I was really upset with the woman on the phone. Didn’t she want to help me? Didn’t she want to do her job?
I had placed a call to a local business in hopes of rescheduling an appointment with ample notice. The representative answered the phone sounding rushed and hurried and sounded as if she’d rather be doing anything else other than talking to me.
Feeling myself beginning to feel the first twinges of irritation, I told myself to take a deep breath. I told myself to zoom out and look at the bigger picture, to have some empathy for the stressed out receptionist on the phone.
I thought back to my years working the front desk at a hair salon. I would spend hours organizing the schedule, fielding phone call after phone call, checking clients in and out, answering emails, and somehow finding time to use the restroom somewhere in the middle — all to the tune of minimum wage and most of the stylists barely acknowledging my existence.
I’m sure I was snappy back then, too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. One of the first rules of being professional is to check your attitude and troubles at the door. A customer should never see that you’re busy or have other tasks to do — when they are in front of you, they should get your undivided attention and care.
And yet, in so many instances we fail to address an even larger concern: so often, front line employees that face customers all day are the least respected, most scarcely paid employees in the entire office.
It sounds ugly, but it’s true.
First Impressions in Customer Service
Glass Door puts an average of $24,000 to $39,000 per year for the title of Customer Service Representative in San Diego, California, a city with a median income of nearly $80,000 per year.
Wait, that doesn’t seem right. You mean to tell me that the first person to interact with most customers in most establishments makes, on average, less than $40,000 per year in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.?
This is a huge problem. Customer service is the backbone of virtually every industry. And yet, it’s designated as a primarily entry level position, befitting of little training or certification.
It’s no wonder the woman on the phone was barely able to contain her displeasure. In all likelihood — and not always in direct fault of her supervisor or coworkers — she’s paid very little, especially in comparison to higher ranked employees, she’s constantly at the mercy of ignorant or rude customers, and she has to field requests from colleagues. It’s a lot to deal with.
It’s food for thought to take this into consideration in your own place of business. The receptionists, office managers, and techs in your practice all interact with clients even more regularly than the veterinarians themselves do, in many cases.
This means that your client-facing employees are insanely valuable. They must understand bedside manner and proper etiquette for interacting with clients. They must be able to multitask. They must understand how to schedule a day so that the doctors can work efficiently. All of this takes training and dedication, so you should be investing in your office and tech staff.
Empowering Customer Service
One way to empower your staff is to solicit feedback regularly. Find out what’s going on behind the scenes. Take the time to watch your staff interact with clients. What do they do well? What could be improved? More importantly, how is morale? What kind of job are you, the manager or owner, doing?
A staff should be empowered and motivated to serve clients to the best of their abilities. It’s astounding that the virtual front line of the industry is often the one that receives the least amount of training and preparation.
So make it a point this month to take a deeper dive into the customer service side of your business. We’ll follow this article up with more content on improving customer service in a veterinary practice.