The role of the Front Office Manager has changed considerably over the past few decades due to the incredible changes in Telecommunications. Operators were once required to manipulate a network of multiple plugs and cords on sometimes very large switchboards. There were tricks to this, and dare I say that I have actually worked with one of these contraptions.
Nowadays of course technology has given us the DTERM enabling one person to effectively manage the multitudinous calls that are part of the everyday operations of an effective front office.
From a customer perspective, how you feel when you enter business premises for the first time, will depend on how you are received at the front door. Perhaps you are anxious that you are running late for an appointment, or you are arriving for an Interview, so that a certain level of apprehension is building within your supposedly calm exterior.
You open the door, take your first step inside, and you are met with a friendly face, a smiling face and straight away you start to feel a little less awkward about being there. The smiling face belongs to the Front Office Manager (FOM), alias the Receptionist. This person is there for you. You may even be offered a coffee or a glass of water whilst you wait for that appointment or forthcoming interview. If this is your experience you are in the presence of a successful FOM.
The Front Office Manager is the ‘face’ of the organisation. They are the first person visitors see as they come over the threshold and it is therefore incredibly important to ensure that the experience is a positive one.
A Front Office Manager is a very special person, they LIKE people and are able to readily engage with a broad scope of diversity in a highly professional and welcoming manner. To that end they become the central hub of any organisation.
From an internal perspective, staff gravitate towards other members of staff who possess the ability to make everyone feel special and that each request for assistance is important and will be undertaken in a friendly professional manner.
The FOM will usually be the person who manages the ambiance of the front office to ensure it is welcoming. Perhaps a plant or two, or if the budget allows fresh flowers replenished frequently. They will also ensure that their area is operationally effective and is clear of clutter.
The professional FOM is one of the gems of an organisation. They have an innate ability to multi task, take control of the everyday operations of the front office and are champions at keeping the communicative wheels of the organisation operating effectively.
They will understand the business that they represent, enabling them to easily redirect enquiries quickly to the most appropriate member of staff.
FOM’s understand the value of high level customer service so that they will answer calls promptly (ideally within 3 rings), introduce the business, and offer their name. This spiel presented in an articulate voice will confirm to the caller that they have rung a particular company, and will feel more comfortable talking to the FOM as they now have that person’s name.
From the FOM’s perspective it not always appropriate to call someone by their first name if you do not personally know them. It is better to commence the conversation with Mr or Mrs, ie Mr Smith, don’t address as Rob or Robert in the first instance. The older generation should be treated with a certain respect when addressing them, as they do not take kindly to someone being too familiar eg calling them by their first name or shortening it to Rob. It should never be assumed that this is acceptable.
Companies place great value in having the ‘right’ person appointed to their front office, as the quality of interactions here will have an effect on how people see the organisation. If their experience is a positive one, they will not hesitate to continue to expound the virtues of the company. If however it has been a negative experience, this will not augur well for future potential business interactions.
From a staff perspective, it is also incredibly important to appoint the ‘right’ person to the job, as there are hundreds of interactions everyday through this position.
SO WHO IS THE RIGHT PERSON?
It is important to appoint someone who actually enjoys the role, and will make the position their own. They need to be an excellent communicator, also understanding the importance of business etiquette.
They should have capacity to multitask ensuring that deadlines are met and actions are taken in a timely manner. The ability to work under pressure as there will be times when there are conflicting priorities that need to be managed.
It is also essential that the person has a positive ‘can do’ attitude. This allows for a closer working relationship with colleagues and will also enrich the role. If a business can find such a person, they have found their Front Office Manager GEM.