The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) is an establishment visited by vendors and visitors traveling from all over the world throughout the year for numerous reasons. Many come to test their company’s technical equipment and devices, or to learn about the services we offer to our customers and others come to learn about opportunities we have for students interested in technology. Some of our guests are here to attend what we call Plugfest events, these events entail multiple technical companies coming together and testing their products with other company’s products. Other vendors come for “in-house testing”, which is a single company of one or more representatives coming in to test their products in our lab. The other types of visitors we have are people unfamiliar with our facility that are here to tour the lab to see what we do. These people can be CEO’s from multi-million dollar corporations or high school juniors looking for potential employment and internship opportunities. As the receptionist for the UNH-IOL, I have had the privilege of having first contact with each of our guests over the past three years. From this, I have learned firsthand the importance of making a friendly and welcoming first impression. The impression our visitors have when they walk in the door will stay with them throughout their visit and long thereafter.
Quite often we have vendors visiting us from other countries and cultures for a week or more. They are in a new environment, away from their homes, families and work establishment. It can be a very stressful endeavor, but with friendly relations, the visit becomes more enjoyable. On many occasions, I have had conversations with our visitors about where they come from, what it’s like living here and other interesting topics. Another common topic of discussion is the local community in which they are staying. During their stay our vendors reside at local hotels and eat at the local restaurants. This is great for our community, because it is giving our local businesses more business. I love hearing the different views visitors have of New Hampshire as well as the comparisons between where they come from and here. I have learned a great deal about different cultures and customs, which has contributed drastically to helping me better relate to our guests and make their time here feel more like home. One particular case I can recall was with a vendor from Israel. He had been to our Plugfest’s many times and traveled all over the United States. I learned that he really enjoys coming to New Hampshire for many reasons stating; “it’s quiet and very laid back; there’s also no sales tax which is great!” He told me all about the weather in his country and the process young people go through for their education and other interesting facts I had no idea about previously. That conversation and many others like it throughout my time here made me look at people of different cultures in a new light.
Possibly the most rewarding part of positive customer relations for me is having a visitor that lives hundreds if not thousands of miles away arrive and smile when they see me and say “Hello Kerry, It’s nice seeing you again.” Often times the greeting is followed by a statement or question regarding a discussion we had during their last visit. It is so wonderful to establish a positive relationship with our guests because ultimately, if they like coming here and working with us, they’ll stay working with us and our business keeps on going.
Kerry Auchterlonie, Receptionist