Meet Your Virtual Receptionist: James

Today we’re going to introduce you to one of our newest virtual receptionists: James Beddows. This time, instead of telling you about him from our perspective, we’re going to let him introduce himself through a Q&A format.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet James…

What first drew you to Message Direct?

I guess you could say that I was ready for a change. After I graduated from university, I spent some time sort of floating around from job to job—mostly waiting on tables. I enjoyed the chance to interact with customers, but everything else about working in a restaurant is pure drudgery.

Then one of my friends said, “You’ve got a marketing degree. Why don’t you try getting into sales?” So I put an application in with Message Direct thinking that I would focus on outbound calling services. As it turns out, what I enjoy most is handling incoming calls, chatting with people and helping them resolve whatever issue it is that caused them to call in the first place. I can’t believe I wasted so much time before I actually applied for a position like this!

Can you tell us, in your own words, what it is that a virtual receptionist does?

I guess the short answer is: answer the phone. But it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. We have to be available—often at odd hours—to pick up the phone on our clients’ behalf. We have to answer the phone quickly without making it sound like we’re rushed. Working under pressure makes it more challenging to maintain the proper etiquette, but of course that’s an absolute must.

Perhaps most challenging is the need to adapt as we switch between clients. Message Direct serves everyone from carpet fitters to website designers, and it’s important that we’re able to speak with some authority on every sector that we represent. Staying sharp requires plenty of studying outside of calling hours. That’s one of the greatest challenges, but it’s also what makes the job so rewarding.

Describe the Message Direct office culture.

I’m not sure how they managed to find so many laid-back, fun-loving people—but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Everyone takes their job seriously, and we get plenty of work done. But it’s also a fun place to work. You probably won’t believe me, but I actually look forward to coming into the office most days. As long as you don’t count Mondays.

What kind of person do you think succeeds in your role at Message Direct?

I think, in order to do well as a virtual receptionist, you have to be patient above all else. I try to remind myself that each caller has gone to the trouble of dialling because they have a real issue to deal with. This may be my hundredth call of the day—but it’s their first. And I want to treat each and every call with that level of importance. I try to see it from the caller’s perspective.

I say this as if it’s difficult to keep a positive attitude, but the truth most callers are polite, pleasant and good-natured. It’s great to be able to help people make the right connections and get the answers their looking for. I think anyone who can see the job in that light is going to do well.

How do you measure success?

Well, it’s tempting to look strictly at the figures. ‘Today, I answered X number of calls’ or ‘This month I helped resolve such-and-such per cent of the issues that were brought to me’. Statistics like these are certainly useful for tracking my progress and gauging my overall productivity. But they’re really only part of the story.

The truth is, statistics fluctuate. They go up and down. Sometimes, the calls really don’t come in, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been successful with the ones that I did handle. By the same token, there are some issues that simply can’t be resolved, through no one’s fault in particular. But that doesn’t indicate failure. It’s just the way things go sometimes.

I guess, for me, the real indicator of success is how the callers feel and how the client responds. I look at the clients I’m covering for, and if they’re happy with the work I’m doing, then I’ve succeeded. I think it’s really as simple as that.

What is your biggest success at Message Direct to date?

Let’s see… a few months back, we had a client sign up for standard call handling services. Part of the reason they were looking for help was because they felt like their in-house team wasn’t really equipped to lead the sales conversation. I was relatively new to the team, and for me it was surprising to see a company seeking our services because they felt like they lacked the requisite skills, rather than because they didn’t have the manpower to answer the phones in-house.

I was assigned to work with this client to design an answer script that we could use to field their calls. I noticed right away that the way the company was currently answering the phone allowed the caller to take the lead too easily. I recommended that we make it easier for the receptionist (me) to take control of the conversation, which reduces ‘price shopping’ and other issues that end up handing the power over to the caller.

I also recommended asking more open-ended questions to keep the conversation fluid so that I could better assess how to place this caller in a better position to make a purchase. The client saw an increase in sales once they handed the lines over to us. I consider that a success. I felt great about it!

We have to say, we also feel great about bringing James on board the Message Direct Team. He has proven to be an outstanding asset, and the clients that he works with sing his praises, too. Great job, James!

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