Reach out

Call Yourself

Call yourself...

No matter your company or industry from digital to brick and mortar, it is a good idea to check in on your customer service. Go out today and place a phone call to yourself or have someone else do it for you.  You might be surprised by the results.

In most companies, one of the lowest paid and least trained of the employees is the first contact an outsider has with the company: its telephone receptionist. How your phone is answered and the exchange that follows can influence a caller’s attitude toward your company and its products or services. Why not be sure that attitude and initial impression is positive?

First, the receptionist should slow down and speak both calmly and clearly. Answering a phone


is not helpful. You and your receptionist should be proud of your company’s name.  When someone calls, be sure that it is accentuated and not hidden in a jumble of words that no one can either follow or understand.

Also, your receptionist should never interrupt a caller.  How often have you had this exchange:  “Could I please speak with Bill Williams; this is….”  “Can-I-tell-him-who’s-calling?”

And don’t put callers on hold forever.  Your receptionist should ask if he or she might put the caller on hold.  Then let the caller know within thirty seconds if there will be a delay, if the other party is on another call, or if the person being called must be paged.  A caller shouldn’t wonder if the call has been disconnected, if there is anyone at the company other than the receptionist, or if the receptionist has decided to leave for lunch.

Of course, being on hold, whether short or long, is even worse when faced with raucous music that is both inappropriate and loud.  Any music on your phone system should be designed specifically for office “on-hold” use and should be both soft and unobtrusive.

The worst is to tap a radio station into your office phone for on-hold use.  Have you ever been on hold when an advertisement for laxatives or personal lubricants suddenly came on the radio station that is being forced on you as you wait?  Do you really want top 40’s music to represent your company to a caller?

How often have you been on a long hold and had a recorded voice say repeatedly, “We value your call….”  If you value my call, don’t let me sit through the recording sixteen times.

In particular, don’t put any caller into a endless loop where it’s impossible to reach a live person.  If you use extensions without a receptionist, just make sure your phone system always responds to dialing “0” and has a person who will always answer.  If the primary receptionist is not at his or her desk, the call should automatically transfer to someone who will answer.  The inability to talk with anyone who is not a recorded or computer generated voice is not only madding but also a poor presentation of your concern for people trying to contact your company.

Your telephone receptionist should also realize that he or she does not have all the answers and should not speak for the company on major corporate issues.  On occasion, I’ve called companies and explained that I am a corporate finance consultant representing a company available for acquisition that might be of interest to XYZ Corp.  After asking to whom I should speak, the receptionist has responded, “We wouldn’t be interested in that.”  As I hung up and crossed that company off my list, I wondered how an hourly paid receptionist could make that decision for the company.  Oh well, others were certainly interested.

As you study your phone system and the response your company gives a caller, also ask yourself how accessible you are.  Unless you’re the CEO of a multi-billion company, answer your desk phone yourself.  After I’ve responded to the questions posed by a receptionist and then reached an assistant only to answer them again and then had the assistant ask, “Can I tell him what this call is about?”, I want to respond, “Yes, this is the Pink Pussycat Motel.  We wanted to tell him he left his American Express card on our water bed.”  If I wanted to talk with an assistant, I would have asked for the assistant when I first called.

It’s also important that you choose your receptionist with care.  Do you really want someone with the personality of a bear trap being the first contract anyone has with your company?  We all have bad days on occasion, but some have bad days every day.  Make sure one of those is not answering your company’s phone.

As a last little note, you should also place your calls yourself.  It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve received calls with the greeting, “Mr. Wilson is calling; just a minute please.”  As I’m waiting for Mr. Wilson, I think how pretentious and egotistical he must be.

Think about the first contact the world has with your company and be sure the impression given is the one you want to represent your entire organization.  Make sure your telephone receptionists are well trained, know what to say as well as what is inappropriate, and treat callers with the patience and respect you would want to receive.  You can’t know if that’s done without either calling yourself or having someone else call you to report on the reception they receive.

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