Bad Reception? Time to rethink your corporate front line image

Receptionist (n.): ancient switchboard.

Company (n.): Dynamic humanitarian for which receptionist is ambassador.

Spot the incongruities in these common assumptions? Imagine all ambassadors could be plugged in. lt might not be such a bad thing for the UN. But your company, with its commitment to “serving individual needs”, or its “uncompromised service excellence”, could do with a more ambitious representative, wouldn’t you say?

Too many businesses today assume that they can market themselves successfully without a proper “ front line image. Millions are spent on brand and advertising, but nobody knows the name of the living embodiment of the brand – the receptionist. The receptionist is literally the figure at the forefront of the company . Curious or discontent customers don’t pose their questions or air “their grievances to management, but to the receptionist.

Yet ironically not much attention is given to this crucial figure. How do you expect your receptionist to match the promises of your advertising campaign, or successfully project your brand if he or she has never attended a marketing meeting let alone a formal induction programme?

ln the bloody aftermath  of the recession, customer retention has become a more urgent goal than increased sales. It has become essential for businesses to capitalize on their existing client base. Nobody wants to hear the stale “first impressions count” cliche again, yet recent research has shown that a customer will make a decision within five the seconds of dealing with a company’s front-line staff.

lt’s simply horrifying how many prospects have been lost due to low levels of front-line competency. When last did you call your own company? How enthusiastically were you greeted? You might be shocked at the results. Statistics show that receptionists are the least incentivised and recognized of all staff members, with many being plagued by a low sense of self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. lt comes as no surprise that they do not always display the sunniest of dispositions.

What you may not realize is that the job is tough. Gone is the 1900’s mentality of the receptionist as phone-answer-er – today they are expected to have a wide range of skills, yet their image remains steeped in such simplified cliches of the past. The average manager has never sat behind the switchboard. Subjected to the continual drone of daily inquiries, or endured the emotional beatings of an incensed customer. The roller coaster ride of emotions through which a receptionist will move on a daily basis is phenomenal, and most are given little or“ no interpersonal or“ psychological skills with which to deal with this taxing situation.

But before you start worrying about your front-line staff staging a coup, be consoled by the fact that there is a solution to the dilemmas highlighted above, and it comes in the form of a truly dynamic and humanitarian company called The Peer Group. The Peer Group offers excellent courses in front line skills. Training is flexible and caters for the needs of different industries, products and environments. Delegates learn a range of hard and soft skills, from dealing with internal and external customers to practicing good telephonic techniques and handling criticism and complaints.

The Peer Group is unique in that it conducts an external audit of the workings and dynamics of a company before commencing training. It also sees training as a journey rather than an event, and sustains the process through ongoing attention to internal and external feedback.

ln the long run, training in professional front-line skills is almost guaranteed to save your company money. The Peer Group has been in business for sixteen years and its numerous successes can be seen in the likes of corporate giants such as Momentum, Vodacom and Alexander Forbes.