Being a virtual receptionist is an important job. As the first live point of contact for customer support, you are the person responsible for the first impression, and sometimes the only voice the customers will ever hear from the company you’re representing. And while you’ll leave most calls feeling great, not every interaction is going to be filled with sunshine. There are aspects of being a virtual receptionist that definitely aren’t for everyone. The job takes patience, understanding, and the ability to adapt quickly to address the callers needs. To thrive in a call center environment, it takes the right tools – and by tools, we mean you need to turn your cubicles into your happy place. To that end, we’ve road-mapped virtual receptionist happiness into 5 parts of tricking out your cube: relieve your stress, use post it notes and posters, get cozy, know your time-zones, and have written goals.
#1. Don’t stress! Keep some items at your desk to stay calm
The hardest aspect of being a customer service rep is having to deal with upset customers. A customer service rep’s job is to diffuse a situation so that they can take down the caller’s information to get the message into the right hands. However, when someone is yelling at you for circumstances beyond your control, it can be hard not to take it personally.
Keeping calm in these types of situations can sometimes feel impossible. Luckily, we’ve found 14 products to help you stay calm. Check out the list below broken down by noise level:
Quiet: These products are safe to use when the caller is on the phone.
- Stress Balls: Unless you’re throwing them, stress balls make no sound, so they’re great to use while you are on the phone! They come in many different colors, styles and levels of squishiness so you have a lot of options. This one is one of our favorites (but it might make you hungry).
- Zen Garden: These zen gardens are affordable, quiet, and great to use for both men and women. They even come in different sizes in case you don’t have a lot of desk space.
- Fitness Hand Gripper: Work on your hand strength and relieve stress all at the same time with these fitness hand grippers.
- Lava Lamps: Chill out with these vintage lava lamps that will send you straight back to the 60’s and make you forget all about that nasty caller.
- Baoding Balls: Much like stress balls, baoding balls are a great tool to use to when you’re feeling wound up. Simply maneuvering these balls around in your hand will help stimulate acupressure points, which in turn will help loosen muscles and promote better circulation.
Be Careful: These products should be used with caution when you have a live caller on the line.
- Fidget Toys: Stress relievers like fidget spinners or other fidget toys don’t make a ton of noise, but they’re also not totally silent so you’ll want to air on the side of caution when using them while speaking to a customer.
- Relaxation Fountain: This fountain is great for the days you wish you could be next to a real waterfall some place far away. Just don’t keep it right next to your phone or your callers will probably think you’re in a bathroom.
- Magnetic Sculptures: Whether you’re on a long phone call, a difficult phone call, or both, these magnetic sculptures can help relieve stress and keep you occupied (especially if you’ve been sitting on hold). However, try and keep the clinking to a minimum so as not to disrupt your phone call.
- Sound Machines: Listening to white noise like ocean waves and falling rain can help soothe your mind and keep you focused on the task at hand. As long as you keep the volume turned low, these sound machines are a great addition to any work space.
- Newton’s Cradle: Watching Newton’s Cradle swing back and forth will be able to relax any stressed out CSR. Just be careful not to have it right next to your phone as the clinging spheres will be sure to annoy your caller.
Only When You’re Not on the Phone: These products are super loud. Definitely don’t use them when someone is on the line.
- 3D Pin Art: Remember going to the doctor’s office as a kid and playing with 3D pin art? It was soothing, fun, and ultimately kept your mind off that needle you were coming to get (even though your mom said it wouldn’t hurt). Just be careful flipping the thing over as the pins will make a bit of noise when they drop.
- Desk Vacuum: Many people find that white noise and clean spaces is calming, which is why we recommend this cute little desk vacuum. However, you definitely shouldn’t use it while you (or your neighbors) are on the phone.
- Desktop Punching Bag: If cleaning doesn’t help calm you, maybe punching something will. This desktop punching bag is great for relieving stress, but just wait until you’re off the phone.
- Mini NEOGEO: Blow off some steam in between taking phone calls with this mini NEOGEO. Nothing beats stress more than beating your high score.
#2. Trouble remembering protocol? Phone numbers? Post It!
Forgetting stuff? There’s a post-it for that. Having the written reminder in front of you not only helps you in the moment, but looking at the reminder every day will help register the instructions in your mind. In addition to instructions for certain accounts, CSR’s can use their Post Its to help them remember things like:
- Important phone numbers: Supervisors’ names and phone numbers, HR contacts, and various extension lists are all important pieces of information to have readily available. Stick your Post It right to your phone or on the bottom of your monitor so you always have those numbers handy.
- Reminders to smile and breathe: Reminding yourself to smile and breathe is sometimes necessary. We all need a quick refresher here and there, especially when we are dealing with stressful situations.
- Transitional phrases: Knowing when to use transitional phrases when speaking with a customer can help keep the conversation moving in the right direction, and can eliminate any awkward pauses. You can also download and print out our poster here for a quick reference guide.
Some of our favorite Post It Notes include:
- Fruit: These Post It Notes shaped like fruit are cute and fun, but may make you hungry.
- Tetris: Turn your desk into a game of Tetris with these sticky notes!
- Cats: Animal lovers rejoice with these sticky notes shaped like cats.
And if you’re looking for a ready made custom sticky note for your own cubicle, check out the downloads below that are sure to ‘stick up’ for you when you need a smile. See the 5 sticky notes below and download the original vector (Adobe Illustrator) file here to make changes or print them up on your own!
#3. Make it cozy and comfortable
CSRs are going to spend 99% of their jobs in their cubicle or behind a desk, so it’s important to take the time to make your work space your own. Just like you jazz up your home to make it cozy, tricking out your cubicle is just as important. Just like the Spice Girls said – spice up your life!
Having pictures of family and friends is a must. Other decorations like plants or souvenirs from a favorite vacation can help a CSR channel their happy place. If your office is a bit chilly, keeping a warm fuzzy blanket around can also help. Believe it or not, when you smile while on the phone, your positive energy radiates through and can help create a successful interaction.
Here are some of our favorite desk decor:
- Desktop Planter Vase: This desktop planter vase is affordable, adorable, and will help liven up any dull work area.
- Picture Frames: Keep your loved ones close with these collage picture frames from Ikea!
- Motivational Signs: Sometimes we all need a reminder of how awesome we are. Etsy has a great collection of fun, customizable signs that may help give you that extra push.
- Desk Organizer: This organizer will help keep all of your pens, pencils and notepads organized in one place. It’s also gender neutral and goes with everything.
- Salt Lamp: Salt lamps are the best. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they also give off a warm, calm vibe that will be sure to soothe your tired soul.
- Neck Massager: Who said you can’t get a massage at your job? You can use this neck massager right at your desk, and it even comes with a heat setting to help loosen up tight muscles.
- Foot Rest: Kick your feet up and relax with these foot rests, guaranteed to help alleviate any extra back pressure put on by stress. These foot rests come in different animal shapes, and even double as a storage unit.
- Heated Blanket: Working while you’re cold is the worst. You can’t concentrate, your muscles tighten up, and you basically just wish you were back in bed. This heated blanket will warm you up and make you feel nice and cozy.
- Oil Diffuser: Essential oils like lavender and vanilla have been known to help reduce stress and promote calmness, while other oils like peppermint and rosemary help create focus and concentration. An essential oil diffuser is a great addition to any stressful work environment, just be mindful of your neighbors. Aromatherapy for the win!
- Gel Seat Cushion: Protect your derrierre with the comfort of these gel seat cushions. You won’t mind sitting all day since you’ll basically be sitting on a cloud.
#4. Time zone map or area code list
As an operator, you’re answering for thousands of calls a day. One minute you could be answering calls from a business in Ohio and the next call could be from California. Having a time zone map readily available at your desk can help you determine what time zone callers are located in from a quick glance, which could help save you from saying “good morning” to a caller who has already eaten lunch.
For businesses that don’t want their customers to know they are outsourcing calls to an answering service, something as simple as saying “good morning” when they should be saying “good afternoon” can be the mistake that gives them away. Being knowledgeable about where customers are calling from can help a virtual receptionist blend into their environment to give off a more localized presence.
We’ve created a beautiful Time Zone map of the United States that you can feel free to use online, or print to use at work or at your own cubicle. The map shows the 6 time zones for the United States and is available to download in .PDF format, .JPG format, and .AI (vector) format. The 6 time zones are Hawaii (UTC -10:00), Alaska (UTC-09:00), Pacific (UTC-08:00), Mountain (UTC-07:00), Central (UTC-06:00), and Eastern (UTC-05:00).
#5. Written goals
Everyone is always working towards something. Whether you’re trying to save up to purchase that new car, or maybe you’d like to win employee of the month, setting goals can be a great motivator. People who give themselves short term and long term goals that are posted in a visible place will be more encouraged to continue working hard even when the going gets tough. Seeing these goals every day can give you something to work toward and, overall, will make you want to push harder. Plus, just like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, the reward at the end is always worth it!
Here are some recommendations for setting up a goal attributed work atmosphere:
- Goal Planners: Progress planners are great to use to not only keep yourself organized, but also to set daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly goals. When you’re able to write down and cross off goals as you attain them, you become more motivated to reach that next tier!
- White/Chalk Boards: Whether you’re working towards a personal goal or a group goal with your co-workers, using a white or chalk board is a great way for everyone to get involved. Through tally marks, stickers, or drawings, everyone can have fun while working towards their ultimate goals. This 3-in-1 white board can help you get the job done, or, depending on how big your goals are, this cute chalkboard easel.