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I approached her sliding glass window and stood in back of a gentleman whom I assumed she was helping. After about three minutes, I realized he was waiting for the office manager and she could have acknowledged my presence.

I stepped up to the window; she did not say good morning; she did not smile; she just glared at me. I started to speak; she pointed a finger at a clip board with a paper to fill out. I placed the completed sheet in front of her, perhaps expecting a thank you or a smile or at least ‘have a seat; the doctor will see you soon’.

I was so intrigued by her manner that I watched her interaction with the other patients. The man sitting next to me started to tell me that even though he had an appointment he had been waiting a long time. He told me he was extremely dissatisfied with the way the place was run and was starting to regret his association with this office. With a bit of humor, I told him I was watching the receptionist and asked if she had uttered a word to him. He started to laugh, and said, “Come to think of it, not a word!”

The next patient to come in was an older woman with a walker. The receptionist was not at her desk so the woman took a seat and waited for her return. She again pointed at the clip board, took the form, threw her sliding glass door closed and said nothing. The next one was the mailman, who I’m sure she sees daily. Again, not a smile or a hello; she stuck out her hand for the mail and handed him the outgoing mail.

Now my new disgruntled friend and I were sort of enjoying this and decided that maybe she was a mute…and then it happened. A good-looking UPS delivery man came in. Lo and behold, there was a big smile and a voice that was able to say good morning! That was short lived. She treated the rest of the patients in her same rude uncaring manner, a total lack of personality.

To me, the ability to positively interact with the customer, no matter what the business, is most essential. Hire your receptionist with as much thought as you would hire a sales person. Some smart person once said, ‘If today you give a stranger one of your smiles, it might be the only sunshine he sees all day.’

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Helen Robinson was the VP of a large marketing firm. Before retiring she managed a Human Resource company dealing with the hiring of sales people.

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