Sometimes the best way to get in the door of a business is by befriending the secretary. They have the power to create a bridge—or a barrier—to the Big Kahuna. But they also possess the ability to frustrate and potentially turn off clients and associates if they are unresponsive, unknowledgeable or downright indifferent. Journalists also rely on secretaries and PR types to connect us to executives working for the vendors we cover as well as busy CPAs and value-added resellers. Especially in the world of accounting software, it is a rare joy to encounter a person at that level who not only understands the questions we are posing, but also provides us with the answers we need. One of these talented people recently stopped working in his role, leaving some of us demanding reporters stomping our feet. We’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of service with this individual and established a friendship in the process. It’s easy to just shrug our shoulders and acknowledge most people who work to connect us to executives aren’t as advanced as he is. But why should we settle for sub-par, or even average, service from a company with which we’ve been doing business for years? Vendors, resellers and accountants should all take a look at their client-facing staff and see what tools they can arm them with to better serve the people who call or visit their offices. Many of these employees are fresh out of school and eager to learn and help. Can you teach them some basic industry jargon so they aren’t scratching their heads when a client asks a question? Can you put a rule in place requiring them to respond to inquiries within a certain period of time? Simply telling clients that their issues are being worked on can sometimes ease their anxiety, as opposed to waiting until those problems are solved to touch base with them and risk them thinking they are being ignored. Most people who conduct business with firms don’t expect administrative assistants to be experts in their fields. But they do expect to be treated with the same level of respect and professionalism as they would by a managing partner or CEO. These individuals serve as the front door to your organization. It’s up to you to make sure they are open and welcoming.
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