Yesterday was International Receptionist Day. Perhaps it was buried in a myriad of International Days of Something. But the receptionist is the most important employee in the company. Together with the guy at the phone in the call centre, the porter, the first nurse you see in an Emergency Department in a hospital, the first shop assistant who either floods you with the most intrusive ‘can I help you?’ and follows you round the shop, or the first shop assistant that looks at you as the enemy and makes you get out as fast you got in. We have a name for these people: front line. A bit of a military term. Well, I have news for you from the front.
If you are at a high position in the company and don’t know what is going on there, you don’t deserve to be at that very high position, It may be that you simply do not do, do not understand front line. Meaning you have never bought airline tickets on the phone, or queued for a cashier in a supermarket, or needed to wait 2 hours in a waiting room in a hospital. Apparently, these people do exist.
Paul Spiegelman and Britt Berrett, who wrote a wonderful book under the provocative title ‘Patients Come Second: Leading Change by Changing the Way You Lead’, wrote this lovely paragraph that made me smile. A lot.
Nobody comes home after a surgery saying , “Man, that was the best suturing I’ve ever seen!” or, “Sweet, they took out the correct kidney!” Instead, we talk about the people who took care of us, the ones who coordinated the whole procedure – everyone from the receptionist to the nurses to the surgeon. And we don’t just tell the stories around the dinner table. We share our experiences through conversations with friends and colleagues and via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
If you don’t know what is happening in the human-to-human interaction in your multiple front lines of some sort, you are missing the most important piece of strategic information. At your peril