If you’re a small business owner, you could be scratching your head. The most overlooked employee in a company? Is it the customer service representative? The salesperson? The social media manager? Nope, it’s none of those people. This person is sitting right under your nose and if you’re like too many business owners, it’s never occurred to you just how important this employee is. Who is the most overlooked person in most offices? It’s the receptionist. You heard me right – the guy or gal answering the phone.
If your business has been around less than five years, you may be thinking, “No way, the receptionist isn’t that important. After all, she’s the lowest paid person in my office and she’s disposable. Receptionists are a dime a dozen.” If this has been your train of thought, you couldn’t be more wrong.
What Does Your Receptionist Say About Your Business?
To your customers, your receptionist says a lot about your business. From the way he or she answers the phones, to how knowledgeable they sound, to the clothes they wear, to how clean their desk is – your receptionist speaks volumes about your company. When a potential customer calls your office, how they are handled by the receptionist can literally make or break the deal.
If the receptionist is short with the potential customer, if they come across as rude or uncaring, if they provide incorrect information, or if they send the call to the wrong department, the potential customer can think to themselves, “This place is unprofessional, I’m certainly NOT going to give them my business.” You’ve probably done it yourself.
Another issue is a foreign-born receptionist with a thick accent. If the caller cannot understand the receptionist, they can assume that they have reached an overseas call center. While this may not be fair to the receptionist who is trying his or her best to do a good job answering phones, the caller can lose all interest in doing business with the company because they’re certain they’ve reached someone outside the U.S. I mention this because it happens a lot. Sometimes at the price of lost business. And guess what? You’ll never get a second chance to clear up the confusion.
What to look for in a receptionist:
- Someone who is professional.
- Someone who is easy to understand.
- Someone who is neat and well-kept.
- Someone who is patient and polite.
- Someone who has a pleasing voice.
- Someone who can multi-task.
- Someone who is a good listener.
- Someone who thrives in a fast-paced environment.
- Someone who has a good attitude.
- Someone who is sharp and understands the company.
Reception is an entry-level position; this is why things can get hairy. Often, the receptionist is one of the lowest paid individuals in a company, if not the lowest-paid. But, the receptionist needs to be smart. They need to be quick on their feet, and they need to be someone with potential, someone who’s on the rise. The best receptionists know every employee and their schedules. They know every detail. They know how the company runs, and they know where everything is.
As the business owner, realize that the receptionist is the first person customers see when they walk in the door. And no matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise, first impressions count. Do you want your customers to be greeted by a rude receptionist? By someone who is grossly underdressed? By someone who makes the customer roll their eyes and scoff? The last thing you want is your customers questioning your hiring decisions. It’s just bad for business.
Starbucks Barista Theory
I was talking to a colleague the other day who works in an office with hundreds of employees. She told me about her Starbucks barista theory. She said to me, “Most receptionists may have to learn a program – maybe an Excel spreadsheet. Whatever they don’t know about computers can be learned.” She continued, “Knowing the activity level involved in reception, I’d hire a Starbucks barista over a person with office experience any day.” She explained how a Starbucks barista is well-versed in customer service, and why this is a valuable skill.
My friend’s theory: Starbucks baristas deal with customers all day long, and they’re not all nice. They have to multi-task and remember a lot. They have to remember how to make drinks, and they have to remember customers’ orders. Compare a skilled Starbucks barista to an office worker who can only handle one task at a time, or someone who is shy or anti-social. The friendly, outgoing, multi-tasking barista is far more qualified for the hectic position as a receptionist. That is, if the receptionist can be paid as much as a Starbucks barista.
Bottom line – executives must understand how valuable the receptionist position is. So many people think it’s just the receptionist. Just the gopher. Just the assistant. But in reality, the receptionist is the face of the company. As the business owner, do you wish to make your first impression a good one? You better. Scrimp in this department and you can lose valuable business, sometimes well-before a call even makes it to a salesman. Why is this? Because, first impressions are everything to a business. Make sure yours is a good one.
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can follow her at www.elainnaciaramella.com , on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.
Originally published on Wealth Builders NYC.