In ways both big and small, your team relies on customers to make ends meet. Your front office is likely the first aspect of your business that clients will interact with, and that first impression is priceless as your relationship grows. An inefficient front office will signal disarray within the rest of the company, even if that’s not true. On the other hand, a positive customer experience with the front desk is likely to instill trust and confidence in your business.
Front office employees are the ones generating revenue for your company and come into contact with customers, so their work is imperative to a successful operation. Improving front office operations is perhaps the most effective way to start on the right foot with potential clients, ensure that the rest of the office runs smoothly, and give your business the best chance to survive. By following these four front office management tips, you’ll be an operations whiz in no time.
1. Train front office employees for success
While you may think that some front office operations are a no-brainer, it’s worth the effort to provide training for your employees on every aspect of the job, especially the parts that are unique to your company or industry-specific. Each member of the front office team should be cross-trained to an extent, but your goal should be to employ a staff of experts, not a group of generalists. Give everyone an overview of certain software programs, general communication and workflow. From there, get specific with each department.
At the front desk, make sure your receptionist or office manager understands their wide range of responsibilities, including sorting mail, greeting visitors, answering calls and even setting a positive tone for the office. Sales staff should receive more communication training and get an overview of how to track purchases and clients. Even management staff can learn more about customer-facing responsibilities, from phone etiquette to keeping a calendar.
2. Improve operational workflow
You might notice during training that certain roles overlap or that some tasks are never delegated, which is a sign that workflow needs to be restructured. Even if you don’t uncover anything that serious, you should still take a hard look at how your front office employees do their work. Compare the job description to the actual role, and don’t be afraid to sit down with your employees to check how they think responsibilities are divided. Once you’ve gotten the lay of the land, be unsentimental and consider every cog in the machine, redefining each role, responsibility and team.
Don’t stress over the idea that you’ll be slashing staff—you don’t need to let anyone go. Improving workflow just means that your front office will be uniquely suited for its duties moving forward. Although this can be a more difficult part of the front office management improvement process, it’s worth all of the time you invest in it. You’ll make your office more efficient and more profitable.
3. Explain your brand and its goals
The best employees in the world still couldn’t be able to do great work if they’re unclear about the specifics of their workplace. You likely live and breathe the central tenets of your business, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else does; though that’s not necessarily a bad sign—it’s a chance to refocus on your long-term goals. Check in with your team and quiz them on the principles of the brand: What are our core values? Who is our average customer? What is the goal of the front office team?
Don’t sweat it if they don’t give clear answers or simply don’t know what to say. Instead, take this as a chance to reinforce your brand identity and goals, which will, in turn, transform your employees into customer service experts. Call a meeting with the entire group and go over the basics, making sure to encourage engagement and active participation. They shouldn’t feel like it’s a chore, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re a teacher. This process is key to your team’s success, and everyone in the room will understand that. With a newly understood focus, your front office operations will get better and the customer experience will improve along with it.
4. Clearly communicate expectations
Front office management is dependent upon consistent, solid work by each of your team members. As such, you should make sure that every employee is crystal clear on their job expectations, deadlines and personal goals. This encompasses tasks of all sizes and can be easily delegated to managers. On the big picture side, give everyone deadlines for projects or tasks and meet with them on a regular basis to check in with them. By breaking huge duties into manageable chunks, output will be much smoother.
On the smaller end of the scale, your employees should be keeping calendars, responding to messages promptly and communicating as effectively as possible, which are all reasonable expectations. You can even outline other small, but important details like the right fonts to use and the key words to use in phone conversations. Nothing is too small, as long as you respect the individuality of your employees.