Customer Service

So, when you go into a store and you see that cashier, what is your first thought?

a) That's a crap job that only people with no real skills get
b) That's a crap job that only stupid people get
c) God, I hated working retail.
d) God, I hate working retail

Yes, there really are only two groups of people out there: those who have worked in retail or customer service (and thus understand the suckiness of the job) and those that have not and see no reason to cut some one some slack. We all have bad days. We all make fuck ups. But it is not some one's job to take your abuse. Period.

I work at a veterinary clinic as a receptionist. For those of you who have ever worked in a similar position, you know my pain. For those who haven't...I shall elaborate. It is my job to:

  • answer multiple phone lines
  • briefly asses the urgency of patient's visit or whether they may or may not be contagious
  • check in clients; answer questions regarding services and products our clinic offers
  • explain rudimentary procedures and clinic policies
  • maintain client records; make appointments
  • review files and update records as needed
  • check out patients or boarders; assist the doctor or technician when asked or needed
  • clean
  • take notes in the exam room for the doctor when needed
  • administer simple medications like dewormer or vitamins
  • take messages for the doctor and return phone calls
  • call in prescriptions
  • fill prescriptions for medications that are not controlled substances
  • Field client complaints and requests
Yes, folks, that is my job right there in a nutshell. I work with several other wonderful ladies who do the same thing and let me tell you something: it's hard. If you want to buy heartworm prevention and you have never had your dog checked for heartworms in their life, it is my job to tell you have to have your dog checked for heartworms. It is NOT my job to listen to you bitch and moan that you can't afford the $30 heartworm check. It is NOT my job to listen to you yell at me because you don't like our clinic policy. It is NOT my job to go beg the doctor to, just this once, ignore the rules that we put in place for the health and safety of YOUR pet so you don't have to spend more money. NOT MY JOB. 

You know what else isn't my job? Dealing with cranky old misogynistic bastards who can't even remember the names of their own damn dogs who don't want to pay for an office call when they've never seen the doctor before. NOT MY JOB. I don't care if you don't want to see a woman doctor. If you don't like it GO TO ANOTHER DAMN CLINIC.

It's also not my job to diagnose your pet's disease or disorder OVER THE DAMN PHONE. a) I'm not a vet, and b) who in their right mind would diagnose a pet sight-unseen over the phone. No, I don't know why fluffy has been vomiting blood for three days. You should probably see the vet about that. No, I don't know what that growth on his left front toe is-you should probably see the vet. No, I can't tell you if the dog's leg is broken-you should probably see the vet! I'm not a medical professional! 

I am also not a yellow pages. I do not have time to sit down and call all the other local clinics to see if they will see you for a walk in. Sorry, ain't my job. I'm not your secretary. I'm not google. I am a receptionist. I will do all I can in my power to help you, make your visit pleasant, and accommodate your needs, but I will not do the splits to make you happy. 

I will share a story with you, my friends...

The practice where I work is open during lunch hours, but we do not see clients at that time. The doctor and the technicians are either in surgery or, if we don't have any surgeries for that day, the doctor has taken a much needed and deserved lunch break. During this time, we do not have any medical staff to asses your pet, treat your pet, or answer your questions. What you have is me: the receptionist. 

During this period of the day today, a lady walks in carrying her dog. The dog is obviously in distress as it's lying limply in her arms, wrapped in a towel. 

"I just picked my dog up from the pound and they said I needed to bring him to a vet right away because he was hit by a car," says the young lady. Her male associate follows her inside and looks around the clinic. The waiting room is empty except for two ladies who are waiting to fill a prescription. 

"Ok, well my doctor isn't in the clinic at this time. You need to find another clinic close by who can take him right away," I say calmly and suggest a few locations nearby. 

"The one you just mentioned said they only see patients by appointment," she replies. She's looking tense and I can see she's concerned for her pet.

"Well, the emergency animal clinic is about 15 minutes up the road and they will see you."
"Can't y'all just take him back and give him some medicine until the vet gets here?"
"No, Ma'am, I can't. I don't have any medical staff here. Even the technicians have left for the day. The doctor and the next shift don't come in until 2:30," I explain. She heaves a sigh and looks around, as if looking for the answer to pop out of the wall next to her.

"Can I just leave him here with you and when the doctor comes in she can look at him?"

"Ma'am, I can't take your dog. We don't have any information on you or the dog. We can't take an animal with an unknown history into the clinic."

"Well, can you call that other clinic and see if they can see me?" she says. She's getting angry and I'm getting riled up as well. Once again, it's not my job to call clinics for you. That's your job. But, I feel bad for the dog and I decided to do her a favor so I call the emergency clinic. Turns out their surgeon was also in surgery and would be in surgery for several hours. The internist could see the dog but only to stabilize him and the assessment alone would cost $125. I relay this information to the young woman in the lobby.

"I don't understand why y'all can't just take him!" 
"Ma'am, the ladies you see here are all just receptionists. We cannot treat or diagnose your dog. I do not HAVE a medical staff here right now. I don't even have a kennel technician to come and take your dog. We cannot take your dog. If you don't want to go to the emergency clinic you can try the VCA hospital that is just a little bit further down the road. They should take you."
"SHOULD take me? Do you know for certain?" she glares at me. Hold up, sister. I don't need your attitude today.
"I don't know, ma'am. I don't work at that clinic. I don't know their clinic policies or hours." I reply coolly. Two can play the bitch game.
"Can't you CALL them and ask?"
"We're currently having phone problems and I only have one phone working in the building." This is actually true. The phones had been acting wonky for a week or so and the repair guy had finally come out to fix it that day. 
"And all these computers-you can't get on the internet and find out?" 
"Ma'am, I don't have internet access on these computers." This is actually a lie, but my generosity has run out at this point. 
"I'm ready to just tell you to take the fucking dog and I'll leave!" she snaps. Woah. You will NOT speak to me in that manner. Don't care who you are, don't care how stressed and worried you are...I do NOT get paid enough to deal with  your shit, lady.
"I can't take the dog ma'am. You will have to try another clinic."
"Y'all need to stop sending people to all these different fucking clinics! I've been driving around trying to find a vet to take my damn dog and no one will see me!" At this point the dog is going into shock. Even I can tell he's not doing well. 
"Ma'am, I'm not a vet but from what I have seen working in this clinic your dog appears to be going into shock. You need to take him to a facility that can see him right away." This was my subtle hint that she was wasting precious moments arguing with me when she should be out trying to find a vet. 
"I'M TRYING TO!" she barks at me. Obviously my subtle hint was lost on her. Finally, I have lost my patience. One of my coworker's stands up and asks "Is there a problem?" I shake my head and turn back to the lady throwing a fit in the reception area.
"Ma'am, I understand you are worried and stressed about your dog, but there is no reason to speak to me in that fashion." I am not certain what finally did it, but at that point she just got up and walked out of the clinic. And may the door not hit her ass on the way out. 

Folks, I am the gate keeper. I decide what order you get checked in. I decide how urgent your visit is. I choose the time you see the doctor. I am not your floor mat. I do not live to serve you. I do not get paid enough to deal with your shit. 

So the next time you're dealing with a customer service representative, keep in mind these things:
1) You are not the only customer in the world, or even in the store. I cannot and I will not drop everything I'm doing, including dealing with another customer, to rush to do your bidding. Be patient.
2) Be polite. We keep a record of asshole clients; most clinics do. Being a dick is not the best way to get what you want. It's usually a good way to get us to stall for as long as possible and throw up some roadblocks just to piss you off. 
3) Be an adult. Sometimes you are just not going to get what you want. That does not mean acting like a child and throwing a temper tantrum is an acceptable response. Put on your big-girl panties and deal with it. 

And for the love of GOD, spay and neuter your pets and keep them up to date on their vaccines. Distemper and Parvovirus are running rampant this year. The only way to protect your pet is to vaccinate them.