I've worked the front desk and I smiled at veterinary clients because I wanted to-not because I had to.
I recently read Dr. Andy Rollo's Hot Button article, "The worst job in the hospital" (January 2012), and I appreciate that he realizes the challenges of working the front desk. However, I must disagree with his conclusion that receptionists have the worst gig in the clinic. For the first 15 years of my career I was the hospital administrator of a five-doctor small animal practice and I also worked the front desk. I thought being the receptionist was the best job in the hospital and many of my current students, whom I teach reception skills, agree.
I smiled at clients not because I had to but because I wanted to. My team and I enjoyed interacting with pet owners because when you reach out to clients with genuine care and concern, you usually receive the same in return. Angry client tirades are rare when a well-trained team communicates thoroughly and clients aren't blindsided by surprise treatments or undiscussed veterinary fees.
Debbie Boone, CVPM
We kept the front of the clinic clean because we took pride in our hospital—after all, we only had one chance to make a good first impression. One of our top goals was for clients to know right away that they'd walked into an exceptional veterinary clinic.
Sure, the schedule got backed up from time to time and clients had to wait, but that's the receptionist's time to shine. We entertained clients and tested our wits to shuffle the schedule to accommodate all. These were the prime opportunities to strengthen client bonds and keep these pet owners coming back to our clinic.
Yes, as receptionists we were asked medical questions beyond our knowledge. But when we hunted down the answers we were given the opportunity to advance and strengthen our skill set so we'd be prepared next time. Learning medical information also helped us better communicate with the team and offer suggestions on how to educate clients and point out commonly asked questions.
On those days when insanity ruled and the front desk was hopping, we pulled out all of the stops to make it look easy so our clients felt safe and secure leaving their pets in our care. The time flew by and, oddly enough, we didn't make mistakes because we were so focused on caring for our clients and taking care of all the details. We didn't even blink—it was fun!
Receptionists have the inexpressible joy of celebrating a new "baby" pet and the great honor and privilege of arranging the final goodbye to a long-time companion. We interact daily with animals of all kinds yet never have to inflict discomfort. If receptionists are lucky enough to work in a great practice for a long period of time, we also get to watch our clients' children grow up to have children and pets of their own.
We're there through personal client tragedies and triumphs: weight loss successes, cancer treatments, divorces, children graduating, and new grandchildren. Often we're the only support clients have with the exception of their pet. So they become our very special clients and we fuss over them like family.
Is the job tough? Of course! Is it stressful? Sometimes. Is it worth it? You bet. The greatest privilege is to provide service to others and receptionists have the best opportunity to do that in the hospital.
Debbie Boone, CVPM, is the owner of 2 ManageVets consulting. She is certified in customer service and teaches reception skills classes for veterinary teams. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and sound off at dvm360.com/comment.