THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Receptionist

a person who works in a place such as a hotel, office or hospital, who welcomes and helps visitors and answers the telephone

Or at least, that’s how the word “receptionist” is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary. I had occasion to check after my experience yesterday. Visiting the offices of a professional service firm in Truro – as a potential new client who may invest between £2 – 5,000 in their services over the next 18 months (their estimate – not mine). Fancy offices in a nice part of town – lovely web site – funky literature and, I have to say, an excellent professional partner who knew what he was talking about. But when I arrived – through the front door and into a waiting area decked out with a few chairs and a big sign advertising their financial services department. There’s an even bigger sign on the wall with an arrow directing me to a closed door – and the word “Reception” printed above the arrow. So I open the door and walk in – to a high counter, preventing me from walking any further into a general office full of desks, chairs and people (although I cannot see them – they are behind screens). I can see one lady, who is sat over to my far left hand side – at 90 degrees to the counter and my field of vision. “Can I help you?” She enquires – no facial expression whatsoever – she just looks up from her computer screen. “Yes, I have an 11.30 appointment with Mr Partner.” “What name is it?” She asks – still no facial expression – eye contact that you would give to a pet that had just crapped on the carpet. “It’s Chris Barrow.” “Take a seat outside and I will get somebody to see you.” Or words to that effect – I don’t quite recall. So I exit the office and take a seat – wondering whether anyone will see me, who it will be, how long it will be. Fortunatley, I took my current novel to read. I don’t feel welcomed or helped – I feel as if I have intruded on this sad lady’s hopeless task of trying to keep up with her paperwork. Said professional partner arrived a few minutes later. “Mr. Barrow?” he asked. “Yes” – I said. “Good” he said – as if praising me in front of those assembled for getting the frst answer correct. “Follow me”. And he just turns tail and wanders up a flight of stairs – I struggle along behind – trying to keep up with him as his back disappears around corners – whilst taking off my reading glasses, trying to get them back into my glasses case, putting my glasses and book back in my satchel – arms and legs all over the place. He is oblivious – and only turns to shake my hand when we reach his office. What follows is a great conversation that answers my questions and opens what promises to be a good relationship. But, as usual, these people know absolutley SFA about customer service – and don’t seem to think it matters. Irritating that I’m in Truro – and good advice is hard to come by – so I will have to tolerate. Perhaps when we know each other a little better, I’ll ask my partner for permission to give him some direct feedback. On a separate note – I’m due at the dentist tomorrow – and as I left said offices yesterday, my phone bleeped and in came the text message:

Mr. Chris Barrow Don’t forget your appointment, with Dr. Carrie Bradburn, on 12/04/07 at 11.30am at Meneage Dental. Please call 01326-574006 if you can’t attend.

Now that’s customer service. Don’t worry Carrie – I’ll be there – and thanks for investing in a system that shows you care.

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