The most underrated job in veterinary practice

The most underrated job in veterinary practice

Low pay, difficult conversations and plenty of grunt work. That's right, it's ...
Jul 01, 2013

Receptionist is one of the most important jobs in a veterinary practice. Unfortunately, it's also usually the lowest-paid position, staffed by a person with minimal experience who lacks proper training for the many tasks required at the front desk. Even with the best of intentions, undertrained receptionists can end up performing poorly, creating chaos at the front desk and alienating clients.

"A great front-desk staff communicates with our patients to satisfy their needs and solve their problems," says Howard Rice, MD, a pediatrician and president of Town and Country Pediatrics, a 16-physician practice with three offices in Chicago. "They sometimes are shock absorbers or play the role of an educator, translator and psychologist to the needs of patients," which is as true in veterinary practice as it is in pediatrics, perhaps more so.

So, don't skimp on compensation. Hiring people who are less than qualified to handle the demands of being a veterinary practice receptionist to save a few bucks makes no sense.

A former Veterinary Economics editor said it best: "If you paid more, maybe you could get someone with amazing communication skills and experience who would learn every client's name and handle any complaint with finesse. What would that be worth?"

Consider offering a few thousand dollars more than the average salary for your area to hire someone with above-average skills and experience. If that's what it takes to guarantee a first-class person representing you at the front desk, it'll be one of the best investments you'll ever make. In the past I have recommended hiring former airline, banking or hotel employees—all of whom were carefully screened before hiring, and who received subsequent training in "customer service" at their former jobs.

Judging by the number of duties veterinarians ask front-desk team members to perform—greet and register clients, answer phones, schedule appointments, handle complaints and collect fees—they could easily be your most important non-clinical employees.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices.