Jamie Mache as they share with you how to empower one of the most valuable assets on your team.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

  • How you can not only empower your intake coordinator, but also make them FEEL empowered
  • How you can build trust in and with your intake coordinator
  • Some mistakes to avoid

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

The Productive Practice book
Therapy Intake Pro

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Luci
Hello and welcome to the Productive Therapist Podcast! My name is Luci and I am joined today by my fabulous co host, Jamie. Hi, Jamie! How are you?

Jamie
Good. How are you?

Luci
Yeah, good, thanks. I'm excited to talk about this topic. This is something you and I have felt passionate about for ages, isn't it?

Jamie
It is. Empowering your intake coordinator is one of the most important things that you can do for your practice.

Luci
Yeah, I would agree with that. Absolutely. So in this episode, we're going to share with you some of the positive actions we found through years of working with practice owners that can help you to not only empower your intake coordinator, but also to help them feel empowered. There's a subtle but important difference there which we'll chat about a bit later. So why is this important? Well, as a practice owner, you most likely started out as a solo practitioner. You built your procedures and processes from the ground up, and now you have an amazing group practice to show for it. But at a certain point, you likely saw the need to add an intake coordinator to the team, take that intake process off your plate. And so they are now responsible for keeping your clinicians as full as possible with a steady influx of clients. And as we all know, this intake process is the lifeblood of your practice. So it's vital to give your intake coordinator the tools and support they need to keep this chugging along at maximum capacity while obviously helping them to maintain their passion and energy levels for their job. So how can you achieve this? That is what we're going to discuss today. And I know, Jamey, you have a lot of thoughts about this as well. So let's get into it. First bullet point that we have written down is to make sure that they have proper training and a proper manual for procedures. Why do you feel this is so important, Jamie?

Jamie
The most important reason is so that they have the knowledge on what they need to do their position. And the proper manual is so they can do it in the manner that you want it done. So they have that to refer back to if they have any questions. So they make sure that they are handling things for your practice in the manner and the method that you want it to be done.

Luci
I love that. It's not just to give them the information they need, but the way that you want it done. It's an important difference, isn't there?

Jamie
Yeah, it is. And that also gives them the ability to have the information to make the decisions that may be needed if you're not available. So if you're on vacation, enjoying yourself, not being contacted by your intake coordinator to ask a question, that they have that intake manual, they have the SOPs needed to know if this happens, this is the procedure or the steps to take, and they can do that. So your practice can run efficiently if you are away or enjoying a lovely afternoon lunch with a friend.

Luci
Yeah, that's a great point. And that dovetails nicely with our next point, which is to trust your intake coordinator and give them autonomy in making decisions. Now, this is a big, scary one for most practice owners because they started their practice from scratch. They know every little inside working of the practice. They made very deliberate choices to build it, to include the procedures that they have today. Handing that over or handing over the autonomy to make decisions about some of those things to someone that basically starts out as a complete stranger can be incredibly difficult to do, can't it? And we've absolutely seen this with countless practice owners. I know you have, particularly, Jamie, when you go through your strategy calls to help practice owners get ready to work with our virtual assistants. So what in your experience can help a practice owner to get to the point where they can trust and hand over this autonomy for decisions to an intake coordinator? Because that's very hard to let go, right?

Jamie
It is hard. And like I say, the practice is their baby. They started it, they created it, they grew it to what it is today. And it is hard to basically hand the torch off and trust somebody else to have the same intentions on their decisions that you would for your practice. So the practice owner is entrusting a lot to their intake coordinator. And it's important to show that you have that trust so the intake coordinator is confident and knows that the practice owner has basically their back on what they do and the decisions that they make. And it only will strengthen the intake coordinator for your practice and make it just flourish.

Luci
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with that. And trust, like in any relationship, takes time to build up, doesn't it? It's not something that you immediately start with. In a professional setting, it may be slightly different because your intake coordinator may come to you with certain experience. Maybe they've done this job at another practice. Maybe they have years of experience in the mental health industry. Maybe they're also a certified or licensed therapist themselves. So knowing that they have some background in some of those things can help speed up the trust process. But it's still definitely incremental. But as a practice owner, if you can start out with your intake coordinator with the intention that you are going to trust them, you are going to give them autonomy in making decisions for the benefit of your practice, at least when it comes to the intake process. That's going to help you to be more intentional about looking for ways and reasons to trust your intake coordinator. And it is, like you said, it's a leap of faith at a certain point because you're never going to feel completely comfortable as a practice owner handing off, what was the word you used? It's like your baby. You're not going to feel completely comfortable handing this off to somebody else. But as you build trust and you do start to hand those things over incrementally and your intake coordinator shows you that they can be trusted with those tasks, with that role, that's going to build your confidence and trust in them even more. So it becomes even easier to build that relationship.

Jamie
Absolutely. And one great way to start with that trust and the confidence in your intake coordinator is, for example, staying out of the admin email account. Oh, my goodness. Yes. The email account that your intake coordinator is in charge of, that is their task. And that is, I would say, the number one easiest way to show your intake coordinator that you are trusting them is to stay out of that. Trust that they are responding to all of the inquiries, they are following up when they need to and not micromanaging or helicoptering over them about that, not popping in and say, I saw Jane email. Did you get back to her? Trust that your intake coordinator is doing that and taking care of everything.

Luci
Yeah, that's a really good point. We see that a lot with practice owners, don't we? That's something that they really struggle with, or a lot struggle with at the beginning is not jumping into the admin email to see if something's been taken care of. Because it is their baby, they care about it. But also to keep doing that, actually not even to keep doing it, to do it at all, then it's a message to your intake coordinator that you don't trust them. And that is so the opposite of feeling empowered, isn't it?

Jamie
It is. And that also leads for what I would say is a big bad thing for your practice is your intake coordinator could be taking care of it at the moment that you pop in and you decide, oh, and you may have the best intentions at heart. Like, oh, I'll just respond to this one email so my intake coordinator doesn't have to. And there is the biggest possibility that your intake coordinator is also taking care of it. So your client could be getting an email from both you and your intake coordinator. They could have different information on it. So that doesn't have your practice in the best light with that client because it looks like you're very disorganized. So that is also another reason to have your intake coordinator be the only one having that email account.

Luci
Yeah, absolutely. And that really brings us into a discussion about communication. We've seen it time and time again, having open and honest communication with your intake coordinator is absolutely vital, not just for the health of the practice, but the health of your relationship with your intake coordinator. It's going to help build that trust if you and they communicate freely and openly with each other. And we have seen a productive therapist, something that has really helped our virtual assistants is having a dedicated time weekly or biweekly with their practice owner to communicate how are things going from your perspective as the practice owner, from the virtual assistant or the intake coordinator's perspective? Have there been any challenges come up? How could we resolve them? Does the intake coordinator have any suggestions about that? Or the practice owner, for that matter, having that dedicated time that they know they'll have with you to keep the intake process chugging along and improving where possible? We've definitely seen that to be a huge advantage, haven't we, Jamie?

Jamie
Yeah, it absolutely is an advantage. It gives your intake coordinator the dedicated one on one time with you and it's uninterrupted. So you can get through a lot within 15 or 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with one person. So to give your working relationship the best foundation that you can, I would say that along with the proper training and the manuals and SOPs, those two things right there, the one on one and the knowledge are the most important things to have the solid foundation with your intake coordinator.

Luci
Yeah, absolutely. Another thing that's going to help that is obviously making sure that you as the practice owner are available for communication. I think there's an expression, isn't there? There's no such thing as over communication. But then you and I have also seen it happen with certain practice owners. There's another extreme to that, which is no, not another extreme. There's another side to that, micromanaging. So can you give an example, Jamey, of one situation where we saw that with a practice owner? And how can we find the balance between over-communicating and micro-managing? What would you say?

Jamie
Right. So the micromanaging part of that that we have experienced is a practice owner emailed their intake coordinator an amount of 12 to 15 emails within a very short amount of time. And what I mean when I'm referencing a short amount of time, like under 10 minutes. And so it was email after email after email, checking up and doing everything. I can't imagine. Yeah, that is very difficult and it doesn't feel good as an intake coordinator to be receiving that. So how I would suggest is that the practice owner, like, gather their thoughts, like what they want to cover, the information with their intake coordinator and send it within one or two emails or better yet, ask them if they want to have a call. It's not like the old, and I'm also dating myself, is it the AOL, like the ding, ding, ding, ding.

Luci
Oh, my goodness! 'You've got mail!'

Jamie
The email numbers, the numbers of the notifications just keep growing and growing and growing. So gather your thoughts, send it within one or two emails, or like I suggested, ask them if they're available for a quick 10, 15 minute phone call, and you can discuss it that way. So that way they're not feeling overwhelmed, not trusted, like, okay, they don't think that I'm taking care of things. They're double checking on basically everything I've done today. So that also is a way of having to plan how you communicate with your intake coordinator. And another part of that is respecting your intake coordinator's working hours, having those boundaries, don't text them after working hours, don't call them after working hours. Have that respect for your intake coordinator is huge. We all understand, yes, there may be some information that popped into your head and you want to get it out there before you forget in the morning. So you can send it in an email or make yourself a little note about it. But again, plan your communication so they don't come in to see that they have 25 emails from you. But also with that respect of their working hours of not asking them to do something after hours or texting them about something, having that respect is also a really big one.

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Luci
That's a really good point. I love that. Yeah, we've absolutely seen that happen. I can I can understand that from the practice owner's perspective because I'm sure that they know that their intake coordinator is not working. But if you send an email, you may be thinking, I don't expect them to check it now. It's just that I don't forget. I want to make sure that they know this when they come in tomorrow or whenever they get back. And the same goes for phone calls. You may not be expecting your intake coordinator to pick up the phone. You may expect it to go to voicemail and you'd leave a voicemail. But the problem is your intake coordinator really cares about what they do and it is incredibly difficult. If you see a phone call or a voicemail come in from your practice owner, or your phone pings and tells you you have an email from your practice owner, it is a strong intake coordinator indeed, who can resist the urge to listen to that voicemail or look at that email. So although you may have, like, the best of intentions, a way round that could be, if you don't just want to make a note for yourself and hopefully remember, we understand you want to get that out of your head so you don't have to think about it anymore. Schedule your email. Instead of hitting the send button right away, create the email. And then, Gmail offers this option. And many email softwares offer the same. You can schedule the email. So have it set to go out so that they see it when they come into the office first thing tomorrow morning, or when they get back from their vacation, get them the email. They're still going to see it and get to it within work hours. You all have it out of your head and you'll know that they're going to see it. But it will mean that they don't have to interrupt their personal life with anxiety or stress. Is it a big deal? Do I need to check on it? Do I need to do something? Which really helps them to keep a work life balance and be 100 % present for you when they are working. And the same could go with leaving them a voicemail. Instead of doing that to their personal phone, maybe send them a message through the practices' communication channel, whether that's WhatsApp or Slack, maybe use internal messaging with one of your EHRs or with your EHR, trying to structure it so that the VA or the intake coordinator doesn't get this ping or series of pings to their phone telling them you need to check this right now or making them feel that way. What do you think, Jamie?

Jamie
Absolutely. And then to add on to that, when your intake coordinator is going on vacation, I do this with my team. I tell them to uninstall all of their work apps off of their phone. So there is no temptation to pop in and check an email or check, like you said, WhatsApp or Slack. I ask my team to delete all of that and then reinstall them when they are back from that vacation. So they can totally disconnect from work and do what you're supposed to do on vacation is relax and rejuvenate yourself. So you are your best when you come back.

Luci
Yeah, that's a really great point. That feels like a big deal as an intake coordinator to race all the app. But they're going to be in the cloud, so you just download them again when you get back, right?

Jamie
Absolutely. Everything is right there. If you have an iPhone, everything. You know which apps that you have. You just go back and reclick and everything will come right back up. If you use a password management platform, all of your login information will automatically be there. So it truly is a seamless thing to do. Yes, it's very like, Oh, my gosh, I have to delete all of those. But it's the best thing that you can ask your intake coordinator to do when they do have that vacation because you really don't want them to be checking in for work. And it's hard to do that. I myself am guilty of checking in when I have planned time off. The best way for me not to do it is to delete my apps or go somewhere where I have no cell service.

Luci
Yeah, ditto that. I'm guilty of it as well. I think it's really difficult when you care so much about your job and making sure that the team that you work with have what they need to be successful. It is very difficult to do that, but you can't give your best to them if you're not taking proper time to refresh and rejuvenate yourself, like you said, can you?

Jamie
Right.

Luci
Yeah. So another way that we have found that really helps an intake coordinator to feel empowered is to show that you have confidence in them. And this could be in a couple of different areas. We always suggest to our practice owners that their virtual assistant, their intake coordinator, be included in staff meetings, especially if they're remote, because seeing that interaction between the intake coordinator and the practice owner is very reassuring for the rest of your team because they see that you trust this person, you have confidence in them, they hear this person speak, they know that this person has their back. So it helps your team to build confidence in this person as well, which ultimately gives you more time back because they're not coming to you asking questions all the time that they could ask the intake coordinator. So that can really have a big benefit for you. Another way that you can show you have confidence in your intake coordinator is to support their decisions. I know that you have some strong feelings about this, Jamey. Do you want to share those?

Jamie
Right. Not the big part is empower them to make the decisions, but then also you need to support the decisions that they made. And for example, if they made a decision and then the client comes back and the client is a little unhappy about something, don't throw your intake coordinator under the bus and do that. You need to support the decision that they made because that does not feel good as an intake coordinator. When I first started with productive therapist and one of the members that I was working with would do this to me on a frequent occasion, and it did not feel good. A best practice owner would do it mainly with their clinicians and sometimes do stuff and it doesn't feel good being basically the fall person. Especially when I had no knowledge that this was happening at the time. And so support your intake coordinator. Don't throw them under the bus. If something happens and you would like something done differently, have that discussion with them to let them know, Hey, I didn't really like how this was handled in the future. Can you handle it this way? So they have that knowledge and they know how to handle it in the future. And so you have the confidence in them and their ability and they are confident in it as well.

Luci
Yeah, I love that. And doing that or not doing that can have a big knock on effect for your practice because the intake coordinator is the first point of contact, usually with your practice, aren't they? And if they feel like they don't have your support, like you have been throwing them under the bus, it's going to impact the energy and the enthusiasm with which they do their job. And people hear that. Callers hear that. And if they feel like, well, the intake coordinator isn't particularly excited about this practice, maybe I shouldn't be either. I think I'll move on and try a different one. Just that alone, even if they use exactly the same call script, if their enthusiasm level changes, callers are going to hear that. And that's going to be reflected in your intake, in your conversion percentages. So even just from a slightly selfish perspective, it makes a huge difference for the good for you as a practice owner, to make sure that your intake coordinator feels supported. And like Jamie said, don't throw them under the bus. If they did something that was not quite how you would like it dealt with, it's like mummy and Daddy in front of the kids, you make sure that you have a united front and then behind the scenes, then as Jamie said, you talk to them about it and maybe adjust things for the future. But make sure that they feel supported in public because that's going to have a serious effect on their confidence level if you don't. It's really important. One of the last points that we have, which is super important, it falls under that category of the difference between empowering and making your intake coordinator feel empowered. There is a difference because you may feel like you're doing everything right. You're giving them all the tools, all the support. But if your intake coordinator doesn't actually feel empowered, it's all for naught. So one of the ways that we have seen a big difference in how this is applied is in being open, not just to hearing their ideas and suggestions, but also to trying them. Ask yourself when they make a suggestion, Is this going to cause problems to try a different way, or am I just being possessive about the way I set it up? Because if it isn't going to cause problems and you can say, Okay, sure, let's try it, that is going to really help your intake coordinator to not only be empowered, but feel empowered. How do you feel about that, Jamey?

Jamie
Absolutely. The one thing that I think a lot of practice owners may not have in the forefront of their thought is, especially if they're working with a virtual assistant. That virtual assistant intake coordinator is most likely working with other practices. That intake coordinator has knowledge of how other practices may do something. When they share it with you, that may be something that you never even thought of or had that cross your mind on how to do that with your practice or how that would fit with your practice. So when they do come to you, just know that they're suggesting it mostly based off of the success that they have seen with other practices and that they wouldn't suggest it if they didn't feel like it would be a benefit for your practice.

Luci
Yeah, absolutely. And then our final point that we want to touch on is, respecting your intake coordinator's need for self care and having a long term view that that is going to come back to benefit your practice. If your intake coordinator can feel rested and rejuvenated, and maybe that takes the form of a vacation, maybe it takes the form of a mental health day, maybe it's just sending them some bath salt. Small tokens of appreciation can make a big difference. What are your thoughts on that, Jamey?

Jamie
Absolutely. Everybody loves a pat on the back. I don't know anybody that... Some people may be a little shy about receiving acknowledgement, but deep down, everybody loves the acknowledgement. And so a verbal shout out in a staff meeting, especially if your intake coordinator, you guys had a week that was the most difficult week, or all of the difficult clients decided to surface at the same time or major billing issue and your intake coordinator rocked through whatever the issue was, give them a verbal shout out in the staff meeting or send an email to the whole group practice, publicly acknowledging what achievements that your intake coordinator has done. You can do a card stating your appreciation. Everybody in this digital age, I think a handwritten card is a great token of appreciation. It shows personalization in that you really thought of them. You picked out the card with them in mind. You hand wrote them a note. It goes a huge, huge way of showing. It makes somebody feel good because they're receiving that unexpectedly in the mail one day after work. It can absolutely brighten somebody's evening or afternoon. And then the last one, a random Starbucks card or Dunkin' Donuts. If you know that your intake coordinator has something for, I don't know what other little ones, like a little candle shop that's in their area, you can coordinate to have a gift card sent to them or some flowers or something of that sort. Those small little material gifts also show that you appreciate and acknowledge the hard work that your intake coordinator is doing for your practice.

Luci
Yeah, I love that. That's a really good point because it may only be $15, $20 for you, but when it's packaged in the form of something that shows you put thought into it, like Jamie said, the local candle store, I love that. It's really cute. It has a much greater perceived value to your intake coordinator because you put extra thought into it. That's a really great suggestion. Okay, so we have had some fantastic points brought out today. Hopefully, some of those will be helpful to you. It can be challenging to figure out ways to not only empower your intake coordinator, but also to make them feel empowered. We hope we've given you some ideas that you can implement with that. And again, you're only going to see the benefit in your practice if you do these things. It may take a little bit of extra time or thought, but your intake coordinator is responsible for arguably one of the most important roles in your practice, making sure that your clinicians stay full, that you have a steady stream of ideal clients, that the practice stays healthy and can grow. So it is absolutely worth the time and effort and a little bit of expense, possibly, to make sure that they feel empowered. So if you want to optimize your intake process, keep your amazing intake coordinator with your practice long term, it is vital to proactively look for ways to empower them. And of course, if you're looking for more in-depth training for the intake coordinator role, we always have Therapy intake Pro, which is the gold standard training for intake coordinators in our industry. You can check that out at TherapyIntakePro.com, and we'll make sure to include the link to that in the show notes. Jamie and I are thrilled that we've been able to share some of our experience to help you, and we will look forward to seeing you in the next episode. Bye, Jamie!

Jamie
Bye.

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