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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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.