What Do YOU Call Your Front Office Heroes?

Posted: December 6, 2010, 12:10 p.m., EDT

As I travel around to various clinics and conferences, I’ve seen an interesting phenomenon taking place over the last few years in veterinary medicine. The people who were once called “receptionists”—those hard-working, always pleasant, standing (or sitting) in the line of fire people at the front desk—are no longer called “receptionists” in many places.

Instead, now they are Client Representatives, Care Coordinators, Client Care Advocates, and many other various titles. This in and of itself is not a problem; after all, those more lengthy titles do describe their roles in the practice a little more thoroughly. But it just makes me ponder, what was behind the tide of change for this title? Even the practices that do still call them “receptionists” admit it almost apologetically, like they can’t help it if their practice owners are clinging to an antiquated proper noun for this position.

I, for one, don’t see the word “receptionist” as a title that commands any less respect or admiration as those other titles. But I guess the word “receptionist” has gone the way of a similar word, “secretary”. For whatever reason, these two titles have taken on a rather negative connotation. Maybe for some, they bring to mind a version of the secretary portrayed by Carol Burnett who worked as Wanda Wiggins in the office of Mr. Tudball…completely under-qualified and overstuffed (if you are as old as me and remember Wanda Wiggins, you’ll know what I mean). But seriously, the “secretary” who is now an Administrative Assistant has gone through the same morph that “receptionists” did to become Client Care Representatives or the like. Who is responsible for this morph? 

Is their task list virtually unchanged, and did their main duties stay the same? Typically, they’re fulfilling the same job description as before. Did they change the manner in which they tackle easily the toughest position in any office? Typically, no, they are still relied upon to be the first, and lasting, impression of the client or customer, and to handle crisis with a smile. So what did change? Do they feel more respect within themselves for the job they fill, now that it is called something else? Or perhaps, do they perceive that others around them feel more respect for their new position title? If that is the case, would it be the ‘others’ actually in their practice that respect them more, or perhaps the clients and customers that come in and out of their areas day in and day out?

I don’t have the answers, and I’m not sure anyone does. In fact, I’m not certain it matters quite frankly. The title change alone does not change the fact that these heroes at the front desk are easily the most important people in our practice for keeping the flow of communication going, the clients served, the office running, and maintaining the “face” of our business. To me, it doesn’t matter what we call them, as long as we always keep their importance in mind and respect the position they fill.

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