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Customer service secrets of great receptionists...

by
01 April 2015, at 12:00am

PAUL GREEN looks at how differently clients can be dealt with by different people at the front desk, identifies seven different types of receptionist and provides 10 secrets of success for this vital role

ONCE there was a dog owner called Bill. One morning, he took his dog to his vets for a routine booster appointment.

When he arrived at the practice, he was greeted by a nurse/receptionist called Sharon. She was on the phone at the time, but made eye contact with him, smiled, and gestured that she’d be with him in a minute or two.

Putting the phone down and writing something on her pad, Sharon then said: “Hello, it’s Mr Jones, isn’t it? Can I call you Bill? And this must be Pinky!”

At which point she gave the dog a great deal of affection. Which was reciprocated, of course. Sharon then said: “Lets get you booked in, Bill. Our vet is running 10 minutes late, but I’ll do what I can to get you seen quickly. First off, let’s check your contact details.

“Now, there’s something very important the vet is going to ask you about. We’ve come up with a clever way for you to spread the cost of keeping Pinky healthy. It’s called a health club, and it’s all about getting him in front of the vet more regularly, and helping you spread the cost of preventive healthcare.

“In fact, if you wanted to go ahead today, then today’s consultation will cost you nothing. Here’s some information about it. Can you read this leaflet before your consultation please, so you know what to ask the vet about?”

That afternoon, Bill’s twin brother Ben took his dog Perky to the same vets, also for a booster appointment.

Unfortunately, Sharon was at lunch, and Barbara was covering reception. Barbara doesn’t like doing reception.

She was also on the phone. And she must have been really focusing on the call, as she made no attempt to look at Ben. He waited patiently as she finished the call, then typed some stuff on the computer in front of her. Then she looked up at him, and said: “What’s your name?”

“Uh-huh. And the dog’s name?” Barbara didn’t look at the animal as she checked the PMS.

“Right, take a seat please,” she said with the hint of a forced smile on her face, then returned to her computer and carried on typing. In silence. Pausing only to remove the pile of health club leaflets that were getting in her way.

We can all clearly see the difference between the service that Bill and Ben got. And it’s obvious how that would affect their relationship with the practice and what they buy.

Pet owners judge your practice more by what they feel about it than what they think about it. This is why whoever’s on reception directly affects your sales and retention. The way your reception feels and operates most of the time is a reflection on you, the practice owner. As someone who visits a lot of practices, you’d be surprised how much you can learn about a business from the reception experience.

I’ve found there are at least seven different types of person who handle reception duties. Which of these works for you?

Mrs MultiTasker: She’s a nurse, receptionist, practice manager, car washer, has 17 children, and still manages to run the school PTA. Efficiently.

Mrs OverBusy: Gets less done than Mrs MultiTasker, but everyone knows just how much she has to do.

Mrs NotMyMainJob: Reception is a chore that was added on to her core duties years ago.

Mrs Rude: Clients ruin her life just by walking in the door.

Mrs Unhappy: Everything is broken. She is highly likely to be an internal terrorist.

Mrs Content: Everything is awesome. Loyal, happy, responsible. Has probably been there for years, and will continue to be.

Mrs Ancient: Has been there since 1871. Can’t get her head around the “modern practice management system” that was introduced in 1997.

No matter who is doing the job of greeting clients, and no matter what else they have to do, they’ve got to remember that reception is all about customer service.

It’s really about making the client feel great. Everything else is just stuff that has to be done. I’d rather hire a people person who makes everyone feel happy but is slightly disorganised, than I would a cold yet efficient diary manager.

Here are 10 customer service secrets of great receptionists:

  1. Attitude is everything. You can teach new skills to someone with the right attitude. But it’s impossible to change the attitude of anyone, even those who are highly skilled. Always hire for attitude, not skillset.
  2. They are warm, friendly and fascinated. They smile with their eyes and body.
  3. They prioritise what’s really important. Which is making the client feel great first, and ensuring the practice runs efficiently second.
  4. They use their ears and mouth in proportion. People tell you what they want all the time; you just have to be listening. They also keep life and work separate … clients don’t want to hear about anyone else’s broken washing machine. They want to focus on their pet and whatever they’re talking to the vet about today.
  5. They’re highly organised. They are task-oriented jugglers. But they do one thing at a time, so stuff doesn’t fall between the cracks.
  6. They take copious notes that others can read. It’s easier and less rude to write on a pad while talking to a client. So long as the PMS is updated later, that can work.
  7. They are the practice’s go-to PMS expert.
  8. They fix lots of little problems without banging on about it.
  9. They are the hub of the business. You trust them implicitly.
  10. They understand what they are really there to do.

One way you can achieve much of this in your practice is to get rid of that horrible “R” word.

Receptionists are what GPs employ for crowd control (and we all know what a bad experience that can be).

Why not instead rename your receptionist as “Head of First Impressions”? Sounds like a comedy title. But actually, what a great way to focus them on what’s most important in their role.