Managers: 5 reasons receptionists hate you


Managers listen up: Your receptionists have spoken and they have a lot to say about your management style. Check out this list of management failures-created by attendees in continuing education courses on reception skills-and see if you fall into any one of these five categories. Then study the solutions so you can better serve your team.

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1. Managers who resist change.

This seems to be veterinary receptionists' most common frustration. The receptionists I work with learn about not just the nuts and bolts of their position but also how to be a team player and how to excel in customer care and relationship building. They leave excited and enthusiastic to implement what they have learned. Many go back to managers who will embrace the changes. However, I do hear, “I'm just the receptionist, no one will listen to me and nothing will improve.”

Solution: Managers need to be open and constantly looking for things to improve. Team members have good ideas and we should use every brain on our team. Encourage team members who attend continuing education to educate the group when they return. One or two good ideas can really improve customer care in your practice.

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2. Managers who don't lead.

These are the comments I hear privately: “What would you do when your manager is the problem?” “She doesn't discipline or dismiss poor quality workers. She hides in her office and doesn't know what's going on with staff.”

Solution: After more than 30 years of management, I firmly believe in terminating employees that tear down the fabric of the team. It's better to work with someone wonderful for one year than someone terrible for 10. Document poor employee performance and dismiss the problem employees.

3. Managers who don't protect team members.

This is sad. Allowing abusive clients to verbally or even physically attack your team is inexcusable. One receptionist told me of an incident where a client threw a toy from the retail counter at her and the practice manager did nothing.

Solution: I am very proud of one practice owner who took action after he overheard a client berating his receptionist. The owner followed the angry client out to the parking lot and “fired” her. This receptionist was glowing when she told the story-she felt truly valued as an employee. Staff members should be treated as well as your best client. It's our job as managers to protect and care for our team.

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4. Managers who don't motivate.

A manager's job isn't to do the work but to see that the work gets done. That's why receptionists get frustrated by lack of delegation. If you don't trust your staff to do the work then you hired the wrong people.

Solutions: Good receptionists want to do more, get more responsibility, and use their brains to bring ideas for improvement to the workplace. Turn loose and let them.

5. Managers who don't train their employees.

I ask receptionists, “Who has a job description or a formal training program?” Out of nearly 700 attendees, maybe 50 raise their hands. Not surprising, but disappointing not the less-when receptionists are given little to no direction they don't know whether they should keep doing what they're doing or step up their game.

Solutions: Try this exercise: ask your team members to write down traits they would choose in their perfect teammate-someone they would be working with for the next five years. Keep these suggestions in mind when managing your practice and use them as a guide when you train and motivate your staff.

Editor's note: Author Debbie Boone originally shared these thoughts in the Veterinary Hospital Manager's Association newsletter.

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