Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a virtual receptionist? Or what it’s like to work for an answering service? Is it stressful? Are the hours bad? Is it a rewarding job?
We thought it would be interesting to ask our agents about their experience as virtual receptionists, so we’re launching a staff Q&A series where you can meet the people behind the scenes that represent your business! To kick off this series, we’re introducing you to one of our answering service’s most experienced staff members, Michelle D.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, Michelle.
I’m one of the floor managers with SAS. I’ve been working in the answering service industry for the most part since I was 15 years old.
2. What’s your favorite part of being a customer service representative?
I enjoy when I can actually help someone even just a little, and I get to do that with some of our calls. It could be just to lend them an ear to vent, or help calm them down when they are upset.
3. Is it hard to talk on the phone when you get home?
Yes, I hate to talk on the phone when I get home at night.
4. Have you ever lost your voice from talking on the phone so much?
No, I’ve never lost it all the way, but have become pretty raspy at times.
5. What’s the hardest part(s) of working in a call center?
The hardest part for me would be trying to remember every single account.
6. How do you deal with call center stress? (e.g., handling upset callers, being on the phone all day, etc.)
I take a break for a few minutes. It helps just to step away from my desk and go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Then when I come back in I am refreshed and forgot about the last hard call.
7. Describe the strangest call you’ve ever received at work.
After saying the answering phrase a guy said “can I kiss your big toe?” I said “excuse me?” and he said it again. I was so taken off guard that I did not know what to say so I said “I am sorry but I think you have the wrong number.” He laughed and said “I am so sorry my wife works in the office and I thought you were her.”
I did have another strange hard call. It was back when I was probably 17. We answered for a certain hotline (that I won’t say the name of). A guy called needing to speak to a counselor, he had been drinking and saying he wanted to walk off the curb into traffic. I tried reaching everyone I could but nobody on call would answer their phones. I kept the caller on the line with me trying to calm him down telling him everything he needed to hear like his life was worth it, and he would be okay, that kind of stuff. I asked him for landmarks of where he was and figured it out. I called the local PD and stayed on the phone with him until they arrived. The guy called me the next day thanking me, I even received a letter of accommodation from the Hotline. That was a very good day!
8. What’s the most awkward way a company has asked you to answer their phones?
The hardest one was saying: “Sexual Addiction Hotline how may I help you?” They did end up changing the answering phrase.
9. On average, how many different companies do you think you represent each day?
Around 400-500 but I am not totally sure.
10. In 10 words or less, how would you describe the call center atmosphere?
Very fast paced and different.
11. Do you have any tips on keeping a good tone throughout your shift?
I have to remember that these callers don’t know me and I don’t know them. I also remind myself that a lot of them are having a hard day so I need to keep patient with them. The hardest calls are the hospice calls when a caller is notifying the company that their loved one just passed away. Those callers are never ever mean or anything but it is so sad to hear.
12. What kind of advice would you give to new call center hires?
I tell all new hires that they can’t know every single account, so ask questions! I also tell them they are human so they will make mistakes, we all do but try to make sure you read every account as it says exactly what to do in there.
13. Is it hard not to laugh if someone gives you a funny email address?
Yes it is hard. I have giggled a few times, but so do the callers.
14. What do you do in between taking phone calls?
I do a board check. That is a way for us to check every account that has active messages. Then if something needs to be done, I do it.
15. What’s your favorite snack to eat at work?
I like to eat yogurt with granola in it. I try to keep it healthy especially since I sit all day.
16. What do you do when you’re not sure how to answer a caller’s question?
I let them know that I am the receptionist so I am not able to answer their question but I am happy to take a message and have someone who can call them.