A Rant about Receptionists

by David Ellis

I wonder if there is a clause in the contracts of some receptionists that require them to be diffident, unhelpful, stand-offish and rude? Or perhaps the role itself attracts the kind of people who didn’t quite make it as traffic wardens? Whatever the case, it seems that I am destined to be rebuffed by receptionists the world over whether they work in a dental practice, doctors, or school.

By far the most unpleasant reside in schools, particularly secondary schools who have no doubt been instructed in no uncertain terms to field all calls and ‘protect’ the headteacher and staff.

We deliver free theatre presentations and workshops in schools around Britain. They are educational, fun and support the National Curriculum. However when we approach schools to see if they would like to take advantage of our proposition, you would think that we had personally insulted the receptionist, their family and the Royal family too.

‘Why do you want to speak to him/her?’ is a typical response, usually spat out in response to our explanation of the educational roadshow programme aims and objectives.

‘We don’t give out names of teachers over the phone’ is another common response, typically used after we have searched the schools website and found out the name of the teacher who we think might be most interested in our offering.

‘We’re not interested’ is another retort. This from someone who is no doubt fully conversant with the needs of the young people in the school. We occasionally suggest that perhaps the head of a particular subject area may be the best person to make this judgement, however the phone is normally slammed down on us at this point.

‘We’ve got no money’ is a common one - again after we have impressed upon the listener that our offering is totally free.

I’m beginning to feel empathy with those cold callers who perpetually pester me about their latest phone deals or competitive energy prices.

And it’s not all about phone rejection either. When we send information via emails to the general school sites, they are invariably ignored. No doubt there’s a receptionist who gleefully weeds out spam or junk mail with a deft slap of the delete button.

‘Why should I forward it on to the right teacher? We don’t want it. ’ I can just see the hunched figures delighting in their cleansing duties- these are the people who will press the button that electrocutes the little puppies on the Derren Brown show I’ll bet.

Of course we do come across some great receptionists too. Perhaps 5% of our calls are pleasurable experiences thanks to people who genuinely understand the meaning of a warm and friendly reception. As for the 95%, they’re about as welcome as cold colonic in an far eastern prison.

If only we had the opportunity to do a little customer care with those terrible telephonists… mind you, I’d need a bigger company!