Communicating with your Receptionists #Managers

Being a doctors receptionist is no easy task, and certainly not the job some people seem to think it is, some think it’s sitting at the desk booking patients in to see the doctor and handing out prescriptions, oh no it’s so much more and more again. Being a doctors receptionist is a bit like marmite, you either “love it or hate it”. The receptionist that ‘loves’ his/her job will be loyal, hard-working and very proactive. They are the ones that can see problems ahead, make the best suggestions and really want the best for the practice. They are the ambassadors of your practice.

It saddens me when at some of my training sessions I hear that they sometimes do not feel appreciated and they don’t feel part of the team. They often blame Management for lack of communication who are occasionally not caring and unapproachable. This might not be true, but it’s how they feel. Lack of training is also another complaint that I hear of often. Many Receptionists feel that they could do so much more in their role, if only they had the appropriate training. This is where I step in and defend the managers! I know how hard the role of a manager can be, often being piggy in the middle; the Partners shouting on one side and the Staff on the other. There are budgets to follow and targets to hit, whilst trying to stay loyal to both sides. Being a manager can often be a very lonely job. Who is there for the Manager when it gets tough?

My role of manager soon taught me that communication is key. In communicating with the receptionists I came to learn, first hand, what the problems in reception were, before it got too late and became a bigger problem than it already was. Receptionists need to know what is going on, if they don’t they often jump to the wrong conclusion. They will often gossip between themselves and make up their own minds, which can often cause bad feeling within the team. Having a team with a low morale is often extremely hard to turn around.

What is the best way to communicate with your receptionists? Hold Regular staff meetings; weekly, twice monthly or monthly.

  • Ask the staff to contribute to the agenda, make the meetings their meetings.
  • Make the meetings interesting! If they are interesting the staff will actually want to come, they will contribute and as a result they will be a success.
  • Rotate the meetings on different days and times to enable part-time staff to attend at least every other meeting.
  • It’s your chance as a manager to give the facts, to tell them as a team what is happening within the practice; it’s a great way to avoid rumours and discontent.
  • Take minutes for future reference and make copies available for those that were unable to attend. Make a copy for the partners too.
  • Ask a Partner to attend a couple of meetings a year, this shows support, and in my experience, always goes down very well with the receptionists. It also gives the Partners an insight in what is happening in reception and how hard their roles can often be.
  • Use the meeting to discuss any issues that have occurred and ask the team how they feel it could have been dealt with, often they will come up with the solution. This will help in the future as they will then start to solve problems themselves, rather than running to you every time, expecting you as the manager to have the answer. Meetings can often make the team more proactive.

Another complaint is lack of communication. Often, many of the staff will be told something but others don’t hear about it. This can lead to confusion and often anger, which can result in jobs not being done properly, as some staff have not been informed. A lot of the time this happens to staff who are on holiday or that work part-time. Memos or emails sent to every member of the team seems to work well. Having a receptionist message book works extremely well. Receptionists can leave messages that everyone can read before they begin their shift.

Communicating with your team will often highlight concerns, and often they will share good ideas,  after all they are the “experts” in their field and will often offer very productive ideas. Many of my training issues, ideas and changes came from my experiences of “walking in their shoes”

Another way of communicating with your staff is to simply show your support. Go and see what they are doing and praise them regularly. Most importantly, always remember how difficult your job as a manager would be if the receptionists did not do their job well.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Is your Practice/Staff at risk #SocialMedia


Many of us use social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Most of us use it for social purposes, sharing news, pictures, keeping in touch with family and friends, and some of us use it for business purposes.

There is no doubt about it social media is a marvellous thing but it also has a darker side. People sharing information and pictures without the permission of others, to comments being made that could result in bullying or even worse.

I have a friend who was mortified last Christmas to find that pictures that had been taken on a Practice works night out when she was “a bit worse for wear” had found their way onto her Facebook page. She had a few too many drinks and unfortunately tripped up a curb, someone took a picture and thought it would be funny to post this with other pictures of the night on their Facebook page. Unknown that these pictures had been taken; she only discovered them when she was tagged into the pictures. This resulted in he sons, husband and other members of her family and many friends seeing her in pictures she would rather them not have seen. She was not happy and it in fact caused a row at work on the Monday. There was bad feeling between the two for some time, and this in turn affected the moral within the team. The team divided in their opinions some feeling that the person who had posted the pictures had done no wrong, and some feeling that my friend was right in feeling angry. The row developed and a complaint to the Practice Manager and it all got very unpleasant.

Another article I found interesting recently was a Doctors Practice displayed a notice in their surgery asking patients not to use Facebook or Twitter to complain about their service. The notice asked patients if they had any complaints or comments about the surgery would they please contact the Practice Manager as any comments on social media sites may be seen as a breach of their zero tolerance policy. The surgery said in the notice that they would be happy to deal with comments/complaints in the usual way.

The “zero tolerance policy” referred to appears to be NHS guidance on dealing with rude, abusive or aggressive behaviour towards staff.

Apparently the online comments about the surgery named staff and swearwords were used and this what prompted the decision for the practice to put the notice up.

I think the practice was right in asking patient not to use social media for this, as the practice would not have been able to respond to any of the comments because of confidentiality issues. If staff were named this could have been seen as a form of bullying, and the staff member would have every right to feel threatened about it.

see a recent blog with a similar story :

The Threatened Receptionist

There are other stories that have recently been in the headlines, which have involved Facebook, a Neapolitan woman following a marital row her husband demanded that the photographs of their honeymoon be taken down from her Facebook page. His argument was he had not given his permission to publish them, and he even took her to court over it. The Naples court has not only agreed with him but the wife may have to pay him damages. The pictures were taken on the couples honeymoon 10 years ago and included photos of the couple.

Another article recently has also highlighted the importance of holidaymakers sharing their plans on social medial. It could be read and used by criminals planning a burglary.

This information can be seized by thieves – from research said that some 78% of ex-burglars said that they strongly believed social medial platforms are being used to target property.

I think we all need to be aware of the repercussions of staff sharing information on their personal social media sites – especially if it involved their workplace. It could be a very interesting topic to have on your next Receptionist Meeting to discuss using pictures on social media that might be anyway involved their place of work. But most important as an employee they must understand never get drawn into any arguments about their place of work on any social media sites.

Perhaps you could put something about social media usage in your staff contract.



© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

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


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


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.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Team Leader and Team Meetings


As a Surgery Team Leader or Supervisor it is important that you keep your team well-informed and the best way to do this is holding regular staff meetings.

I suggest holding meetings to suit a majority of your team. You will never please everyone. Surgeries hold meetings at lunchtime, some have them in the evening and some have even be known to have them before the surgery opens  a Breakfast meeting.  It is what suits your practice and team the best. But try to be fair to everyone and perhaps change the days and times so everyone has a fair chance of attending.

Some surgeries close at lunchtime and this is an ideal time to hold a meeting. But you will need to have the meeting closed before the surgery is due to be open again.

Some surgeries have meetings at lunchtime but do not close the surgery. Usually one or two staff members remain on reception and miss the meeting – but this is rotated and everyone has the opportunity of attending future meetings.

It is important that everyone in the team has the opportunity to add to the agenda and for everyone to see the agenda before the meeting.

Minutes of the meeting are important, not only for staff but also for the Team Leader/Supervisor, as often the minutes are referred to maybe to clarify something that was agreed.

Key purposes of Team Meetings are:

  • To inform your team of what is happening in the Practice and why.
  • To encourage teamwork.
  • To improve motivation
  • To enable everyone to recognise how their job fits in with the Practice goals.
  • To improve on communication
  • To reduce misunderstandings and diffuse grapevine chat.
  • To reduce any fears – especially fear of change.

Key Principles of Team Briefing

Team briefing is:

  • Face to face
  • Undertaken by the Team Leader/Supervisor
  • Held on a regular basis weekly/2 weekly/monthly
  • About issues relevant to the team
  • An opportunity to ask questions and give feedback.

The Team Leader’s / Supervisors  Role

  • To ensure that the meetings are held on the date and day and time agreed.
  • To ensure that the venue/room is fit for the purpose.
  • To prepare for the meeting
  • To support the Practice
  • To ensure that the meeting runs to time.
  • To ensure that communication is

–       Clear

–       Concise

–       Constructive

–       Complete

–       Correct

  • To take control and hold the interest of everyone at the meeting.
  • To listen carefully, to question raised.
  • Give everyone the opportunity to give feedback
  • To find out any answers that cannot be answered at the meeting and to respond to the people who have raised the questions – remembering to add them to the next meeting minutes.
  • To keep a record of the minutes on file.

What to include in the meeting

  • Progress – what has worked well since your last meeting.
  • New (and changes) to Practice Policies and Procedures
  • Points for action
  • Plans for the Practice
  • Priorities coming up in the next month/quarter/year
  • Praise your team

The Meeting

  • Welcome the team to the meeting
  • Remind them of the purpose of the meeting
  • Outline the key headings to be covered first.
  • Prioritise: Give the most important points first.
  • Do not assume that everyone has the same understanding of terms used (especially new staff)
  • Support Management/Partners/Practice by the tone of your voice.
  • Summaries
  • Invite questions, comments, views, reactions and suggestions.
  • Control the pace.
  • Agree the date/time of the next meeting so this can be added to the minutes
  • Finish on time by ending on a positive note.
  • Always thank everyone for attending the meeting.
  • Do’s and Don’t’s of TEAM Meetings
  • DO                                                   DON’T
  • Prepare                                          Avoid questions
  • Prioritise                                       Read from your notes too much
  • Admit if you don’t know             Guess at answers
  • Encourage feedback                     Exaggerate
  • Use examples                                Be disloyal
  • Check for understanding            Assume they know
  • Anticipate questions                   Give mixed messages

Minutes of the Meeting

  • Have the notes typed up and distributed as soon as possible. Within 2 days of the meeting is a good guideline.
  • Ensure that any member of the team that could not attend the meeting gets a copy of the minutes.
  • Let your Partners have a copy of the minutes – it is good for them to see what is happening in Reception.
  • Retain a copy for future reference.

Having staff meetings is a good way of sharing information with the staff and giving them the opportunity of asking questions.

Invite your Practice Manager or Assistant Practice Manager along to some of your meetings.

At a surgery I managed we often used to have one of the partners sit in on the meeting – they would sit at the back of the room, and just observe. They all agreed they found this really useful and certainly appreciated what the Reception staff have to do. 

Do You Value Your Staff?


Through feedback on my blog, speaking to friends who are Managers and Receptionists and through training it always amazes me how differently employers treat their staff in various different ways.

I was chatting to a Practice Manager recently about training his Reception Team. It was uplifting to hear him talk so highly of his staff, and acknowledge the difficult role that they face at times.  He told me that he felt blessed with the Reception Team he has.

We discussed areas of training, and how we would approach this, and to work with the team to find ways forward in helping them in what can often be a very difficult role. His words to me were…………….

“I want to stress that we wish to assist them in their role and that we are building on an already excellent and valued team”

Music to my ears! A Practice that value their staff.

The Practice Manager and Partners have thought long and hard about supporting their staff in the way of training, and have invested an afternoon for the whole surgery to come together for a team building session.

From speaking with this Practice Manager it is evident that everyone at the surgery works together as a team, and this in turn gives the patients the services that their areas needs.

He acknowledges that his Reception Team are doing a great job, but as always there is room for change and perhaps some refresher in what cold be improved – not always clear-cut, but hopefully with some guidance and training this hopefully will help the team in their role and make their tasks easier and in turn help the patients receive a better service.

Nothing works better than a team working together.


I chatted to a friend today. She has worked in a GP Surgery for almost 6 years. She is one of those Receptionists that is loyal, has empathy, extremely hard-working and has great skills when it comes to dealing with the patients. She has exceptional skills in all areas of her role.

She has shared with me over the years of the problems she faces at her practice. There has been little support from her Practice Manager or partners. They never have any staff meetings, and there is never any staff training – despite staff asking for these in the past. In fact the last lot of training they did have they had to undertake this at home in their own time.

Not surprising they have had numerous members of the Reception Team leave steadily over the past few years – all because of the above.

Good staff leave, new staff are appointment and that results in more stress in the Reception area, training up new staff whilst still trying to keep the Reception area working as normal is not easy and it takes it toll on everyone – including the patients.

And still no support or training.

My friend sadly found that the job was affecting her health and with the lack of support she was find the job becoming extremely difficult, so she sadly gave in her notice at work.

She gave her notice to her Practice Manager in writing – which was accepted promptly without question. This in itself she found upsetting – she felt she should have been at least asked the reasons why she was leaving.

She said has she had harboured any hopes that she was worth fighting for; she would have found the way her notice was accepted very upsetting.

That same week other staff members handed in their notice – with the same acknowledgement.

I asked her how she felt, and her reply was she felt angry. She loved the role, and will miss her colleagues that she had worked with for so long and she felt she was letting them down at the same time, as many of them were devastated to hear she was leaving. She actually found them much more supportive than her Manager ever was.

She felt no appreciation for the 6 years of dedication and hard work that she had given to the Practice.

Good staff are hard to come by. Invest in your staff and everyone will reap the benefits. Patents, GP’s, Nurses, attached staff and the Practice as a whole.

Train the staff you have – help them do a good job even better – if you don’t you will still have to train, train new staff to take over a job that someone was doing perfectly well in the first place.

Talk to your staff. Do this through

  • Appraisals
  • Staff Meetings
  • Simply getting to know how your Reception Team work and identify their needs. How often do you as a manager interact with your team? As a Manager I would ensure that I would interact with my team throughout the day – if only for a few minutes at any one time. Just popping my head in the Reception area and saying Hi – just let them now you are there. As a Manager my door was always open to staff if they had a problem.

The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members better.

Well trained staff are confident staff and more than likely to do a good job and stay in a role if they feel appreciated.

Do you value your staff?


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved