Is your Receptionist turning away customers?

Is your Receptionist turning away customers?

pic courtesy of user borissey

Is your receptionist helping or hindering your business? Lately, I have run into several that were doing a great job turning away my business. Here’s what happened and my thoughts on initial steps to improve the impression your critical front line employees like receptionists are giving your customers.


The Veterinarian Receptionist

The first situation was with my veterinarian. My family and I have been loyal clients, bringing our pets to this particular vet for 30 years. Recently, I moved to a town which is a half hour away.  Regardless of this, I continued to drive to the same vet for more than a year. Until my last appointment a few months ago.  I ran into unexpected traffic on the highway on a Saturday morning, arrived 10 minutes late, rushed in the door and immediately apologized. The receptionist’s reply? “You’ll have to reschedule.”  No questions asked, no apology for not being able to fit me in, ultimately no attempt to help the business. After I told her where I live and that I wasn’t sure when I could get there again, she shrugged. When I said I would find another vet, she ignored me and answered the phone. So I did just that. I will not go back to that vet, and neither will my family.

The Salon Receptionist

More recently, I needed to have my hair done. I called my salon, where I’ve been a client for 10 years and where I’ve referred countless friends. When I asked for an appointment with my regular stylist, I was told she was booked for the date I requested, so I asked about a 2nd stylist, then a 3rd. All were either off or too busy to see me that day. I then said “I guess I’ll try to find another salon.” The receptionist said “okay”, and hung up.  Now, a woman will make a lot of allowances for a great hairsylist, but this was the 3rd time this type of thing had happened with this salon.

So I did find another salon. I got a great cut and colour, and I’ll likely go back there.

My thoughts…

Receptionist need Soft Skills Training

These receptionists were apathetic rather than empathetic, and they displayed no problem solving skills. Training for this position likely consisted of an explanation of how to use the phone and computer, and how to bill people. The softer skills are what is missing. They should be taught to find solutions if they can’t satisfy the initial request a customer has. In my salon example, I was obviously open to seeing other stylists, and if the receptionist had offered that or another nearby date, I would have likely taken her up on the offer.

Teach the Purpose of the Receptionist Role (and that’s not to answer phones)

Ultimately, both of these receptionists likely think that their job is to answer the phones and book appointments.  They should be taught that their role is to build loyal customers and ensure that your business is as profitable as possible.  From a “hearts and minds” point of view, these people were taught the rational side of their job, the basic tasks. But they were not taught to engage the hearts of their customers. Teach your receptionists that their role is critical to your business. They are the ones who actually come into contact with every single customer that deals with you, and their role is to do what they can to build positive relationships and your business.

I believe that the front line is the most important yet often undervalued role in organizations. Spend time with front line workers like receptionists to ensure they really understand how they impact your customers and your business.

If you need a customized training program, communication, or other people program for developing awesome customer experience, that’s what I do. Contact me!


  1. September 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    [...] with your business – from your advertising to the interaction with your sales people and receptionist to the impression your equipment and facility makes and [...]

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  2. October 15, 2012 at 8:41 am

    [...] hers. She was personable and friendly to everyone who came in. Your receptionist can build or kill your customer or vendor relationships. Bonnie is definitely a [...]

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  3. Maddison
    December 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Agreed, now I dont mean to say that all recepionists are dumb; but young women have this idea that being a receptionist is a highly coveted job and creates a high sense of self importance. In my experience with reception, I was in my later teens and being trained by two older women in theri 50's who eventually moved on leaving me to run reception for the company(which was a sailing club). The girls were SO lazy. Some were older than me, two were younger than me. My boss decided to make MANY receptionists, which caused a lot of problems. They would be on facebook all day. I would leave messages and they would never be passed on. To top it off, when people were complaining about their meals upstairs, we were cop the brunt of it and all the girls would say "You can fill out a complaint form in the box". Some of the receptionists couldnt SPELL! Most of them just enjoyed sitting down all day and doing NOTHING and scowled when there was work to be done. Our boss was smart and held a meeting teaching us about contact with patrons. He told us all about having a positive face when people were around and expecially on the phone. Most of the girls became slack with bookings over the phone, and just wouldnt answer the calls and sometimes just lie about how much room we had availiable if a big table wanted to book. Nobody enjoyed the job ultimatley because of the way the business was handled as well so in doing so a very negative workplace brewed from bad decision making and the company was whispered as bankrupt. I saw first hand how un-empathetic the girls were to patrons. I gave up after a while being the only one who was actually willing to help people, trying to lead by example and then eventually, I left. Receptionists, especially younger ones, need to be kept an eye on.

    Reply »

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