From the moment you sit down and don the headset, to the minute you clock off, every shift as an AnswerForce receptionist is full of surprise and amusement.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be challenging. As live answering receptionists who work from our home offices, we answer a multitude of calls for many businesses during every shift. The process of answering calls seems simple on the face of it. It works like this:
- You follow the client’s script.
- Enter information.
- Verify that what you have gotten is correct.
- Take a message or put the call through.
Yet, beneath the tip of this particular iceberg, lies a structure of many dimensions and sometimes even emotional layers.
From the calls involving a wrong number, to people who simply hang up mid-call, to the polite seniors who take their time providing information, life is never dull.
Across our team of virtual receptionists, everyone has one or more favorite accounts. Mine has often been a client who sells dresses to the discerning mature lady.
It is a delight to talk with people for whom conversation is a major pastime.
There is the 3am caller who expects to speak to a lawyer and who still insists on giving you his life story, even though you’ve told him who you are: the firm’s receptionist.
There is pathos here, too. I have taken calls from family members in tears as they try to reach a carer to inform them there is no point coming anymore. Parents with ill children. Owners with sick animals and people trying to reach insurance companies because their home and all their possessions have been destroyed by storm or fire.
During those calls, you tell yourself to be professional, but it’s a little difficult when you’re wiping away a tear and there’s a lump in your throat. Particularly in these moments, we’re always tapping into our proactive listening skills.
There is another side to it as well. The calls that come from newborn parents as they register their child’s details. The calls from people who have just received good test results, ringing to tell their carer or their nurse.
Then, there are the funny calls. Like the man who in the middle of the night, obviously under the influence, has deliberately phoned his lawyer because he needs a taxi! I mean, who else would you trust?
One caller rang a psychic medium service, asking if I knew the whereabouts of the builder whom he had paid upfront and then never saw again. I told him I couldn’t help, but that I did know where the man was who was foolish enough to pay the builder before the job was completed! Touché!
You try to help as much as you can. For the most part, you succeed. You end the day tired, knowing that you’ve helped most of the people most of the time. Knowing that, in the main, you’ve managed to lighten someone’s load and generally helped them get through another day on planet Earth.
There’s a wonderful quote attributed to John Wesley, and I paraphrase:
“Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the [people] you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the [energy] you can, as long as ever you can.”
It could well serve as a motto for the AnswerForce receptionist.