These Days, Everyone is a Receptionist!
Guest Blog by Marc Derksen, CTO of PeterConnects
The role of the receptionist is going through some major changes. In large organisations, there is often still a strict division of roles, due to the more complex business structures. However, customer contact in smaller organisations in the Netherlands is organised a lot less hierarchically these days than it used to be. For example, while in the old days it would have been unthinkable to be able to get through to the director quickly, these days it’s very normal.
This shift in the hierarchy has partly been due to the rise of social media. This has made it much easier to reach someone directly than it was in the past. There are also other functions in businesses which are more involved, these days, in the tasks which originally were only allocated to the receptionist. Three changes which are the result of the more horizontal organisation in small businesses in the area of customer contact:
1 – More employees help out
In the past, each business had a separate receptionist who took all the incoming telephone calls. That is now no longer always the case. In many small businesses, it is usual these days that more employees answer the phone. Employees can also often be reached directly on their mobile phones. It should be noted in this respect that these direct contacts mainly take place once the person calling already has a relationship with person they are calling. A general contact person is still often used for the initial contact.
In the Netherlands, this development has often been driven by cost cutting. The function of telephonist is often combined with other roles in a business. People who work in the administration or HR department, for example, are often asked to answer the phone.
2 – Easier onward call routing within the organisation
The less hierarchical division of roles within businesses also means that the threshold has been lowered for connecting calls to colleagues. The trend you can clearly see is that everyone must be able to take a phone call, handle it appropriately and, as necessary, onward route it within the organisation. It can sometimes be time-consuming to hold a conversation with the customer, then request information from a colleague (at a different location), and then get back to the customer with this information.
For example, if someone needs information from the warehouse, it is very normal to put that person through directly to a warehouse employee who can provide detailed information. This puts employees in contact with customers who in the past never had any contact with the outside world. In order to be able to do this well, they need contextual information on the person at the other end of the line. This information was much less relevant in the past.
3 – Need for skills in multiple areas
Contact with customers and potential customers also increasingly takes place digitally, alongside telephone contact. There are a growing number of options available for contacting businesses. Younger generations in particular are comfortable sending a message to a business through Twitter, for example.
It is no longer just important to have skills in the area of handling telephone calls and emails, but also experience with chat apps and social media, for example. This also applies to the warehouse employee referred to above. Some businesses are already using video calling. ABN Amro has introduced providing mortgage advice by webcam, for example. In such cases, the mortgage adviser therefore also has to have some knowledge of this specific form of communication.
A system that works for everybody
All these developments mean that it is crucial for all these various employees and media to have a communication system that works for and is comprehensible to everybody. It is also important, as mentioned above, that every employee who has customer contact knows what the situation is at that customer. Offering the right context is therefore becoming increasingly important. With all the various forms of communication, it is important to maintain order in the chaos of the many information streams.