Do You Need A Stop Sign?

woman at desk holding stop sign

Over the past few months, I’ve experienced an amazing increase in requests for front desk and customer service phone skills training. I’m delighted, of course. This is where my interest in phone skills began, way back in 1979.

I was working part-time at a real estate office in Toronto while going to university. The job was ideal. My hours were 3 pm to 9 pm Monday to Friday and then a few hours on Saturday. I sat at the front desk near a large picture window overlooking the Danforth near Chester station. While there was always filing and typing to do, my most important task was answering the phone and making sure that anyone wanting to buy or sell a house spoke to one of our agents.

This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. There were always challenges to overcome. And, 41 years later, one of them remains a challenge for front desk staff, for many working in open offices … and even those working from home. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions.

What is this long-lived challenge? And what are the simple solutions?

In addition to answering incoming calls, front desk staff are usually responsible for welcoming any visitors to a company or office. They sit at or near the front door; they’re seen by everyone that arrives. In fact, it isn’t only visitors that see them but all the staff that come and go during the day.

And just like any entranceway or foyer, people tend to stop. Perhaps it’s to get themselves organized before they leave or go into a meeting. Or maybe it’s to have a quick conversation with someone or to answer a call on their cellphone.

Whatever the reason, they completely forget that they are at the front desk. They speak at full volume, laugh loudly, sometimes even yell. This is a tremendous distraction for front desk staff … and the client on the phone.

I’ll admit that I’ve done this myself. Even though I’ve been that front desk person, I still forget to remain considerate while saying goodbye to someone or ending a conversation. I always appreciate any reminder to be quiet and so will everyone else. Here are solutions – which can be used in any workspace – to help accomplish this.

Create a Stop Sign

This is a very inexpensive way to alert people gathered around your desk that you are on the phone. You can use red construction paper, or work with red markers or paint. Put the sign on a popsicle stick or something similar. Create a friendly but firm message to write on the sign. Perhaps, “Shhhhh – our customers are speaking with us on the phone!” or “Quiet, please. I’m speaking with customers on the phone.” As soon as the noise begins, raise your stop sign. Wave it if necessary. Use it to get the attention of those doing the loud talking. They’ll appreciate the reminder and move away from your desk.

Add Colourful Technology

Any phone can be connected to a bright light, often red. When this light is on, people approaching you or gathered around your desk, know you are speaking to a client. BusyBuddy is one of the models available, but there are others to choose from as well.

Perhaps you’ve used or encountered other solutions? Do share below in the comment section. I’ll share all new ideas in upcoming webinars with my clients.


4 thoughts on “Do You Need A Stop Sign?”

  1. I love this
    Not what I expected! I laughed when I read the headline.
    I was thinking it was about me changing my behaviour either to saying no. (Stop your request right there) or to stopping and thinking before speaking (self edit or pause) Lol.
    Absolutley love this because I DO need someone to wave this stop sign at me. I am loud and gregarious at times and forget about the person at the desk on the phone.

  2. Hi The Concierge staff in our condo really need one of these Stop Signs, espec when on day shift. We’re not a Seniors building but there are a lot of retired people living here. So, with time on our hands (even MORE during this blasted plague…) our poor dears get to hear lots of details about family, health, grocery shopping, medical appointments, politics….. They should write a book. Yup. The title could be Collected Conversations from the Concierge Corner. A best seller? Who can tell? Sue in Calgary

    • This is a great story, Sue. I can clearly visualize that lobby and the busy concierge. Thanks so much for sharing! And perhaps … make them a stop sign!


Leave a comment



What's The Phone Lady doing?

  • Analyzing email and chat conversations with customers and prospects to improve messaging and calls to action
  • One-on-one sales coaching with business owners
  • One-on-one business development coaching with national franchise
  • Sales training webinars with leasing professionals
  • Customer service & sales refresher with provincial tutoring company
  • One-on-one coaching with gourmet kitchen sales professional
  • Customer service & sales conversation training with provincial credit union team
  • Discovery call training with small group of startups
  • Job Search training with older workers
  •  One-on-one coaching with law firm executive assistant

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? I'd be pleased to connect with you to see if I can help. This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from me very soon.