This past week I’ve found myself both startled and well … lost for words really, at the aggressive unprofessionalism that is often used by receptionists. And before you think that I’m picking on receptionists – I’m not. I realize that their behaviour is often indicative of the organization as a whole, which is why I’m writing about it here.
When I’m puzzling about something, as I have about this phenomenon, my first stop is often the dictionary (well, what do you expect from someone with a BA in English Literature!). Although there are many definitions of the word “reception”, the one that applies to business calls is “a welcome, greeting or acceptance”. In many companies, when it comes to the telephone, this is not what’s happening.
Imagine arriving at someone’s office, walking up to the reception desk and being greeted with “Why are you here?” Or, if after you state who you’d like to see, you are asked “What do you want to talk to them about?” Would you stay? Would you want to do business with that organization?
Well, this is what’s happening on the telephone that, in terms of both potential and existing customers, is as important as a company’s front door.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to combat this – and I do mean combat. The art of reception, perhaps like the art of letter writing or the art of conversation, is being ignored in favour of the new technologies, but I don’t believe this is an either/or situation. Strong, welcoming receptionist skills will always be integral to a company’s success and it’s ability to prosper.
So I think it’s time to speak up – I just haven’t yet figured out the how and who. There’s no doubt that a rude receptionist gets under my skin with lightening speed – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this reaction. So the first words that surface in my brain tend to be, well, sarcastic and condescending. I know from experience that’s not at all helpful. But there must be some way to gently say “Hey, that was kind of rude”.
Or perhaps it isn’t the receptionist I need to speak to but my contact within the company. Of course, I need to make sure I do it without making them defensive. Perhaps something like “Can I share with you my experience in calling your company?”
I’m going to keep working on this and I’ll keep you informed of my progress (I’m sure this will generate some good stories). I also encourage you to share your thoughts here on my blog or with the companies you call.
If we want to keep the welcoming art of reception alive, we’ve all got to speak up when it’s missing.