In my last post I talked about ensuring your physical space is clean and welcoming. It’s also important to be very clear with the people manning these areas about personal items displayed, dress code, hold music, and how they answer the phones and/or greet visitors. Herewith, then, my list of do’s and don’ts: With regard to personal items, family photographs, calendars, etc. are fine. Stuffed animals, miniature garden gnomes, and birthday cards with headlines along the lines of “Yo, bitch,” are not. Scantily clad co-workers in any area of the office are distracting. Scantily clad reception staff leaves visitors wondering what your business might be a front for. A warm hello when visitors arrive is appreciated. If the receptionist is on the phone, s/he should be directed to acknowledge visitors’ arrival with a smile and eye contact. Instead of having them hold one finger in the to indicate your need to wait—far too reminiscent of grade school admonishment in my mind—I recommend having them interrupt their phone conversation to say, “I’ll be right with you.” Decide on a policy of if/how phones will be answered if there are people are arriving while phones are ringing. My personal feeling is that the receptionist should pick up the phone, say, “May I put you on hold for a moment?” then attend to the 3-D guest. Being on hold is already irritating. Being on hold while listening to rap music or something that sounds like a soft-core-porn track is going to leave you with a lot of cranky/bemused customers. Pick something that is appropriate for your product/business. Offering visitors directions to the ladies or men’s room is always kind. Asking if they’d like to use the “little girls” or “little boys” room (Yes, this happened to me) is consternation-inducing. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” are preferable to “No problem,” or “No worries” (One smart business I know even taped this tiny reminder to the phone cradle.) Should you have an after-hours phone message, please don’t go with the general, “Call back during regular business hours,” as these differ from business to business (and time zone to time zone.) Instead, say, “Please call back between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard time.” As you can see, thinking through welcome guidelines for your staff, can go a long way toward a dazzling first impression. Frances Cole Jones
Frances Cole Jones founded Cole Media Management in 1997 to help clients identify and cultivate their inherent strengths and, through these, develop the powerful communication skills that enhance personal and professional performance. Writing The Wow Factor and How to Wow has been her way of reaching a wider audience, “My goal is to have every person who picks these up, put them down feel more confident in their ability to present their best self --in any situation.” Prior to founding Cole Media Management, Frances worked at St. Martin’s Press, Viking Penguin, Doubleday, and Broadway Books as an editor of commercial nonfiction, working on popular psychology, parenting, self-help and how-to books. The experience of helping authors translate their ideas into books that retained their unique voice is what makes her valuable to her clients. “There’s no point in my writing a perfectly crafted sound bite that you have to strain to remember,” Frances says. “You have to sound like you—authenticity is integral to trust.” As President of Cole Media Management, Frances’ clients have appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Oprah, C-SPAN, CNN, Squawkbox, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, The Discovery Channel, The BBC News, E! Entertainment, Access Hollywood, Project Runway, Top Chef, ESPN, Extra! Fox and Friends, The View, Cashin’ In, QVC and others. Clients' print interviews have appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Newsweek, Vogue, W, O Magazine, Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar, Tatler, etc. The scope of their work includes preparation for television and print interviews, IPO road shows, meetings with potential investors, and internal meetings with partners, sales staff, and in-house personnel. They also provide presentation skills seminars and speechwriting for clients. Frances also writes for WomenOnBusiness.com, Intent.com, DivineCaroline.com, and Executive Travel. Her first book, HOW TO WOW, was published by Ballantine in 2008.