Handling Mr. Nasty
Q. Do I have to be nice if a client is really rude?
"Sometimes what we see as rudeness is actually a client's concern for his or her pet, so it's important to respond with compassion," says Karen Sabatini, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a receptionist at Ardmore Animal Hospital in Ardmore, Pa. "If you respond rudely, you may precipitate more rudeness."
Sabatini says the best response to a rude client is to smile, even if the client yells. "I try to remember it's not personal," she says. "When clients make rude remarks, they look bad, not me. I want other clients in the waiting room thinking, 'Wow, she handled that well,' not, 'Wow, she was really nasty.' "If a client's anger escalates, be prepared to remove the client from your waiting area. After all, you don't want other clients to witness an argument. Sabatini says receptionists at her practice invite upset clients to step into an empty room and then find a manager to work through the problem.
You also may need to plan a few coping strategies. For example, if you feel yourself getting angry, Sabatini says you need to walk away from the situation so you don't make things worse.
If there's a client you don't like to deal with, maybe another receptionist can work with that person. You can return the favor and take on a client your co-worker butts heads with.
Ardmore Animal Hospital also instated a policy that receptionists are allowed to hang up on abusive clients. "A few times I've told angry clients, 'Call me back when you've calmed down and we can talk about this,' " Sabatini says.