Are you chasing off clients?

Are you chasing off clients?

Too often our sign says "welcome" but our attitudes say "go away." Here's a look at some of the mixed messages we send to clients.
Aug 01, 2006

I'm not a morning person. So my meal schedule varies a little from the norm. I often eat dinner between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and I sometimes stop at a sandwich stop on my way home for the quick-fix meal. But when I cruise into the parking lot 15 minutes before closing, I'm never welcomed. In fact, the negative experience starts as I look into the deli and see all the chairs on the tables.

An employee stands guard by the door, mop in hand, as if ready to bolt the door as soon as the second hand hits the top of the 9 o'clock hour. His glare is quite clear and translates as, "You're not really going to come in and order now?" Indeed I do, every time.

"I'd like to order a sandwich," I say, and out comes the meat and bread that's already been put to bed for the night. I do give them some credit. They at least set out the bright yellow "warning" sign to tell me the tile is wet. But I often feel it's more of a warning that employees will be sprinting for the door soon.

This experience and others like it inspired me to evaluate the hospital where I work. Do we post someone to guard the door with a mop at the end of the day? This possibility disturbs me. That end-of-day visit may be the only time some clients set foot in our clinic this year. What type of experience will they have? What experience will they describe to their friends and family? Will that experience send them somewhere else the next time their pets need care?

Watch for these red flags

The client who visits five minutes before we close deserves the same treatment as the client who comes in five minutes after we open. It's time to take a mental inventory and watch for these potential problems:

1 YOU THINK THE PHONES RING TOO MUCH. You might say something like, "Don't clients realize we're in the middle of a staff meeting (we're doing surgery) (we're having lunch) or (we're overworked)?" Or even, "Call back later if Fluffy isn't better. I'm sure she will stop vomiting soon."

Get the phone
Who cares about the client who has a quick question or just needs to double-check the time for Fluffy's appointment? The clinic is closing soon and you've answered enough of clients' phone calls for the day.

Don't believe this happens? Call the clinics in your area five to 10 minutes before they close and judge for yourself. In fact, I know a clinic that has shorter phone hours than clinic hours just so the team isn't bothered by the phone early in the morning or at the end of the day.

There's a quick and relatively painless solution to this service disaster: Answer those last few calls from straggling clients. When they call one minute after closing, they hear a warm, concerned voice instead of a cold answering machine stating, "We are closed. Call us tomorrow (when it's more convenient for us)."

The receptionists can rotate this duty. Just remember to add it to your regular schedule so one team member doesn't get stuck with the late shift every night.