This afternoon I'm about to try out a well-known salon/spa for a haircut. I looked up customer reviews on CitySearch and while I was impressed by across-the-board positive remarks about their stylists' talents, I noticed three seething rants -- all of them about the salon's rude receptionists. I also looked up reviews of the downtown salon I used to patronize and found the same thing. One irate patron wrote about overhearing the reception desk staff making fun of customers -- in loud stage whispers.
While Godin didn't make any substantive proposal for how to fix things, I'd like to. Thinking of shops where I've been favorably impressed with the receptionists, I realized that the receptionists were usually one of the following:
- long-time employees
- older than college age
- partners in the business, or
- employees whose jobs descriptions spanned other skilled positions in the company
The issues here are judgment and motivation. Most, though certainly not all, people have judgment skills that improve with age/experience. Eventually the connection between dissing a customer and getting fired gets made. Eventually they get tired of droning "I don't know," and put together a helpful or at least polite answer. They figure out when to cut some slack for a long-time customer instead of enforcing a company rule intended to protect against deadbeats.
Paying the receptionist a decent salary, and cross-training him or her for managerial responsibilities, makes the receptionist much more of a engaged partner in the business. I'd suggest that businesses do away with the "receptionist" title altogether and create "assistant manager" jobs that include 50 percent time at the reception desk.