Receptionist Training 101
Want to be the best receptionist of all time? Let Steve Stauning teach you how to become the Best Receptionist Ever with these Short & Sweet Video Lessons. To read the transcripts of any video in this series, please visit the post dedicated to that lesson:
Receptionist Training: How to be the Best Receptionist Ever
Receptionist Training: How to Handle an Angry Customer
June 20, 2020 @ 3:07 pm
I work as a dental receptionist and I got the job right after high school, having worked there for almost a year now, part-time. It is part of my job to give the patients medical forms to fill out (and update, every 6 months) as it’s our company policy, and the patients often complain that they have done it before and I’ve had situations where they tell me they should have been informed that they’d have to fill one in and are generally unwilling to do so, sometimes quite angry (one patient made me cry, because of this, and I didn’t know what to say to him). I always explain that it is a legal requirement that they update the form, but they come up with excuses such as ‘the other dental practice didn’t require it’ etc. Because of this, I often skip giving them the form as I am scared of receiving such a reaction from them, and I know I should do it as its part of my job, but I’m more afraid of a negative reaction and an unkind attitude from the patients than being reprimanded by my boss. Since I only work part-time, the boss never brought it up, but it’s still important that I do it.
It’s actually not just with medical forms, but I sometimes do things wrong on purpose so that the customer doesn’t get angry, even though the boss might not be happy with me, because I’m very scared about how I might react if they are rude to me (start crying or get very red, for example). One time, I had to call a patient to confirm her appointment with us, and she called me rude, which upset me very much because I don’t believe I said anything that could have offended her.
Please don’t get me wrong though, I do a lot of things well too (just not the customer service part).
It’s likely to be due to my age (19) and lack of confidence and experience with people, but this is something that I really hope to improve on, because it gives me a lot of stress and I would like to be a better receptionist and worker at my company, as I feel like a disappointment most of the time and like I am not fit for the job.
I would really appreciate if you could give me some tips on how to stop reacting this way and do my job without this fear.
Thank you for taking the time to read my message.
All the best,
June 20, 2020 @ 3:47 pm
Wow, a lot to digest here! Thank you for spelling everything out for me. I’m going to try my best to give you the advice I’d give my own children if they experienced similar situations.
First, it’s important to level set and understand a few things:
1. It’s just a job. At 19 years old, you’re going to have plenty of jobs in your lifetime; and it’s likely this one will someday be just a blip on your career path.
2. The customer is the second most important aspect of virtually any job. The most important is what I call “FMF” – Feed My Family. This means, not losing a job you need, even if it makes customers happy. Most often, these two are in sync. That is, making customers happy is the best way to keep a job you need.
3. Often, those people in consumer-facing positions (like yours) are put in very weird spots. In your case, your boss wants/needs these things completed; while customers bristle at the thought of having to do them.
4. Understand that the anger customers have with the company’s policies might seem to be directed at you, they are not. People are often jerks, and they’re becoming more so every day. Don’t let their inconsiderate nature and misdirected anger bother you. I know that’s easier said than done, but the problem with the policies is theirs, not yours. They’re the ones too immature to control their temper with life’s little inconveniences.
Okay, now some more specific advice I’d give my children:
1. Be excited to help everyone. Often, this means imagining the customer you’re about to call is a really good friend you haven’t seen in years. Likewise, when a patient walks into the office, treat them as you would your best friend. Be excited they’re here and greet them with a big smile and a friendly demeanor.
2. When you believe what you are about to ask someone could make them angry, start with an understanding that this is probably going to be uncomfortable. This is a negotiation technique that takes away their power by stating your company’s weaknesses in advance. For example, “I know you probably just filled out one of these the last time you were here, but (state law/insurance companies/etc.) require that we collect this information every time you visit.” Or, “I know everyone hates having to complete the same information every time they’re here, but (state law/insurance companies/etc.) require we make you do it. Please take your time.” Then, hand them the clipboard.
3. If you can think of a way to make something a more streamlined experience for the customer (for example, printing what they wrote last time in advance, asking them to make any changes to the information, and then sign at the bottom), make this suggestion to your boss. Also, make sure your boss is aware that many customers get angry with the current process. (This includes appointment confirmations. If texting these and asking for a “YES” from customers is quicker and easier, it would likely remove much of the friction.)
4. Yes, your age is probably causing some of the friction – and you should be commended for recognizing this as a possible issue. How we all spoke to each other in high school is not acceptable to a customer of a business. They know they’re paying your salary, so little things that you wouldn’t notice (like sounding rushed) makes customers think you’re rude (when you’re really not trying to be). If your business records phone calls, listening to these later can be eye opening.
I also recommend you watch a couple more of my video lessons – these are specifically focused on the customer experience:
Here’ a short, 3-part series on managing customer expectations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f53x4gJhBg&list=PLEh34qWllCL27LlUQk88biLAns1Xi9sox
Here’s a 72-minute video we streamed live on improving the overall customer experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97zAbcGf1Zo
I’m hopeful this helps – please keep me posted on your progress.
November 27, 2016 @ 2:49 pm
Hello Steve, I have a question for you. I have a receptionist who can be condescending to customers and other employees. She’s been a valued employee for 17 years, and I appreciate that, however, I can also see the effects that her negative communication can cause. What can I do to reset this person to feeling love for her customers again? The hardest part of this situation is that I’m the new office manager so we don’t have any kind of relationship or trust foundation at this point.
November 27, 2016 @ 2:51 pm
Let’s start this with the knowledge that unfortunately, not everyone is a fit for every job. It doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means that they can’t work here. Also, your entire foundation can be laid with this employee during your very next interaction provided you are direct with her.
That said, I might be giving bad advice here, because I’m not in the middle of your situation – so please take this all with a grain of salt.
Based on what little I know about your 17-year employee, I would confront her directly and not mince words. (Also, because she’s been there 17 years and you’re new to your role, I would document every interaction with her.) Most likely, I would start by having a meeting that begins by asking her a series of questions:
1. Do you like your job?
2. Do you like your coworkers?
3. Do you like our customers?
4. What do you hate most about the job? Your coworkers? Our customers?
If I have a different perception than she does about any answer I would reply “Interesting, because it seems…(and then add my reality).”
Where our answers are the same I would reply “Interesting, why do you think that is?”
Finally, I would end the meeting with the reality of her condescending attitude and how it hurts employee morale and the customer. I would let her know in no uncertain terms that we value her 17 years, but not more than we value our relationship with our customers. And that she either needs to learn to absolutely love what she’s doing or we’ll help her (as much as we can) to find something else to do with her life.
There are also a couple of resources that might help:
I recently broadcast a free, live training on Customer Service. It’s a little over an hour long and you can see the recording here: http://undeniableadvantage.com/the-customer-experience-lesson/#video
I wrote a blog piece last year about a jerk I worked with and how I overcame my hatred for him. It might be helpful to have your employee read it and learn how she might become “The New Steve” (explained in the article) in the ways she interacts with customers/coworkers (Richard in the story). Here’s a link to that: http://askthemanager.com/2015/03/how-to-get-ahead-while-winning-over-the-backstabbing-jerks-at-work/
I am hopeful this helps.
Please keep me posted on your progress.
March 7, 2016 @ 3:15 am
I was getting my taxes done at a local Credit Central Loan Office when the Manager offered me or ask me if I was interested in working for her company, Of course I was, but have few to no skills, but do have very good social skills, and very interested in progressing and being a promising position with this company. How can I be the best receptionist she has to offer me in being the best I can and getting some online advice and training before hand, to be the receptionist she needs and loves?
March 7, 2016 @ 3:16 am
Well, so long as there’s no pressure….
In all seriousness, you sound like you have the most important aspect to job success: a desire to be the best! I recommend that after you watch my two receptionist videos and (especially) read all of the comments, that you always remember just a few simple “rules of life as a receptionist:”
1. It’s just a job and I’m not doing open heart surgery. (This means: no one is going to die WHEN, not if, I make a mistake.)
2. No one can make me feel small unless I let them. (So, when someone is being an asshole, remember Rule 1 – it’s just a job.)
3. All I can do is all I can do… but all I can do is enough. (No one can expect you to do more than you are capable of… and if they do, you’re not a fit. It’s time to dust off the resume and look for something else.)
4. People like being around upbeat, happy people. (Anybody can tell you why your company sucks – work everyday to find the reasons that your company, your boss and your customers are the best in the world!)
5. This job is a step for me. Love it and do it to the best of my abilities and I will move on to better positions and better pay. (The alternative is to have a bad attitude and end up being a not-so-good and unhappy receptionist forever.)
Hope that helps. Please keep me posted on your progress!
June 24, 2015 @ 4:35 am
As it so happens, I’m also a 19 year old receptionist. I’m actually an intern, but I have to man the front desk. I only had 30 minutes of training to answer the phone and transfer calls. Hopefully, I do better tomorrow after watching your videos tonight – I’ve learned a lot already.
I had to deal with a few difficult customers today and over-apologized even when I was simply following company policies. They then demanded to see my manager. Do you have advice for this?
June 24, 2015 @ 10:16 am
Jenny – The best advice I can give a 19-year-old entering the workforce in a customer-facing position such as yours is this: There will always be assholes. If you let them get to you, you will have a miserable working life that will often spread over into your home life. The key is to simply understand that all you can do is all you can do. If someone wants more than that, then they have a problem.
So, happily let them speak to your manager whenever they want. If your manager doesn’t routinely support you, start looking for another job. There will always be assholes, you just never want to work for one.
May 13, 2015 @ 12:51 pm
Hello there Steve! I recently have been watching your receptionist training videos on YouTube, and as a 19 year old customer service representative, it has helped me a lot. I appreciate your time and effort into making these tutorials. Keep doing what you do! -Jeb
May 13, 2015 @ 12:53 pm
Hi Jeb. Thank you for the kind words – I’m thrilled to hear the videos have helped you. If you think of anything else you’d like me to record or run into issues we did not address in the videos, please drop me a note. – Steve