How Front Desk Personnel Contribute to Building and Maintaining Relationships for Your School - Guest Contributor - Mia Johnstone

I have been working in advertising for private schools for over 10 years. I visited about 100 schools this past year. Our initial visit is first and foremost to establish relationships with the school, learn about what makes them different, and hear what their needs are. I get to meet all kinds of people answering the telephones and working at the front desk. This person is one of the most important representatives of your school.

Last week I had an experience that illustrates the importance of basic customer service with front desk personnel. I had in my calendar a meeting with “ABC High School” (we’ll call it that for privacy reasons). I wanted to confirm the visit especially since it was the Tuesday after a 3 day weekend and a 50 mile round trip. I called the administrator and got her voice mail. I even called administrators in adjoining offices. None of them were in either. I called back again to the secretary to explain my dilemma, that I was driving 50 miles and wanted to confirm the meeting but could not find the administrator. She let me know that the administrator would call me back within a few hours. Not wanting to miss the scheduled meeting, I drove to the school. When I arrived the secretary called the administrator to let her know I was there. The secretary proceeded to tell me very rudely that the administrator had only 10 minutes to meet with me. She was the same person I spoke with in the morning. I perceived that my multiple phone calls an hour earlier had disrupted her routine. I felt discouraged and very unwelcomed after all the work I had done to secure the appointment.

Being that it is my business to connect with schools, I bypassed the sour experience and made the most of it. Fortunately, the administrator had good follow up.

Nonetheless, it exemplifies that your front desk/phone person is such an important part of your recruitment. People in sales such as advertisers or book consultants are just as important as prospective parents. A bad experience with even the front desk person can leave a lasting impression. And it likely will get talked about. It is even worse when it’s a prospective or current parent or even another administrator.

When schools approach me for marketing consulting, I always ask them to evaluate their secretary and/or front desk personnel. This person is vital to maintaining a healthy and positive customer service experience to ALL people that connect with the school. Front desk personnel/secretaries can do their part by making sure courtesy is extended to all guests. Your guests will feel appreciated and well taken care of.  That way the really hard work we do for recruitment does not get lost by a single bad experience.


Mia Johnstone is Publisher of the Los Angeles Private School Guide She loves building relationships with schools, visiting campuses, and finding great things about them. She also consults with private schools on marketing and growth strategies. Read about school marketing and advertising tips on her blog at


Mia recently wrote a great article for AISAP, “6 Tips on How to Create Positive and Lasting Relationships with Feeder School Administrators“.  Follow Mia on Twitter.