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8 Front Desk Training & Hiring Documents to Delight your Customers

Front desk training

This article includes 8 free templates created specifically for front desk training, hiring, and managing.  They're written with consistent tone and voice in everyday English, and they're formatted consistently to look and feel like a family of documents.  

Don't want to read the entire article?  Fair enough.  We've highlighted the editable templates in yellow so you can scan and access them quickly. 


When creating your plan for front desk training, hiring and ongoing management, consider that your front line staff is the first point of contact for the outside world including your existing clients and prospective future clients.  These important individuals cement first impressions which are difficult to shake.

Front line staff are typically the admin staff, receptionist, or greeter.   And in small businesses,  they are often the glue of your establishment.  You'll consistently hear me say that your front line employee is one of the most important positions in your small business.

Yet small businesses usually do a poor job (read:  abysmal in most cases) of managing the individuals who are essentially the ambassadors of your brand and culture and usually responsible for your customers and prospective customers' experience - all of which are key factors in your client's decision in whether or not to generate revenue for you.

If you're serious about your customer's front end experience, this article provides free tools and HR practices you need to manage and support your receptionist or front desk staff to make it easy for all of us to become revenue generators for your business!

1.  Hire the right front desk receptionist

In my experience, front desk positions are difficult positions to fill.  They take time and require due diligence to do it right. Don't settle. Keep looking until you find the right person for your front office job.

What to look for in Front Desk Candidates

  • Frequent smiles and a friendly demeanor.  Warm - like your favorite aunt!
  • Individuals who are comfortable with technology, even if your firm may still be in the dark ages. A tech saavy individual will raise the bar for your firm and implement time saving procedures and raise your online profile.
  • Individuals who know how to manage emails professionally.  If your website allows for inquiries via email, email skills are more important than phone skills. I cannot count the number of small businesses I contact that have appalling email habits; ranging from long lags between responses or not responding at all, to poor grammar and spelling, to unprofessional or unfriendly communication styles.
  • Individuals who don't like to be bored and are not looking to stick to a job description. In a small business with limited resources, you need a generalist and someone who will continuously be asking "What's next? What can I do? What can I learn?"
  • Individuals who have strong critical thinking skills. A significant percentage of situations faced by your front line staff will not be routine and require someone who can use good judgment and think critically.
  • Individuals with long fuses and easy going natures who are not going to 'sulk' or sweat the small stuff, or be prone to having 'bad days'.  Individuals who frequently suffer from 'bad day syndrome' emit a certain frequency that is not conducive to a positive customer experience.

Front Desk Interview Questions

Ask the right questions during in person interviews.  Here's a free editable example Front Desk Supervisor Interview Questions and Accompanying Instructions for using the Interview Questionnaire Form.

Tips 

  • If emailing is part of the job description, take note of the applicant's email style when communicating with you.
  • Begin with a short telephone interview where you can flesh out some of the first filter basics such as language skills, salary requirements, and availability.  Many front line staff members are your company's external stakeholders' first point of phone contact and should have impeccable phone skills that can only be tested by having a phone conversation with them. In-person mannerism differ from phone mannerisms and should be tested.
  • If you are not able to engage with the candidate in a very short period of time or they don't make a good first impression, they are not the right person for the job. This staff member will be meeting new people all day long, and must intrinsically enjoy engaging with and serving people. This is an innate trait, and is not a learned skill.
  • Have the top candidate meet with some of your 'A' players or intuitive staff members for a second opinion.  If you have C players on board, don't let them near the interview room. C players are not fans of high performers or keeners and high performing candidates will be turned off by your C players.
  • Check references. Again -> Check references! And more than one reference. Contact the references until you find someone who you feel has given you an honest picture of the candidate. The good, the bad, and the ugly. No candidate is perfect, and you will eventually find someone who will provide the honest goods.

This may seem like a lot of work, but the alternative isn't pretty and will entail a lot more work in the long run. Not to mention funding the severance jar for bad front desk hires.

2.  Assign a Front Desk Office Manager

  • Too many front desk employees in small businesses are not managed and often completely ignored, left to make up their own rules about what is appropriate customer service.  Often, these individuals report to the business owner who have no time to deal with administrative and HR issues related to front desk staff who are not seen as direct revenue generators.
  • Assign a staff member who models your values and work ethic.  Someone who cares about your business and is willing to put some effort into managing front line staff. This is often not the preferred task of high-performers, so dangle a carrot if you have to. Provide the appointed front desk manager with additional salary for the period of time they manage front line staff.  For an additional $60 a week, it will be worth it!
  • If the new manager is a high-performer, but doesn't necessarily have experience with managing staff, provide them with training. This does not have to be an expensive proposition. Begin with manager guides written in plain English that provide new managers with the basics.  In a small business, you need to be resourceful.

3.  Prepare Front Desk Training & a Service Agreement

Front desk training is a key element in your front desk staff's understanding and respecting how you want things done.  Cement your front desk training with a service agreement that serves as a binding contract that will be taken seriously during the front desk training period. 

  • Don't assume that front line staff 'just know'.  Often, they don't. Provide clear guidelines during front line training for front line processes, procedures, and a clear philosophy about how clients must be treated. These are performance measures that will be used to manage your staff.  However, it’s essential that front line staff are empowered with a certain level of authority. It’s pointless if they have to check with a manager before making every little decision.  The ability to think critically is key.
  • Have front line staff sign a Front Desk Service Agreement to reinforce how important customers are to your company.  This agreement outlines
  • Here's a free editable example Front Desk Service Agreement and the accompanying Instructions for completing the Agreement you can use as a starting point to communicate and train your front line staff to ensure that your customer philosophy and practices are clearly understood.  I strongly recommend that you provide this document to front line staff before you hire them and include a sentence in your offer letter that confirms that they have read and understood your customer service practices.
  • Remember! Not all components of this agreement must be implemented, nor does the tone have to be as tough-ass as written in some sections.  The agreement represents a starting point for you to eliminate 'blank page syndrome' and provides a menu of guidelines that you can edit to create your own agreement, language and tone to reflect your customer service philosophies.

This service agreement is also a useful tool for front office temporary staff that may be obtained by an agency. 

 4.  Part ways with non-performing Front Desk Staff during Probation Period

If you provide your staff with the service agreement above as part of the front desk training, you have done all you can to be clear about your expectations. The rest is up to the staff. After the front desk training is complete, monitor the performance carefully with a Probationary Period Review Form.  

  • If you've made a hiring mistake, you'll usually know within the first month with front line staff - if not sooner - particularly if the incumbent received the Front Desk Agreement.
  • DO NOT ignore your gut. Don't turn a blind eye and believe that it will get better.  Address the situation immediately and determine if the situation is redeemable. If not, part ways BEFORE the end of the probationary period. Rarely have I seen the situation improve and usually only gets worse. The first 3 months is the honeymoon phase and is typically as good as it gets. The skills may not be completely up to speed within the first couple of months, but the behavioral competencies will not improve in the vast majority of cases.
  • You will undoubtedly experience a short term pain, but it will be short lived compared to keeping this person on board.

5.  Survey your Clients. Get Feedback.

Imagine if the public were provided with an opportunity to provide feedback about public sector staff? or teachers? Or imagine if every time we got on a public transit, we could provide instant feedback about the service we received.  Staff would actually be accountable to their customers and I suspect that service would improve significantly.

This may not be possible with the public sector, but it is absolutely possible in your small business. What do your clients experience that you may be ignoring, or may not be aware of?

  • Advise your staff during the front desk training that you will be soliciting client feedback to review performance.  This is included in the Front Desk Service Agreement discussed above. 
  • Every business has a database of clients. Use this database to ask for feedback about their experience with your firm, including front line staff.
  • If you have your clients' email address, set up a simple survey using something like www.surveymonkey.com (initially free). Send 20 - 50 of your clients an emailed link to get feedback about your firm. Provide them with a $5.00 Starbucks card as an incentive to actually give you this  feedback. This works! Not everyone will respond, but even if 75% responded, the cost will be $188.00 for invaluable information.  Here's an example Customer Service survey for Small Business.
  • Use the results to provide feedback to your front line staff and hold them accountable for that feedback.   Their primary purpose is to serve the customer, and if feedback shows that this is not occurring, use the feedback to improve the situation. There is no better performance measure available to you and helps take the 'subjective' out of the performance review process.

6.  Performance Reviews for Front Office Functions

7.  Reward Outstanding Front Line Staff

This is an HR 101 practice and applies to all staff, but worth reinforcing here.

  • Do whatever you can afford to reward and keep high-performing front line staff.  If you can afford it, pay your high-performing front line staff at P90+ of the market to make sure that they are not leaving for monetary reasons.
  • Unfortunately front line staff are hard to find and keep.  And bear in mind that there are people like me out there who regularly take the names of individuals who have provided me with an excellent customer service experience for future recruiting needs.
  • If you cannot afford to pay higher wages, consider providing additional vacation days, or time off if feasible.
  • Money goes a long way, but so does gratitude and showing appreciation in small incremental ways.  Talk with the individual. Explain that while you may not be in a position to provide additional salary, you would like their input about what can be offered that may be meaningful to the individual outside a monetary reward.

Last word

When you have a bad experience with a front desk, consider doing something about it. Odds are, the business owner has no idea how the front desk is affecting their business. Go ahead and send them this article!   



Ariane Laird Vancouver

Ariane Laird is CEO & Founder of ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  
You can contact her directly from the Inquiry Type drop down menu.

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