When your business phone is answered, how do you want to be represented? This, sadly, is a question no business owner ask because they assume anyone can answer the phone, even a trained monkey.
Earlier this week I called a client and was absolutely horrified at what I heard. The call went something like this.
Receptionist: (Company name) how can I help?
Me: Good morning, my name is Lisa who am I speaking with? (Whatever happened to good phone etiquette and introducing oneself?)
Receptionist: It’s Billy.
Me: Hello Billy, may I speak to (client)
Receptionist: He’s not in yet. Do you want me to have him call you back?
Me: Yes, that would be lovely, can he please call Lisa (and while I’m still speaking)
Receptionist: No problem. I’ll have him call you back. Thanks for calling.
The receptionist didn’t even bother to take down my phone number. How is the client going to call me back? And even if she had caller ID, how does she know I wanted a call back on that number? And Lisa who? Who’s Lisa? Where am I calling from?
I sat there for a few minutes horrified. This is MY client. He runs a very successful business, a real entrepreneur who started with nothing and built something. Someone who’s worked hard his whole life to create something special and here we have an arrogant, self-absorbed receptionist, who showed absolutely no respect for her employer and the trust he’s placed in her. This is totally unacceptable on both a personal level (because the receptionist should have more pride in her work) and a professional level (my client is keeping her employed, she should respect his business and not bite the hand that feeds her!) and I don’t know if it was from lack of training or whether she was having a bad day, or whether she just has a blasé attitude towards her work. Whatever it was, it was totally unacceptable. The receptionist needs to be switched on all day, every day.
A lot of professionals I’ve spoken to over the years think answering phones is easy and don’t give that part of their business the respect it deserves. Answering phones isn’t easy, trust me, I know. I’ve been in the industry 18 years and I’ve seen a lot.
(Some callers will be rude and disrespectful, others will scream at you, some will call every 15 minutes if they’re waiting for a callback, and my personal favourite, they will threaten to come into the office and cause havoc. This can frighten your receptionist and cause her a great deal of anxiety. It can change her mood instantly and if she doesn’t know how to handle these calls, her mood and attitude will be evident in every other call she answers for the rest of the day)
What most business owners don’t think about (and why would they?) is just how important it is to have common sense. Common sense and answering the phones go hand in hand. You can’t effectively do one without the other. It’s extremely important. It doesn’t matter how much training one has if they cannot think on their feet and if they don’t have common sense they will struggle with answering the phone. It’s that simple. I’ve seen situations where receptionists have received an abundant amount of training. They were given a manual with specific sentences, covering all scenarios, yet ask them something, not in the manual and they fall apart. They have no idea how to handle the call and in this situation, they need common sense and they need to think on their feet.
A professional would have handled the call the following way;
Receptionist: Good morning, thank you for calling (company name) you’re speaking with Billie, how can I help you?
Me: Hello Billy, May I speak to (client)
Receptionist: I’m sorry, (client) is currently unavailable. May I have your name and phone number and I’ll have (client) return your call?
Me: Yes, that would be lovely, can you please have him call Lisa?
Receptionist: Certainly Lisa, can I have your phone number and the name of the company you’re calling from?
Me: The number is …………… and I’m calling from Virtual Business Services Australia.
Receptionist: Thank you Lisa, I’ll have (Client) return your call on (repeats phone number) thank you for calling (company name) have a great day!
This is how you want your receptionist to answer your phones. Always professional. Always with a smile on her face, because believe it or not, you can hear that smile in her voice.
When a potential client or customer calls you, your receptionist is a reflection of you.
She is a reflection of your business.
She is the 1st point of contact.
Its imperative the call starts and ends well
The best advice I can give you? Call your office and listen to your receptionist.
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