Has it happened to you?
You walk into an organization, agency or business and there’s a reception desk with someone sitting at it who does not greet or in any way acknowledge you. (Sometimes the opposite happens, you get “received” within milliseconds of crossing the threshold but that’s not what this post is about.)
At one organization that I go to frequently, the reception desk is staffed by college students who do not make eye contact, say hello or acknowledge in any way that you’ve entered. Many of them allow you to breeze pass them into the offices. The offices are in a busy city neighborhood and, while I look harmless enough, they don’t know who I am or why I’m there. I could be gunning for someone in the office and they wouldn’t know.
After noticing this for some time, I mentioned this to the Human Resource Assistant who looked annoyed that I made this observation and explained to me that they were college interns not employed by the organization.
“But,” I countered, “They are the first people seen upon entering the organization. Shouldn’t they say hello or something?”
He explained back to me that he didn’t think it was a problem. I assume there’s also no problem that they’re playing games on their laptops, notebooks or smart phones. They are supposed to be learning and contributing as interns.Perhaps they do in other ways when they’re not at the front desk.
At another organization, there was a new person sitting at the reception desk not making eye-contact or greeting me. The former receptionist was different. She always greeted me (and others) with a bright “Good Morning.”
I waited, after counting to 20, and told her who I was there to see. She looked up and got up from the desk and got him. He introduced us. After our meeting, I reintroduced myself and told her that I was a consultant for the organization and she’d be seeing me on a regular basis. She gave me her card and went back to her laptop. She wasn’t exactly friendly.
The next day, I sent her an email asking if she could prepare the name-tags for a meeting I was having at the organization. She sent me an email saying that this was not her job, that she was not the receptionist or an administrative assistant. She was a Communications Associate and just sitting at the reception desk until her permanent space was ready. (During my visits during the past month, she’s still in the same spot.) She then suggested I ask the person with whom I was working (who is a few steps above her in the pecking order) to prepare the name tags, which he did.
I would have prepared them myself except that I didn’t have the stock at home and the previous receptionist/administrative assistant had taken care of this.
Having been an Executive Director, facilitator, trainer, consultant, coordinator, etc., I always do what is necessary to get the job done, including making my own copies and setting up the room. I wanted to tell the cute, young, professionally immature woman this. Don’t have an ego about your job title especially in such a small organization that is staffing up. Instead, I apologized to her via email that I’d mistaken her role, copying my contact and suggesting that when at the reception desk one does represent the organization and saying hello should be automatic. (I wrote this politely but I’m not sure how it was received.)
I might have been a funder or some other important, hallowed person and I might have been more than annoyed at the lack of reception. I might have been offended. (Although a professional greeting should be given to everyone who enters an establishment not just the so-called VIPs.)
I have also noticed a big lack of communication skills in places that have lines – like the post office and bank where customers are ignored instead of someone looking up and saying, “I’m sorry for the delay” or “I have to push this cart to another section but will be right back” or taking an action to call someone else to come serivice the line (like they do at the drugstore), rather than ignoring a super-long line and leaving one person, who is also not acknowledging the line, to handle the crowd.
I don’t think this is “old-school” thinking. I don’t think that people should have to be trained to do this – it should be common courtesy but perhaps, some people have never been in an environment that has good customer service and have never experienced common courtesy so they don’t know how to offer it.
What say you?
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