The Swans. Calm on the Top – paddling like mad on the bottom


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I was invited to carry out some Reception training yesterday. It was for a private healthcare provider that accommodates in and out patients. It was a big organisation and I must say it was a stunning place to be in.It was 5* and one of the nicest healthcare buildings that I have been in. The grounds were beautiful and the facilities just top notch.

As soon as I walked through the door the atmosphere was brilliant. Everyone smiling, extremely friendly and their customer service was excellent. The residents and their families looked relaxed and extremely happy.There was a buzz around the building.

I had rung on several occasions prior to the training to speak to the HR Manager and every single time the Receptionists telephone manner was excellent.

I began to ask myself why was I here. Their Reception skills appeared to be perfect.

I did two training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to attend.

It soon began to emerge that at times some of the Receptionist were like swans, swimming calmly on the top yet paddling like mad and not getting very far on the bottom.

The reasons slowly started emerging throughout out the session.

The Reception is covered from early to late evening 24/7 with security over night. Each Receptionist works on their own in Reception and each shift is very different. Although they work in Reception on their own there is constant support if needed.

This was the first time that the Receptionists had actually come together for training. The weekend Receptionists coming together with the morning, afternoon and evening receptionists and the night security was there too.

They never have any team meetings. Never have the opportunity to talk together as a team or to discuss reception issues or to put ideas forward, to be together as a team instead of working as an individual.

During the training it was obvious that each shift is worked very different. Each of the shifts had their own daily tasks to do. The morning shift busy with telephones, suppliers, and doctors’ visits and staff queries.

The afternoon shift is busy with administration, post and staff winding down for the day. Both morning and afternoon shift have visitors coming and going. Funeral directors calling, and the usual numerous telephone queries that they have to deal with.

The evening shift is busy with the mainly visitors coming and going throughout along with taxi’s turning up to collect people. The evening shift also had administration duties to do.

The weekend staff hardly ever see their colleagues that work during the week. Their main duties are looking after the vast amount of visitors that come and go all weekend.

Some of the Receptionists admitted they felt incompetent when they had to cover another shift. They often didn’t know what was expected of them, and admitted they often made mistakes due to the shift doing such different tasks. Some admitted that this could actually put them off helping out on another shift.

As any Receptionist will tell you. Reception is not just about greeting people and answering the telephone…………….It is so much more.

We discussed the benefits of having protocols and many agreed that they would really feel more confident if they had some sort of guidance there to help them if they become stuck. Lets face it — it is pretty embarrassing when a funeral director calls for paperwork and the receptionist has no idea what to do as she usually works weekends.

The Receptionists all agreed that it is something that they would like to do, understanding that it would be their responsibility to do a protocol for each of their jobs on their shift. They agreed they would be the best people to write the protocol.

They full understood that it wouldn’t be something that they would do overnight, it would take time to build up the protocols, but all agreed it would be worth it in the end, and from that they all felt that they would be more confident to cover other people’s shifts, and in the event that they come across something that they were not sure about that there would be a protocol to follow.

Each shift would have a file with their protocols in.

The training was fun, they were a lovely group of people and their customer skills are fantastic. They are lucky to work in such a beautiful building for a company that appear to be lovely to work for. Every single one of the Receptionist  said that they loved their job and that really did shine through, but they felt that they would love to have the opportunity of knowing what tasks were expected of them if they worked another shift.

But a bit more support in the way of a team meeting every so often, and perhaps more in house training, or as we discussed protocols to help them understand what goes on in the other shifts would certainly go a long way to giving them more confidence, and in turn wanting to help out when a session needs covering.

Working in and managing Reception staff in GP surgeries I could identify with what the Receptionists were telling me, each shift is different, and have many different tasks that needed to be carried out.

Not having the correct training or adequate information could prevent staff not wanting to cover other shift, which could result in staff shortages on shifts, or difficulty getting someone to do a shift.

Residents, Visitors, Staff all see the Receptionist as one person – the person that is there to carry out a task asked of them, some not aware that perhaps they do not know what to do.

It is the employers responsibility to ensure  that the staff are all shown or have the information available to do these tasks asked of them.

Fully trained staff are confident staff  resulting in less mistakes and in turn are happier in their role .

Protocols do not have to be complicated — simply written out. Here is an example on how you could start off your protocols 

 

(Sample Procedure)

Procedure / Protocol

DAILY POST

Incoming Post

  • Post will arrive approximately 9.00 every day.
  • All post is opened by the Receptionist – except the following

–  Letter marked private and confidential

–  Letters marked for addressee only

–  Letter from Bank   – all to go to Pat in Account.

  • Each letter is date stamped — the date stamp is kept in the 3rd draw under the desk.
  • When all the letters are date stamped the letters should go into the appropriate pigeonholes
  • Follow protocol for “Post for staff on holiday”
  • Any post that has to be signed for please inform the member of staff immediately that it has arrived.

 

Hand delivered post

  • Follow procedures as above.

 

Outgoing Post

  • All staff are aware that the post has to be in Reception no later than 4.30
  • As the post comes through to Reception throughout the day frank with the necessary postage — taking care when difference postage amounts is required.
  • Try not to leave all the post to the end of the day as you could be busy doing something else and the postman will then be kept waiting.
  • Put the post in the basket on the back shelf behind the Reception desk.
  • The postman usually calls into Reception at 5.00 to collect the post.

 

Post needing to go to the Post Office

  • Any post that needs to go to the Post Office such as a registered letter/package will need to be done before the end of day.
  • If you are going to the post office ensure that Reception is covered or if not covered ensure that you let someone know you are going and the desk will be left unmanned for a short time.

 

Procedure/Protocol written on…………………………               updated on……………………

Prepared by……………………………………………….                      Position……………………….

Approved by ………………………………………………                    Position………………………..

 

The most important thing to remember when having protocols in Reception is that they are kept updated as and when the task changes. Not doing this could be worse than having nothing in writing. Perhaps you could review the protocols every so often and discuss at team meetings.

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