Failing to train your front-end staff can cost you millions

As business owners, we spend an incredible amount of time, money and resources to train our sales people, invest in marketing initiatives, and product development.   Frequently business fail to train and spend any attention to developing the skill set of those who serve as your first level of contact with most of your clients and prospects; your receptionists, phone handlers, office staff, administrators, etc .They oftentimes represent the face or the voice of your company because they are the people personally greeting your prospects and clients on a consistent basis.

So, let’s look at what this type of role does in a company. Our initial thoughts are simple: They answer phones or greet people who come through the door. As a result, these people are generally on the lower end of the pay scale, they may havelittle business (and in some cases, people skills) acumen, and are often not involved in any real business decisions.   When hiring for this position we often think if they are young and good-looking, can actually speak relatively well, have some organizational skills and are reliable, that is good enough.How often do you consider whether or not this person fits within the culture you are trying to create in your company and if they will or will not support that culture and the type of message you want to exude?When we give such little attention to this, how much damage can this cause to your company’s bottom-line?

Now, let’s really look at what a front-end person does in a company. They regularly arethe first person to get a chance to make a first, personal impression on your prospects or clients. I am not referring to the branding and all the efforts you have put into your marketing of your company. I am referring to the development of the one on one relationship with the prospect you have spent so much time and money on in marketing and sales initiatives just to bring into your company. Now they are going to have their own personal experience once they come in…how well have you prepared for this experience? Your front-end staffis the first voice or facewho represents your company. The impression or the experience your clients or prospects have with that one person can paint their entire impression of your company in instant and it can either support them wanting to do business with you or not.   No matter what you sell whether it is real-estate, commodities, widgets or wallpaper…it doesn’t matter, people buy from a place of emotion. If they don’t “feel” like they were taken care of, heard, respected, or just had the over-all “feel” that the level of service isn’t there because of a simple interaction with one of your front-end office staff, they will most likely go elsewhere.

Today I called into a gymnastics academy for my daughter. There was some confusion around which class she was supposed to be in and therefore they put her in the wrong class. As a result, she wasn’t going to be with her three little friends and I knew she would be devastated…of course, as much as a five year old can be devastated. I was promised she would be in this class and was flustered. I needed a remedy to the situation. Ultimately, what I needed most was reassurance. Unfortunately I was not reassured by the front-end person. Instead, she got defensive and sent me over to the manager where I had to leave a voicemail. I left a message and when I got off the phone I realized how angry I was. Because of the nature of my work, I began to question why I was so angry…mistakes happen…it is only a little gymnastics class for my five year old daughter. Give me a break…the world wasn’t coming to an end…why was I so angry? …then it hit me. When I addressed my concerns with the scheduler she took it personal, got defensive, tried to justify her position (because she is the one who actually made the mistake) and said,in a huff, that she couldn’t do anything about it so she was sending me to the manager. Instead of getting defensive, what if she instead said, “I am so sorry, Mrs. Vaughan. This rarely ever happens. I completely understand why you are frustrated. We will do everything we can to remedy to the situation. Let me get you over to my manager to see what we can do.” Five simple sentences and my entire experience would have been different. I would have still been disappointed, but I would have felt understood, listened to and acknowledged.   I would have felt as if they cared where I was coming from and that my daughter and I were in good hands. Instead my negative experienced caused me to question the integrity of the organization, lose trust in their processes and therefore my daughter’s safety, and ultimately decide this wasn’t a good idea. All over a silly 5 minute conversation.

What your front-end people say and how they say it could literally add or take away millions from your bottom line, depending on your industry.   The woman at the gymnastics academy is probably a very nice person with the best of intentions, but she lacks the skills and training on how to handle issues when they come up. Therefore they lost business from both my kids which would have been $150/month or $1,800/year. If I kept my children in that academy for 10 years that would have been $18,000 from my household alone.   Think of your business. What is the lifetime average value of your clients? How many potential clients are you losing because you haven’t spent time training your front-end staff to be the absolute best in speaking and working with your prospects and clients? Do the math.

Imagine if you spent an hour a week training your front end people on the following:

  • What to say when they answer the phone or greet people when they come in.
  • What they say when someone leaves.
  • What do they do and say when a client has a question they can’t answer.
  • How to handle the most common challenges or issues that come up and exactly what to say.
  • How to handle an irate client or prospect.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Do workshops with your staff and get them involved. Collaborate on ideas of what they should say, how they should say it, and what they should do when handling any of the above situations. Script out the answersword for word with every word carefully thought through. If you don’t do this critical next step, you only have done half your job.   After you have created your scripts, have them practice and role-play it over and over until it is just right and they could do it in their sleep. If you have the words scripted out, but your staff doesn’t deliver it well or say it with sincerity then you are right back to where you started. The skill development of your front-end staff is a necessary and often over-looked requirement. If you want to ensure that all aspects of your business send the right message…start right from the beginning.

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