5 tips from the front lines: The Veterinary Receptionist of the Year shares advice


Emotional intelligence distinguishes great receptionists from OK front desk workers, says veterinary hospital veteran Bob Gauthier.

Emotional savvy and a reliable team empower successful receptionists, says Bob Gauthier, the Receptionist of the Year in the 2015 Petplan Veterinary Awards.

Gauthier has been a receptionist with Red Mountain Animal Hospital in Mesa, Arizona, for 17 years. Gauthier offers up these tips to help front desk team members to grow in their critical role:

1. Project enthusiasm

“My golden rule is when you pick up the phone, put on a smile before you do,” Gauthier says. 

Smiling boosts your mood and prepares you for any call, whether it's a beloved client calling about a soul-wrenching euthanasia case or a giddy pet owner calling about vaccinations for a new puppy. Your enthusiasm should be genuine, though. Gauthier thinks folks can sniff out insincerity.

2. Be compassionate

Empathetic receptionists can forge a client bond that's deeper than the professional relationship. Gauthier says sometimes it just takes a kind willingness to explain difficult or scary medical concepts. His background as a paramedic enables him to explain what certain diagnoses such as congestive heart failure or glaucoma mean for clients' pets.

“The more I did it, the more I saw how the anxiousness left their voice and the scared look in their eyes diminished,” Gauthier says. “They realized, ‘Oh yeah, Grandma went through this' or ‘I had an uncle go through it' and we're basically treating the same thing.”

3. Don't take things personally

Clients will vent about problems such as waiting for an overdue appointment. If they complain or express their grievances, don't take it personally, Gauthier says. The same irate client usually won't carry his or her complaint into the exam room and back to you at the end of the visit.                                   

4. Ensure follow-through

Always be consistent to avoid trouble, he says. If you can't finish a promised task or favor or call for a client by the end of your shift, be sure the issue won't slip through the cracks.  

Don't tell a client you're going to do something, and fail to do it, Gauthier says. Instead, he urges team members to imagine that client's frustration when they call the next day and no one knows what's going on, no one's called them back and the client's been sitting all day waiting.

5. Rely on teamwork

The actions of each and every employee shape the practice, Gauthier says.  

“I firmly believe everybody in the practice is an important team member. I remember that no matter what [seemingly small task] they're doing, it's either going to help or hurt the practice, which in turn will help or hurt us personally,” Gauthier says.

Recognizing when coworkers are struggling is part of teamwork, he says. One simple step: If you notice an overwhelmed receptionist, offer to cover the desk for five to 10 minutes while the receptionist regains composure.

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