Sometimes, on the most hectic of days, we find the time to do that something extra that needs to get done, right? I had one of those days a few weeks ago and as I was rushing about to make sure I had everything I needed for meetings and workshops, I realized that, since I was going to be downtown, I could fit in the quick task of picking up the last bit of paperwork at a lawyers’ office. At 8:30 am I called the office to let them know I’d be there sometime between 4 and 5 pm. I spoke to the main receptionist who put me through to the correct staff member and then … there was a communication breakdown.
What caused the communication breakdown? Is it also happening in your business?
Voicemail systems were developed in the late 1970s, began gaining popularity in the early 1980s, and they disrupted a business hierarchy. It was once the pinnacle of corporate success to have your own receptionist. Today we all have one. Unfortunately, with all our many gadgets and ways of communicating, and continually finding our lives filled to the brim with things to do, we often forget the true value of voicemail.
Back to my story … at 8:30 am I left the detailed voicemail message at the law firm, which opens at 8 am. I stated my name, that I was following up on a request for certain documents be picked up, when I’d arrive to pick them up, and also provided both my cell and my email details.
It was deceptively sunny that day and as I rushed along downtown streets to the lawyers’ office I was quickly chilled to the bone. I had that “I can’t wait to get home” mentality when I reached main reception, gave my name and that of the staff member leaving a package for me to pick up … and discovered there was nothing waiting for me.
This wasn’t an uncomfortable situation. The main receptionist was lovely and she very quickly found someone else to help, the documents were located while I waited patiently, alternately enjoying an amazing view of the harbour and answering email. The delay created was approximately 15 minutes.
It did make me think about voicemail though. The reason the documents weren’t waiting for me, and why another staff member had to do some incredibly thorough searching to find them, was that the person responsible was away ill. No one had told her “receptionist”.
In normal circumstances, my detailed message that morning would have allowed for an incredibly efficient transaction. But without voicemail being updated, there were delays and inconveniences. (Likely when we are ill, updating our voicemail is not a priority but perhaps a colleague can do it for us.)
I know it’s tempting to abandon voicemail. Many of us are receiving – and making – fewer phone calls. But voicemail is our receptionist. Its design provides a powerful way to create efficiency and professional communication with clients and customers. It also plays an important role in supporting a brand of service and excellence.
So … are you ignoring your receptionist?
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