A great receptionist is worth their weight in gold. Just ask any estate planning law firm that has lived through a string of bad receptionists. From welcoming new clients to the office with a reassuring smile to serving as the first contact prospects have with the office: we can’t emphasize enough how important this person’s position is. We hear about office managers who get bogged down in managing receptionist issues, because the managing partner doesn’t want to deal with a clerical issue. If there’s a problem, it does need to be resolved at the highest level. It is that important.
The receptionist is the face of the firm. When clients walk in the front door, the receptionist is usually the very first person they see. New clients will expect a warm welcome and an offer of coffee, or paper work to complete (if your office is still on paper intake). If the receptionist does not stop doing other tasks to welcome clients, the message is clear: this office doesn’t care about clients. You’ll have to overcome that first impression every step of the way to convince clients otherwise.
How the phone is answered can lose clients in a matter of minutes. An elderly woman calls the office. She knows she needs to speak with an attorney, but she’s not sure what questions to ask. The receptionist speaks louder into the phone, as if that would help the woman understand better. The woman feels uncomfortable and decides not to make an appointment. If it happens more than once, it’s a recipe for disaster for your practice.
Does the receptionist know what the ultimate goal is and how to achieve it? The receptionist needs to know that converting a caller into an appointment who then becomes a client is a big part of her responsibilities. Lacking a clear discussion of this process, the job may be considered “answering the phones and doing paperwork.” She or he is really a brand ambassador, your firm’s face to prospects and clients and their first personal interaction. This needs to be made clear from the start.
Have you listened in on calls? Some people find this a little uncomfortable, but like any other process at the firm, it needs to be monitored. Think of a phone call as you do any other client work product. How long does it take for the phone to be answered? How clearly does the receptionist articulate the name of the firm, introduce herself or himself by name, and offer to help the caller? Are callers getting placed on hold, and then hanging up?
The receptionist is an important member of your team. Your clients know it—so should you!