One of my clients, an entertainment law office, uses a virtual receptionist company (that shall remain unnamed). The two receptionists are supposed to answer the phone and roll certain calls to me. If anyone comes into their facility (because they also I guess collect mail or something), they’re supposed to give out the cell phone number that goes to me and explain they are a virtual office. Yet, once or twice a month I get a phone call from an irate client or potential client…because the virtual receptionist treated them like shit. 

Today was no exception and I was left to deal with the aftermath.

Not Everyone Should Be a Virtual Receptionist

Guys, look, I know being a virtual receptionist is a job that all the cool kids want now. They get to work from home or from a nice office space. They answer the phone and transfer calls. There’s no heavy lifting. There’s no paper pushing.

Thing is, though, there’s lots and lots of client and potential client contact. So, if you aren’t patient, don’t like answering questions, and don’t know how to make people feel welcome, being a virtual receptionist isn’t for you.

This Isn’t an Introvert / Extrovert Thing, Either

I am an introvert. Being on the phone makes me mentally tired. However, it does not turn me into a raging bitch. In fact, I’ve written a relied-upon source for customer service and law firms. I know how to deal with people. So, being an introvert isn’t an excuse for shitty behavior. Being an extrovert isn’t an excuse, either. I just wanted to get that out in the open. Don’t accept excuses of “that’s just how I am” because you wouldn’t BE that way (I’m 99% sure) if you were dealing with the authorities. You’d know how to be NICE. So, you know how to do it…you just don’t want to have to do it.

Know How to Choose the Right Virtual Receptionist

Business owners, I don’t care what industry you’re in. You can deal with a bad virtual receptionist by being very careful when you choose one. You must look for someone with the right qualities. If you’re hiring someone in another part of the United States or another part of the world (I’m not hatin’. It’s your business. You do you.), make sure that you know how to choose the right remote worker. Take the necessary time and steps to vet their professionalism, experience, and abilities.

A Bad Virtual Receptionist Can Cost You Clients

I spent probably close to 30 minutes on the phone today with a man who was upset by how he was treated by the virtual receptionist. This isn’t a house or a private establishment. They are located in an actual commercial building that I’m sure rents office space because there’s a branch in my neck of the woods, too. And when this guy finally got to me on the phone (after leaving and calling the office and telling the receptionist he wanted to talk to the lawyer), he went off. No, he did not cuss, call names, or anything else (although I wouldn’t have blamed him). And I let him talk it all the way through. The only time I stopped him was to tell him I wanted to take notes and I needed him to slow down just a little and repeat the names so that I could write them down.

He wasn’t interested in working with the law office anymore when he got on the phone with me. So, it was my job to try and not just fix his situation, but to put the office back into his consideration. I do a very good job at handling people who are upset. Empathy is magical.

The sad thing is that I deal with this issue on a regular basis. And that’s sad because we’re supposed to be using a professional company. My client has some fairly well-known clients of her own. While they contact her directly, we’ve also had several call the main line and end up getting transferred to me…after they deal with the receptionist. Can you imagine the money that could be lost?

You’re paying for a virtual receptionist. They’re being rude to your potential clients. So, you’re return on investment is negative. Aint that some shit?

Don’t Delay in Handling the Situation

Businesses, when you realize that poor service is becoming the norm from a virtual receptionist, don’t delay in handling it. How would you feel if you were treated poorly on the phone? How would you feel if you called back and continued to deal with the same person who clearly doesn’t like their job or thinks that clients are beneath them? When you realize there is an issue, deal with it. The first time, it’s likely acceptable to attempt to retrain the receptionist to meet your standards. You should probably have some mystery callers call in without notice for a while to ensure that your standard is being met.

If it continues to be a problem? Can them. Find someone else. There’s an entire world of virtual receptionists out there who can do a great job for you. In fact, my suggestion would be to look for one that has experience in your industry. Don’t call me – unless you’re a law firm and you need someone to whip the rest of your virtual staff into shape.

Treated Poorly?

If you’re a potential client or client who was treated poorly by a virtual receptionist:

  1. Write down their name, the date, the time of the call or visit, why you were calling / visiting, and how you were treated. Do this immediately so that you don’t forget any details.
  2. Google around and find the person you needed to contact. Reach out through Twitter, Facebook fan pages, website contact forms, or whatever. Most virtual receptionists don’t handle those items. They literally just answer calls. By reaching out and going around the source of the problem, you’ll eventually find someone like me who will listen and do what they can to take care of it. Do me a favor, though, don’t yell at the person you do finally find. I can’t help you if I can’t understand what you’re saying. And, no I wasn’t yelled at today.
  3. Ask for an email address or a direct line for the assistant of the person you want to speak with. Gatekeepers always transfer the call to someone. So, get the information.
  4. Ask for a supervisor. Their may be another person there you can talk with. If it’s a larger virtual receptionist company, they’ll have someone you can talk with.
  5. Try to stay calm. At some point, the virtual receptionist will be questioned about what happened. I know it’s hard to be calm when someone is screaming at you like a methed out banshee, but someone has to be the adult.
  6. If you’re making an in-person visit to an obviously commercial office space, ask for the office manager. Then, talk to the officer manager about what happened (but you should still reach out to the person you’ve been trying to contact).

I don’t know what’s gotten into people lately when it comes to client care, but it really does pay to be nice. So, be nice.

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