By Melodie Veldhuizen
The receptionist, switchboard-operator or person at the call service centre usually is the first person clients/patients/visitors see or with whom they communicate when they visit or phone an organisation (a business, school, church, hospital, consulting room of medical practitioners, call centres/client service centres). First impressions are permanent and as showcase of the organisation it is essential that the personnel make visitors feel welcome and put people who phone in at their ease to make their enquiries with confidence. How people are treated on entry or during a first call, should be an indication of the quality of further service delivery. To be an asset to the organisation, these personnel should possess certain skills.
Professional friendliness and courtesy are evident from your facial expression, body language and tone of voice. During telephonic communication, tone of voice especially is important, as the person cannot observe your facial expression. Enquire sincerely after the person’s wellbeing and how you may assist. Encourage frank communication, so that the person doesn’t feel he/she is wasting your time. Guard against being overfriendly.
Excellent communication skills entail two-way communication. This means that you first have to listen careful to what the problem or need is exactly, without interrupting the person. Then reply, without stumbling or stuttering, clearly and concisely. Make sure you convey the message effectively. Communication skills in at least two of the official languages are essential.
Effective time management and the ability to multitask. Often the receptionist must also handle telephone calls while a visitor is standing in front of his/her desk and other important tasks also have to be performed. It requires skill to handle everything effectively without someone feeling neglected or you having to compromise the quality of your other tasks.
Organised and neat. Make sure there are no unfiled documents, papers and empty coffee mugs cluttering your desk/counter. Neatness conveys a professional, positive image and also helps you to trace important documents easily. Your personal appearance is equally important.
Trustworthy and dedicated. The reception area and switchboard must be manned at all times. During lunch and teatimes a relief staff member should take over. If you are busy with a client and the phone rings, ask politely if you may take the call, and offer to phone the caller back. Always honour your promise. Phone back if you cannot answer a query immediately and need to obtain information first.
Outstanding interpersonal skills. You must have a good relationship with colleagues at all post levels of the company. At the same time you have to possess the interpersonal skills to render an unbiased service of high quality to clients with diverse personalities, and from different races and cultures.
Empathy shown toward visitors or callers who are scared, upset or sad can perform wonders. Try putting yourself in the person’s situation – a mom who phones the school about her child, an enquiry to the medical fund’s call centre for authorisation for hospitalisation, even a client who is upset about an expensive item she bought and that has become defective within a week. Of course this is not your fault, but your understanding and compassionate conduct will work wonders for her state of mind.
Good judgment skills to make quick decisions. Is the matter so serious that the person has to talk to the (very busy) manager immediately? Who is the suitable person to whom you can refer the query? Is the patient so sick that you can try and put his appointment ahead of that of another patient or move another patient’s appointment?
Must be able to control emotions and remain calm when you have to handle a difficult, impatient or aggressive client/patient. This is not so easy, especially when you are attacked (verbally) or falsely accused. To be a receptionist, switchboard-operator or call centre operator requires a high level of emotional intelligence.
Patience is a quality which you will need in many situations, not only when the client/patient becomes impatient or aggressive, but also when you have to answer a plethora of questions. Possibly you have to answer the same questions repeatedly for different people on one day and have to show patience to listen to every person’s narrative before you reply or react.
Ability to work under pressure, as your daily task comprises more than just welcoming visitors and helping to solve callers’ problems. With the clients’ needs always enjoying preference, you still have to make calls, follow up queries as promised and, like in any other profession – attend to paper work. All of these you have to handle with grace, because, even if there are quiet times, more often than not there is someone in the reception area who is watching your reactions carefully, or analysing your tone of voice when busy with a phone call.
A good memory to learn and memorise information regarding the company. Who is responsible for which aspect of the business? Who is the expert in a certain field? In this way you can refer someone very easily and quickly. Personnel in a call centre do themselves a favour when they memorise questions and answers treated in a previous enquiry, so that it won’t be necessary to research it once again.
Attention to detail. Because as switchboard-operator/call centre operator you are bombarded with the same questions daily, there is the danger that halfway through a question you might think you know the answer and provide the wrong information. Rather listen to each detail of every client so that you can answer his/her specific question and not give a general reply that does not apply to the person’s question.
Abby Connect. https://www.abby.com/blog/10-personality-traits-of-a-great-receptionist/
Robert Half. https://www.roberthalf.com.au/blog/jobseekers/7-receptionist-skills-can-impact-entire-company