Whether your customer service is good, bad or mediocre (guess which one of those should be your minimum standard?) depends to a large degree on the communication between your people and your customers. And the first person to greet a customer – new, existing, or even internal – is your receptionist.
This is the first point of contact, a daily first impression that you cannot afford to get wrong. So, let’s take an overview of that first impression, both the person making it and the place in which it’s often happening. First, the place.
The perfect reception
You may not have too much control over your accommodation, especially if it’s leased, but whatever you do in terms of layout, furniture, colour scheme (appearance, in other words) it should fit your business and your brand. If you’re a tech startup, then it’s all glass, hipster bricks and Google games, whereas a firm of lawyers trading on ‘traditional values’ might be better with a more old-fashioned, classic aesthetic. Details? Very well…
- Seating – Visitors often have to wait and they need somewhere comfortable to sit if you want them to enter the meeting relaxed and open.
- Signage – Is it immediately obvious that it’s YOUR reception? Is your name and/or logo easily seen? (Remember, when you visit anywhere for the first time, there’s always a touch of am-I-in-the-right-place anxiety.) Further, is the bathroom clearly marked?
- Access – As a business, you have a legal duty to take disabilities into account (as far as is reasonable within the building’s structure).
- Cleanliness – Apart from any other consideration, keep it clean! Grimy carpet, dusty plants, overflowing waste bin… all highly off-putting.
The perfect receptionist
Good design get you a long way but the perfect reception needs the perfect receptionist, they’re one of the most influential people that you employ:
- Greetings – Do you have a stock greeting for visitors (and phone calls)? Which form of words will that reliable but forward-thinking and excitingly efficient vibe that you’re aiming for?
- Communication in general – Your receptionist should understand the mechanics and nuances of communicating with different customers, including the difference between a face to face interaction and a phone call.
- Telephone etiquette – In fact, the whole issue of communicating professionally and understanding the customer in the absence of visual cues is a core skill.
- Assertiveness – Reception work isn’t all smiles and greetings and often includes telling people what they don’t want to hear (No, he’s not in; I’m sorry, but if you don’t have an appointment… etc.) The key is to be able to say ‘no’ constructively, without causing damage to the customer relationship.
- Under pressure – How to deal with difficult situations, multiple demands for attention, and the ever-possible angry customer.
For the perfect reception experience you need the right environment for your specific business. And in that environment, you need a highly competent member of the team. Someone with an understanding of the role and the communication skills to be able to pull it off.
For a detailed look at the role and influence of the receptionist, we have a half-day ‘Reception Perfection’ workshop. Or simply give us a call on 01582 463464 – we’re here to help!