Who is the most important person in your company when it comes to customer experience? Such a generalisation is always going to be difficult and will vary from company to company. However, we would like to nominate somebody who is vitally important in every B2B company and yet who is often neglected. This person is the Cinderella of B2B customer experience teams - it is your receptionist.
Receptionists often miss out on day to day dealings between established contacts who communicate with text messages, mobile calls and emails. This may be the case but the receptionist is still a vital nerve centre. Their very location close to the front door means that they see whoever is coming and going. They know who is in and out of the building. They know who is in a meeting. They take delivery of Amazon parcels for staff who prefer to receive things at work rather than have stuff left on the doorstep. They share gossip and know more about what’s going on than the CEO.
Crucially they answer the phone. Only the other day one of us was in the market for buying a car. We had decided the make and model we wanted and it was just a question of ordering the car and agreeing a price. We rang the dealer. After negotiating the “press 1 for service, 2 for parts, 3 for service and 4 for sales” somebody answered the phone. We heard a garbled couple of sentences which we believe told us the person’s name and presumably asked how they could help. We couldn’t understand a word of it as it was spat out like a machine gun. We assumed that this person could route us through to the sales manager and so we asked if we could speak to him or her. We now got a reply that we could understand. It asked us what we wanted to speak to the sales manager about. This seemed a strange question for a company that sold cars but we thought that we rather cleverly answered it by saying “we are interested in buying a car”. The receptionist hadn’t finished yet. “Mr so-and-so is in a meeting, is he expecting you?”. We had to confess that he wasn’t expecting us and we enquired when he would be available. This proved to be a million-dollar question. The receptionist had no idea. At this point we were truly pissed off, thanked the lovely lady and let her get back to whatever she was doing before being so rudely interrupted. We vowed never to do business with the company and phoned another dealer. The dealer who lost the sale will never know how close they were to winning some business. The receptionist, who is often the first point of contact with a customer had killed it stone dead.
As with all people who work in customer experience, the problem with the dodgy receptionist undoubtedly began at the point of recruitment. Maybe a high priority was put on the person’s appearance and not their voice or their manner. Maybe the receptionist was chosen to act as a guard dog to filter out the time wasters who may want to speak to senior managers or directors. Maybe the receptionist was simply not paid enough and had taken the job on a pitiful salary until something better turned up.
So, what should we look for in an amazing receptionist? When we list the qualities it sounds like a job spec for a CEO. We want someone who is brilliant with people. They must have empathy and be capable of quickly assessing a situation with few facts and possibly only a voice at the other end of a phone line. They must be able to deal with a wide variety of situations, always making people feel valued even if they are going to turn out to be time wasters. They must have the technical skills to handle a sophisticated telephone system, holding calls and routing them quickly and efficiently. (Anyone reading this blog who has answered an office phone late at night and tried to transfer a call will know that this isn't always easy). They need to sound as chirpy and enthusiastic at the end of a long and trying day as they did on their first call of the morning.
When you find this person, never let them go. They are the most important person in your customer experience team.