A Receptionist is Part of Your Branding Strategy
The Receptionist is the Public Image of your Business
Few business owners consider the receptionist as a player in the branding of the business. The branding strategy part of your business plan usually addresses marketing and advertising; how to get the name out there and how to get people to make positive associations with it. Do you want your brand to be thought of as dull, inefficient, uninformative or bureaucratic? Probably not. But your receptionist, as the first public image of your company is also part of your brand. Would you not like your company to be known as bright, helpful, resourceful and eager to please?
What’s one of the worst practices in business? Hire the most inexperienced receptionist you can find, making sure that he or she has a very limited professional background and provide the person with no training. To make matters worse, your new receptionist lacks resourcefulness, has poor speech habits, has no sense of humor, and generally has a bad attitude. Do this because you can hire such a person cheaply and save a lot of money on payroll. Voila! You have instituted a branding practice so bad that it can sink your business. This problem is so common in business that it seems there is somebody out there teaching a seminar on this subject.
Receptionist is a gender neutral noun. A receptionist can be a man or a woman; and either can be good—or bad.
Has this ever happened to you? You place a call to speak to someone on an important matter. You introduce yourself and ask to speak to Mr. Jones The receptionist replies (in the perfect Brooklynese twang of Marisa Tomei in the movie My Cousin Vinny), “He’s on da phone, cudga call back layta?” “Would you like to take a message?” you inquire. “I gotta run,” she says. “My boyfriend’s takin’ me ta lunch. Call back layta.” Now, this person has no idea who in the world you are, or that your call might be a great opportunity for her company. You have just blown an excellent branding opportunity. The person who hired this receptionist probably wrote a book entitled “How to Hire a Receptionist Who Will Chase Away Customers, Cost You Money, Make Your Life Miserable, and Possibly Get You Sued.
The Good Receptionist: A Best Practice
The job of the receptionist is, for small-to-medium businesses anyway, an entry-level position. But that does not mean that it is an unimportant job. A “receptionist” is the person whose primary responsibility is to answer the phone, route calls, take messages and greet visitors. In smaller organizations, the receptionist typically wears many hats. The receptionist is the voice, the personality, of your business. The first time a customer calls or walks into the office, the receptionist actually is your business. Of all the areas to save money, this is not one of them. How many businesses do you know of where the receptionist is hired right out of high school, where he or she specialized in chewing bubble gum? Think of the receptionist not only as your primary assistant for customer care but a component of your brand management.
There is a theory, gaining currency, that businesses can save money by eliminating the position of receptionist. This idea can work only if you replace the person with a rotating position, reception duty so to speak. If four employees are assigned the position, make absolutely certain that each person is trained how to properly handle the job. Remember: the receptionist is the face and voice of your business, and should be thought of as a part of your branding strategy.
What to Look for in a Good Receptionist
Attitude. Unless you are willing to spend a lot of money un-training bad habits, you should look for a person with a positive disposition, a good sense of humor, and the resourcefulness to handle problems when they arise.
Skill. Unless reception is the only job that this person will be doing, good clerical and computer skills are a must to enable the person to multitask. Often, the receptionist is assigned projects that other employees don’t have the time to do. A few examples are entering items into a database, cleaning up a database, filing or assisting with bookkeeping duties.
Resourcefulness. Problems have a way of occurring at the worst possible time, usually when you or other managers are away from the office. A good receptionist should be able to think fast, help customers find solutions to problems and leave customers with the feeling that they are in good hands. The most important thing that receptionists need to convey is that they take the customers’ problems very seriously and that they will make sure problems are taken care of. Receptionists may not have the ability to solve the problem, but they do have the ability to let customers know that help is on the way.
A receptionist is usually thought of as a person at the bottom of an organizational chart. It’s a big mistake to think this way. You should recognize that the receptionist is the first contact that people have with your business, and is tied to your branding. Is there any reason why that contact should not be a positive experience?
This article was excerpted from The APT Principle: The Business Plan that You Carry in Your Head by Russell F. Moran For more information, Please click here
Copyright ©2012 by Russell F. Moran