What to do if your vet receptionist talks too much

Is your veterinary receptionist blurring the lines between professional and personal when talking to clients?

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A veterinary practice owner asks:

I have a veterinary receptionist who is constantly talking!
 Her bubbly personality and friendly demeanor are the reasons I hired her in the first place, but I don’t think she can make the distinction between building rapport with clients and unprofessional chit­chat. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/how-to-support-your-veterinary-receptionist/

She greets clients and pets by name, she goes over to say hello and shows interest in them — all desirable qualities from a customer service representative. However, there are two ways she crosses the line. Firstly, with clients: at some point of the conversation she invariably starts talking about herself and her medical issues. Secondly, with staff: She leaves the front desk to talk with staff, and isn’t always quick to return to the reception area to serve clients.

I have mentioned this to her before but I don’t think she gets it. She nods along, but her behavior doesn’t change.

Talk to her. Again.

As her employer, you have an obligation to give her feedback on her performance and you get to set the standard of what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior within your practice.

You may have ‘mentioned’ your concern to her in the past, but either the message wasn’t delivered effectively or it wasn’t received correctly.

Set aside 30 minutes, block it off on the scheduler, get someone to replace her at reception during that time, and sit down with her in a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted.
Begin by telling her that you would like to talk to her about a behavior pattern you have observed.

Explain what she is doing, giving one example (don’t get bogged down in the examples, be brief), and tell her that this is not appropriate. Explain to her how you would like her to speak to clients instead. For example “What I would like you to do, is greet them and their pet by name, go over to say hello and offer a single sentence to build rapport. For example, Fluffy’s coat is looking great today/Oh my, Fluffy’s diet is working”

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Then highlight again what you don’t want her to be doing “So talking about personal things, such as your own medical problems, is not appropriate in this scenario.”

Next, ensure she understands and get her to commit to it. “Does that make sense? Will you be able to do that from now?”

While she may not see that a few seconds or a minute away from reception is a big deal, explain to her your customer service values and expectations. For example, you can say, “I know that sometimes you are only away from reception for a minute or so, but if a client is standing there waiting and they can hear you talking to co­workers, that is giving them the impression that they are not our top priority.”

You can then repeat the same process as above — explain what she needs to do instead and get her commitment.

If any of this continues after you have had this conversation, it’s really important that you follow it up and handle it like you would any other performance issues, including formal warnings. This is where many managers fail — in the follow-up.

This means arranging another meeting, and saying something like, “We recently spoke about how you approach clients and you agreed that you won’t talk about your personal problems/that you won’t leave the front desk to talk to other employees. It has come to my attention that you are still doing this. Can you explain to me why?”

Give her an opportunity to respond. Is there a reason she can provide that you will find acceptable? Chances are, there is not. You can proceed with the formal warning.

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