I have worked at the front desk of a real estate office, insurance office, after school workshop company, science and math kit sales company, college television station office, college disability services office, and many more temporary or part time office jobs in which I was charged with being the point of contact to the public for my organization.
I have learned many things doing the least respected of jobs, and one of them was how to make my life easier by making sure that communication flowed freely and that everyone knew what was happening and what to expect next. It really cuts down on the laser beam looks of hate while people are angry at someone or something beyond you.
Today was such a great example of how not to run a business, that I wish I could bottle it and send it out. This is a really important lesson for anyone who runs a business, particularly if you have placed a sentinel between you and the walk in traffic and appointments that frequent your corner of the world.
Hospitality is key. Never forget that. If someone feels unwelcome, it is nearly impossible to come back from that.
Here is how today played out and inspired this post:
Our dog needed his follow up x rays for his surgically repaired knee. This was one hell of an expensive surgery and the x rays are no different. We have been here several times, and it is always a hit to the pocketbook.
The surgeon came highly recommended by our regular vet and we are happy with the job she and her team did to repair our dog's leg. They even give us a copy of the x rays if you ask for them.
That said, we will not be back. Ever.
This morning, I took our heavily tranquilized 100+ pound dog to the office for his 10:00 appointment. We were acknowledged on our way in, the woman at the desk did not even need his name or my name, she said "Hi, I will get you checked in." Great. That is perfect. We are a couple minutes early and we will sit and wait.
10:10 rolls around. The front desk technician asks if anyone has come to talk to me or take him back. I say no, no one has been out yet. She disappears.
A few moments later, and she is giving furtive glances around the corner of her window while whispering with another tech. Ok, not my concern. Lots of other things going on here, I am sure.
Ten more minutes go by. I see our doctor. I smile, she smiles. She has a whispered conversation with the woman at the front desk. No one says anything to me, my dog is at my feet, we are going to keep waiting. For now.
Five more minutes go by. At this point, a woman and her dog come in, the first people to come or go from the facility in the time I have been there. She is greeted warmly, taken back to a room with her dog (which is the usual procedure with us as well) and still....no one talks to me. I text my husband and say that at 30 minutes I am going to have to ask them why they had me drug our dog and sit in the waiting room for a simple x ray that doesn't seem like it is going to happen. I will be furious if I drugged my dog only to sit and then have to reschedule. I won't do it to him.
35 minutes after our scheduled appointment, a technician comes out. I have met her before, nice lady...I look at my watch and say "uh, I thought our appointment was at 10?" She says, "yes, we have other appointments going on right now"... we can easily see through the glass front that almost all of the exam room doors are open to empty rooms, (except the one where the earlier mentioned woman and her dog are). I said "Yes, I'm sure but it would not have hurt to let me know that the appointment would be running late." She skips past that, going through her list of questions about how he is doing, etc. and then has me put a muzzle on him so she can take him back for x rays.
Uh....what? Why am in the lobby still? No exam room to speak with the doctor after she looks at the radiographs? All of those rooms appear open and clean, what is going on? The lady at the font disappears for a bit.
I wait a few moments and I go upfront to pay. The woman comes back, tells me she can take my payment, but that they may have to run it again if there is additional medicine prescribed etc. I said sure, that was fine, but he is not taking anything now and I don't anticipate that so I would like to pay while he is back there (since I have already been made to wait extensively without any indication of why or when we would be seen, I would like to leave as soon as possible).
She almost begrudgingly takes my payment and gives me my receipt. Wow. You just charged what 4 regular vet visits cost and you act like it is a personal affront to take my money? The doctor comes out, speaks to me in the lobby (???) about the x rays, says yeah we won't need another visit (which I knew) and there is no need for medicine or anything at this time so we should be all set, just let us know if there are any changes. Yep. Great. Let's leave.
Never, during all of this time, did anyone say a single word to me about what was going on, why I was waiting forever with an empty parking lot and empty rooms.... nothing. Several times the staff found a way to have hushed conversations with each other in full view of the lobby where I waited. I felt disrespected, kept in the lobby like a contagion, and hurried once they found the time to deal with my long standing appointment.
This is the worst type of customer service.
Do not let these people do this to your hard work.
If you have managed to start a business or go to veterinary school or get your CPA or start your own law practice, etc. DO NOT just hire someone with the "right experience" and post them at the front desk and hope that it all works out.
Because behind your hard work and the well crafted exterior and all of your thoughtfulness about how to keep your business booming and customers returning, a snake lurks.
This is how it happens. I am not calling a veterinary surgeon to complain about her front desk tech. I am not ever going to make it my problem to manage your employees. I will however, be taking my money elsewhere for future needs of this type and me and my cash will never darken your doorway again, but you will have no idea why.
Everyone has a bad day once in a while. But if you make it a policy to ignore paying customers who are patiently waiting for a time you set with them, time they are not at their job, not able to get their errands run because they wanted to honor your time.... you will notice that many of those customers don't have great things to say. They don't come and rave about you on Yelp. They may never speak your name at all.
And even though they don't drag you through the mud, it won't matter. Because the person they saw first and last already pulled you down there. All while you did your level best to provide the service you promised. That they are happy with. It just won't matter.
Be very careful. I say this as someone who has held numerable intolerable jobs for complete narcissists....Learn what your front desk person does. Get to know them. Spend time with them and your customers. It could be all the difference.