The perfect veterinary receptionist

The perfect veterinary receptionist

What makes a star customer service representative? Do you have what it takes?
Dec 01, 2012

What comes to mind when you think of the perfect receptionist? Smart, friendly? That's what most people think of. Not me. I think of being witty. Not just friendly, but a creative talker. The ideal front desk person should be able to meet and greet every client who walks in the door with a 1,000-watt smile. What better way to defuse grumpy clients than to melt them with a grin? And while you're working your magic, be sure to acknowledge the next client who walks in the door with a smile and a "be right with you" so they aren't feeling left out.

Or how about being great enough to help the people no one else wants to deal with? The deaf client who is nice but hard to understand. The client who never has enough money and you always have to be firm with when collecting. What about the single guy who gets a little overzealous? He's touchy-feely and he lingers forever at the front desk chatting you up every time he visits the clinic. How about the important detail of knowing all the ins and outs of your clinic, from how your computers work to what's involved with a dog spay?

A great receptionist is also someone who can keep your doctors on time with their appointments and keep up the small talk with waiting clients when the wait lasts longer than usual. Or someone with enough guts and brawn to take one for the team when you have that client who's completely unreasonable, regardless of the circumstances—and unfortunately, this does happen.

The perfect receptionist should be a team player who works well with others, cares about his or her position, and shows it's not just a job. You know, this sounds like someone like me! The girls I used to manage joked with me about being perfect. My response was usually the same. Being perfect is too much of a burden. I told them I made mistakes so they could see I wasn't perfect. I'm pretty sure they weren't buying it, but it sounded good to me.

So what does this boil down to? Who makes perfect receptionist? Consider these traits:

  • Someone who really loves her job. When you care, it shows.
  • A great communicator. Nothing is more important if you work the front desk. You're the first line of defense between the client and your doctor.
  • Reliable and desirable. You make yourself a valuable and irreplaceable member of your veterinary team.
  • Personable. If you can walk the walk and talk the talk, your clients may want to stay with your practice because of your service. I've had many clients over the years who came to the clinic I worked at because I worked there. Whether they liked or disliked a doctor at the practice, I made it a place they still felt comfortable to visit and strived to be the person they liked to see.
  • Easy-going but strong. It's no fun to watch a client melt down in the clinic. Worse than that is a team member who can't handle the stress and breaks down. In critical situations, keeping clients calm is vital for their well-being and yours.
  • Knowledgeable. Being able to answer questions about your clinic, or general questions about veterinary care, are important to bring new clients to your clinic and keep regular clients coming back.

Not everyone may agree with this list. We all think we're perfect in our own way. But remember, it's not what we think as much as what our clients think. If the front desk is running smoothly, we instill confidence and trust as we serve pets and their owners.

Rachael Simmons is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and head receptionist at Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Spokane, Wash.