Random Thoughts on Life and Work

December 5, 2007

First Response

Your switchboard.  Your receptionist.  The first visible/audible face/voice that a person interacts with when contacting your organization.  (For purposes of this post I am not going to deal with response center issues.)  How many of us in the non-profit world give much thought to that donor/constituent experience.  I think we often default into two camps – the first being technology driven (let’s install systems with automated attendants) and the second being lowest common denominator thinking (let’s just get an entry level person to answer the phone).

We had a unique opportunity presented to us to reposition the switchboard/receptionist team from under the facilities department to the donor care department.  Needless to say, we jumped on it.  Our focus is to provide a top flight experience for any caller or visitor to the organization.  Now, I will admit that for many organizations budget does play a role in determining the strategy that is taken.  But I would make the argument that this is one area that you can’t afford to cut corners.  An individual who calls the organization to ask a question, make a gift, talk to a counselor, etc. and receives poor treatment will not be inclined to call again.  And it doesn’t have to be a rude response on the phone.  It can be a simple sigh as the call is answered, a confusing jumble of menu options, or a heavy accent that can turn someone away.

Think about it.



  1. I don’t think it’s only the non-profit organizations who usually fall into the default category. A lot of other companies seem to think that anyone who can speak clearly enough can be a receptionist. True as that may be, it doesn’t mean that he or she will be able to provide good service. And if you’re someone who knows how to take advantage of such a situation, then callers will definitely see your organization in a better light than others.

    Comment by jen_chan, writer MemberSpeed.com — December 5, 2007 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

  2. I like th above observation in this sense; as Gordon rightly points out, in many organizations the role of a receptionist is comes low in the structure and is considerd non-technical i.e it doesnt require so many years in school or good grades for one to support such a role. I see the receptionist being an entry point to many opportunities that an organization can miss. Talk of rude receptionist or rude gate keepers-you loose it.

    Comment by Alex Rutto — January 11, 2008 @ 4:19 am | Reply

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