I love my receptionists

November 12, 2018
Julie Cappel, DVM

Dr. Julie Cappel owns Warren Woods Veterinary Hospital in Warren, Michigan. She served as president of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association in 2015.

Pay attention to the needs of your veterinary hospital's receptionists. They do a terrific job every day to keep problems in the front from affecting the veterinarians in the back.

How doctors love great receptionists! Let us count the ways ... (Adobe Stock)Recently, I was the only doctor working at my very busy hospital, because my two associate veterinarians were away at a summer conference. On the one hand, it can be fun to be the only doctor, because I've got the entire support team at my disposal. The down side is, I'm responsible for everything-every pet and client who comes through the door. It can be overwhelming, especially when clients don't behave as expected.

Thank goodness for my veterinary receptionist team, defending the front of the house.

Receptionists keep our practices from 'going to the birds'-for birds' sake, too

Veterinary receptionists are terrific at handling everything important-from the initial client contact by phone, to the collecting of charges, to the “Have a nice day” goodbye. They handle very important things, which I sometimes forget, as I'm frantically moving from exam room to exam room. They're rock stars as they deal with a steady stream of clients and pets. They handle phone shoppers, appointment scheduling, price quotes, prescription and food pick up, client concerns, dogs barking and even the occasional “accident” on the reception room floor. They handle our regular cast of client characters, with style and grace.

I saw a great example of this while I was soloing. Early in the day, I was scheduled to see a woman and her teenage daughter with the daughter's little pet bird. The mother was obviously unhappy from the minute she walked in the door about having to spend money on an inexpensive pet. The mother scowled as the veterinary technician escorted her into the exam room. She sat, glaring, with her arms crossed and grunted while her daughter talked with me about the pet bird.

She didn't say much of anything except when I suggested that surgery might be needed: “We are not going to pay for surgery on a $19 bird.” I told her that I understood and that I would do my best to treat the pet with medication, which I sent home.

Once she was back at the front desk , the woman exploded at my receptionist. She berated the receptionist, who had nothing to do with the charges, and threatened to leave a bad review for us on Yelp because of the “outrageous” bill. My receptionist kept calm and cool explaining the services rendered. She was kind, warm and patient. She may not have won over this particular client, but she did impress everyone in reception.

Other clients see them too …

The very next appointment was a couple who'd seen the interaction between the receptionist and the woman. They came to me impressed and in awe that my receptionist had stayed calm in the face of the rudeness. I told them that it was all in a day's work for these rock stars of my front desk. It's something they deal with infrequently, but also far too often. They take the brunt of most of the problems that occur in any business. They're client service professionals of the highest caliber.

So, remember to love your veterinary receptionists. Pay attention to their needs. They're so important to the success of the veterinary team. They guard you from the cruel world that waits outside your veterinary hospital doors.

Selfishly, I'd like to honor my own rock stars: Joanna, Adrian, Erika, Jace and Miranda as well as my manager, Kathy, for the terrific job they do every day to keep problems in the front from affecting the doctors in the back. We appreciate and love you every day.

If you have a receptionist you love, leave a comment below so they'll feel your support.

Julie Cappel, DVM, works as a small animal and exotic pet veterinarian, leadership and life coach. She has been a practice owner for more than 20 years, running a four-doctor veterinary practice in Warren, Michigan.