From a Real, Former Front Desk Guy
Hey, Front Desk Guy…”
I just shuddered writing that – how about you? Is this the view of your front desk personnel around your office, or are you a practice with an actual front desk specialist? A skilled and field-targeted member of your staff. In my 20 years of experience, from customer service to project management, I have had the pleasure of living this situation and learning what it truly means to be an effective front desk person.
Although, at times I admittedly felt like I was on the verge of sounding like my business role-model:
“Hey everyone! Come see how good I look!” – Ron Burgundy, Anchorman
But that’s probably a different person in your office, so back to my point – you should not underestimate how important your first point of contact is to your clientele. Who you have sitting at that front desk often sets the tone for the rest of your practice. So, without further ado, I humbly submit to you the 5 traits that you want in your front desk person…
“If the phone rings – answer it.” I was taught this seemingly obvious lesson by Jeff Davis, owner of Davis Door Service in Seattle, WA. While this sounds so simple, sometimes the mindset of the front desk can more readily be described as a “the machine will get it” or “they’ll call back” type attitude. But the reality is – no, they’ll call someone else who can help them, that’s who they’re going to call. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, if your business has a phone number, you are in the Customer Service Industry. Each phone call is an opportunity to meet a need, solve a problem, and – most importantly in our capitalistic society – to exchange goods and services for money. I think that we all know this, but it is so easy to let this piece of the puzzle slide. So Jeff, I apologize for stealing the working title of the book you are never going to write, and hope you never read this for fear I won’t be able to see you behind your ego (read above quote).
I recently had a conversation with a friend who works with a management consulting group on the topic of a good-working relationship between clients and vendors. He was telling me that of all factors measured in a survey of customer service satisfaction, the highest rated were, “are they likeable” and “did they address my issues.”
Your front desk staff is the voice and the face of your company whenever a new patient walks in through your doors. Mary Poppins was right – a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. When someone calls or walk in for an appointment, you have that one time to set a good impression, (and I immediately regret the Anchorman reference to start this article). To this end, you want to find someone who is comfortable being themselves – we can all tell when someone is genuinely serving us, or simply going through the motions. If your business is like ours, the word spreads quickly on who is legitimately a pleasure to work with, and who you may want to avoid if possible. Believe it or not, the way your phone is answered plays a large role in how your company is received.
To the second half of this – people don’t care if you have Chris Pratt at the counter, andEVERYONE loves calling or coming in – if your front desk specialist don’t solve a their problem, there will still be an unsolved issue. And what happens then? Both the client and the next level of management need to have a conversation. This can be as easy as saying, “You know, I don’t know the answer to that and I need to do some research. Can I call you back with the answer, or get someone for you who can answer that for you?” And just like point one, answer the phone and do what you said you would do.
Simple, and now you’ve been promoted from, “I don’t want to call the front desk guy” to “I’ll call Your Name Here – he/she always take care of us.”
Trait number ‘fore’ – be a willing learner. The preceding sentence was crafted that way on purpose, and I had to fight with the content department to keep it as is. You don’t want someone who is going to be so set it their ways, that they are unable, or worse, unwilling to learn. Each industry has its nuances, and these are very important to take the time to learn. Let’s take a look at the activity of golf for example. I am not good. When I play, I am more like the guy from Robin Williams’ joke than I am Tiger Woods. So I tend to not take myself very seriously, and have also looked curiously at those of you with illusions of grandeur. “It’s hitting a ball with a stick, while taking a walk,” I told my boss one time. “Not for me, I’ve been working on this for 30 years. I’ve put a lot of time and money into this ‘game’ and I want it to go well.” Case in point, it is important to find a person from your front desk that will be willing to respect your industry and learn the necessary skills. Otherwise, you should let them take a walk.
[Metalica’s Enter Sandman plays in the background] Mariano Rivera walks out of the bullpen – it’s closing time. Not just for this article, but as our final trait for your front desk person. Be a closer. I think most of us know this in a sales sense, and certainly this is vital, but it is just as important for your administrative staff. This last trait ties all the others together – answer the phone, make a good impression, learn the questions and how or who to get the answers from, deliver on the promise to resolve an issue, and wrap it up properly.
Two years ago, I started to close my emails with the tag, “thank you for the opportunity to serve you.” This was a conscious choice I made, and it serves as a check to my own ego and agenda. Without you, our customers, clients, partners, and friends – I don’t have this job, and we don’t have a company. I have the privilege to serve you and deliver on a product. My goal, and one certainly worthy of your front desk, is that you know that every time we interact. As a former front desk person, thank you for the opportunity to serve you, and thank you for taking the time to read our blog.
I hope this information helps you find the right person to embody your own practice as a front desk person.