I’m not going to write this and claim that I know everything there is to know about running a front desk. No way. However, instead of writing this as an authority, I’m going to give you tips in a friendly way. Yes, I’m experienced, but I also had to go through a lot to learn what I did. I ran a front desk for a little over a year, and in that time I managed to learn a lot about how to become comfortable doing it. Mostly learning from my own mistakes, I’ll admit, but that’s why I’m here - so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. So here’s what to do to help be successful at your front desk. (And what not to do.)
A huge part of running a front desk successfully is having the right attitude to yourself, your customers, and in general. If you’re like me, you’re really shy and the thought of communicating with people scares the crap out of you. Quite convenient for running a front desk, isn’t it? Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes it’s really not easy having the right attitude because of what’s going on inside. Fear, nervousness, discomfort - all completely understandable. This is especially frustrating if you don’t like faking your emotions. Putting on a professional face when inside you’re worried feels much like lying. You don’t want to lie to your customers, right? Again, I’ve been there, it sucks.
Here’s the thing, you can’t let that control you. (Easier said than done, I know) but you have to walk into the job with confidence. If you let it get out of control, you’re going to start sucking at your job. Learn to take a different perspective as soon as you walk into the door. Actually, BEFORE you walk into the door.
So what kind of attitude am I talking about? First, think about what kind of service you expect when you walk into a store. What are the ideal traits that you expect of the person behind the counter? That’s the kind of person you need to be. Since that’s the case, I think this boils down to a few principles to keep in mind if you want to practice having the right attitude.
First of all, it’s not about you. It’s about them. This may be a bit controversial (some may disagree with what I’m about to say) but what is the root of fear, worry, and discomfort? A lot of times I think it’s self-centeredness. Even if you disagree, you shouldn’t disagree that if you’re going to be successful with customer service you need to be good at balancing humility and authority. Which leads me to the next point: authority.
YOU’RE the one behind the counter, not them. That being said, take care of your customers with the best that you can, but don’t forget that you know more about the business than they do. Have confidence, be comfortable, and stay alert. If you need to tell a customer no, do it respectfully with the knowledge that you’re not always bound to their wishes.
And lastly, always be thinking about how you can improve. Whether it’s yourself, part of the system, or anything else that relates. One of the great things about working at the front desk is that there’s plenty of room for creativity. Most jobs offer room for creativity, but the front desk is different. Why? Because if there’s a moment where you’re not dealing with customers, you don’t have any more emails to send, and you’re just waiting for something to happen, that’s an opportunity to improve something and be creative. That kind of attitude also gives you confidence.
I wrote a post yesterday about how to stay organized with Trello, specifically for a front desk. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your space decluttered, comfortable, and organized. If your desk has everything in the proper place, then chances are your brain will be able to have everything in the proper place. Not only should everything in your computer be organized, but the physical desk should be as well. Who wants to walk into a business to see a desk covered in stacks of papers, pens and pencils everywhere, and who knows what else? No one does. Keep your space clean, keep your computer clean, keep your mind clean.
I don’t know the science behind it, but I’m pretty sure that working in a cluttered space is unhealthy. If it stresses you out, it’s probably not good for you and probably affects your physical health. So unless you actually want to take sick days, start organizing the desk that you work at. Start by throwing away everything that you don’t need.
I share a room with my sister, she’s lazy, she never cleans the room. I’m always the one who has to clean the room because, frankly, it stresses me after a while. The first thing I always do when I have to clean is throw away everything that I don’t absolutely need. Even if it’s something that might bring back memories, even if it’s possible that I might want to use it in the future, I throw it away anyway. I have a principle: if I haven’t used it in the past 2-4 weeks, it’s trash. (Unless it’s books, clothes, etc.) Everything else is gone, I hate having more than I need. This drives my sister absolutely crazy, but I can’t function if there’s too much stuff around me for a long period of time. If you’re the same way, you don’t want your workspace to be like that. Start throwing things away if you don’t absolutely need them.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past was that I was embarrassed that I asked a lot of questions. I didn’t let that stop me if I needed help, but I would always beat myself up for not knowing the answers on my own. I’m not sure why I did that, maybe it’s a result of my excitement for self-education and asking for the help of others is different to me, but I wish I didn’t beat myself up over it. It’s totally okay to ask questions. There’s something to say for someone who’s humble enough to seek the help of others when they truly need it, it’s actually a sign of good character.
That being said, it’s also important that you are honestly listening when your questions are being answered. If you have a good team and a good boss, it’s easy to lose incentive to figure things out on your own but that’s not a good way to approach your job. You don’t want to learn that the hard way.
Another way you can use questions to your own advantage is to ask customers questions. Don’t underestimate the power that lies behind asking your “difficult” customers questions. If you ask them questions, it shows you honestly care and want to make them happier with your service. Otherwise, you come off as rude and it will only upset them more. The same power applies to dealing with any difficult situation. Usually, if you’re dealing with a customer on the phone and you don’t quite know how to solve a problem, asking them questions will help clarify what’s exactly going on and will also buy you time to figure out how to solve the problem. Try repeating everything they say and ask if it’s correct, that’s usually what helps the most and also reassures them that you’re doing your best to help them out.