First Impressions Count

Is your receptionist your top salesperson?

Few business owners understand that their company’s reputation rests on the first impression gained by customers or prospects. How that first call is handled is all-important in creating the right perception in your customers’ minds.
Few business owners invest time or money in helping their frontline staff gain the necessary skills, such as how to handle angry customers, deal with complaints, be assertive and promote the brand.
Have you spent a lot of money building your brand, and promoting its promise through advertising and social media channels? Have you involved your frontline staff – yes, even your receptionist – in the branding process? How can they be expected to live the brand if you don’t give them the opportunity to offer their ideas and input?

Competencies to look for

What competencies do you look for in a good receptionist? Top of the list should be the ability to establish a rapport by being warm, friendly and courteous. They must also be able to actively listen and put the customer first; ask questions to show the customer they understand their needs; problem solve; under promise and over deliver; and act on requests made. Analyse these skills, they’re probably the similar, if not the same, as those required from your top sales performers.

Rate those skills

Rate your receptionist’s skills by filling in the number that applies to them below.
1= NEVER do 6 = ALWAYS do

  1. He/she absorbs customer frustration and emotion, without taking it personally, remaining in empathy/solution mode.
  2. Takes an interest in the customer and their needs.
  3. Uses customer names appropriately in conversations and discussions.
  4. Takes care to get spelling and pronunciation correct.
  5. Transfers calls warmly, when appropriate.
  6. Keeps visitors/callers informed if there is a delay.
  7. Says goodbye to customers cheerfully at end of visit/phone call.
  8. Coordinates people effectively (e.g. couriers with packages; meeting rooms
  9. Spots and acts i.e. takes ownership of issues, even if the issue belongs to someone else/ uses initiative

(Adapted from Bryan Edwards)

How did your receptionist do? And for interest’s sake, how did you do? Did these questions make you stop and think about how your customers are currently being handled? They should, if you didn’t manage 100 percent.

Interview carefully

When you recruit for a sales position, you probably spend days interviewing candidates in order to assess their potential. How thorough are you when it comes to appointing a receptionist?
Your frontline staff require a wide range of skills. Perhaps it’s time you spent a day behind the switchboard to listen to the drone of daily inquiries and to face up to angry customers – it will convince you of the need for proper recruitment policies and training for these employees.

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 Receptionist 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.
One of our clients, actually the CEO said, “The Receptionist is the most important person in my organization. The next call or visitor could be a new client ready to put R1 million of business our way. And this decision depends on how they are treated right from the start”

How Right He Is! Remember People Buy From People.

Clive Price is MD of The Peer Group, a company that specialises in sales training and frontline excellence. He has a BA (Econ) from Wits and a Post Grad Degree in Learning Psychology from London University.