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.
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!