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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I own an insurance company, and while my business is good, I struggle to find qualified people to answer our busy phone lines. I've gone through several receptionists lately and am frustrated with finding someone who can handle the pressure and pace of the phones. Does anyone have any phone tips to help me train future staff? Thanks.


Answer from our Guest Expert Donna Hall of The Right Answer, Customer Service Consultants

I here ya, Harvey, brewing up the right training blend can be frustrating and confusing. However, there's no need to flounder like a filet. Sprinkle this mixture of phone tips into your coaching soufflé and your future receptionists should be able to better weather the heat and pressures of a busy phone-system like yours.

Grandma Gerdy's Telephone Savvy Recipe

1. Get the Kitchen Supplies Organized.

First, have your receptionist clear away any desk clutter, including yesterday's coffee cups, old messages and memos, and the year-old stack of files. Right off the bat, she'll save time finding her phone-answering supplies more quickly and efficiently. Advise her to take charge and organize her desk so it feels comfortable and tidy. Every service pro keeps a well-stocked desktop, having everything she needs right at her fingertips. When the pace picks up, she'll roll right along, not missing a beat.

2. Keep Your Cool When the Kitchen Heats Up.

When the heat's on, encourage your staff to chill it! Learn about stress-calming techniques to pass onto them. To regain some sanity between calls, suggest they take a deep breath, count to 10, and relax. If it's super busy, have them learn to regain composure on the count of 5 or less, if you have to. But, implore them to relax! It doesn't take a gourmet chef to figure out we all think better when we're calm, cool, and collected. Keeping temperatures even will translate into better biz communications and rapport with customers.

3. Add a Pinch of Schmooz.

Allowing coworkers to schmooze is perfect for getting them to look out for one another. Working as a team can keep stress levels down. So encourage occasional chit chat and hold frequent staff meetings. Consider cross-training your staff too. Find out who'd like to work phones and find out what your receptionist would like to learn. With cross-training, the phone staff can get the breather they need when the office goings-on get rough, and she'll learn more about the biz in other departments. It's always a good idea to make sure someone else can pitch in to help out an overly stressed receptionist.

4. One Helping of Company Pride

Let your receptionists and all other employees know about your company history, goals for the future, and where it's at right now. When employees see that they're really included in the company's future and you appreciate their extra special ingredients, they begin to feel a sense of ownership and become emotionally invested in making your biz successful. They'll take pride in their job and work. When you're a part of the big picture, you're inclined to give more.

5. Lend a Listening Ear

Everyone gets frustrated, especially the receptionists who often take the heat from dissatisfied or impatient callers--not to mention the everyday stress of handling a busy phone line. No wonder many receptionists feel it's not worth it to be nice! But to lessen her load and make her job more enjoyable, you can help her develop stronger listening skills. By developing these listening skills, your receptionists will be able to maintain control, understand customer needs, respond more effectively to these needs, and overall, keep her feeling less stressed.

Do a role play or two with receptionists. Put together some exercises that Mirror your workplace. Provide short scenarios that will show how your receptionist can handle stressful calls or situations before she hits the phones. Also, encourage your receptionist to express her own frustrations. Lend a listening ear yourself to her needs. You'll build a stronger employer-employee relationship, understand the stresses of her job better, and learn how to better help her succeed.

Harvey, you can add just the right amount of seasoning to get your next receptionist ready to man the phones. There are many service pros out there with the skills and appitude to get the job done. I hope this short recipe will help. Good luck!

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