With the ongoing discussion of human vs. machine when it comes to answering your office phone, Carolyn Elefant questions “the importance of having a receptionist pick up.” Sometimes she prefers to go directly to voice mail and not leave a message with a receptionist. Further, she states that newer solos may not have sufficient resources to hire a receptionist. Finally, she points out that a rude receptionist or one that sends you immediately to voice mail without a word can be worse. All excellent points.
Let me clarify my views on the points Carolyn mentioned:
A caller doesn’t have to leave a message with the receptionist, you could ask for voice mail to leave a detailed message (and I often do). I simply and quickly ask to be put into her/his voice mailbox.
As to the rude receptionist – whether blatantly or by simply putting you into voice mail without so much as a comment (I REALLY hate that one myself), some stern instruction should be able to solve that problem. If not, there is a simple solution. And you could ask a friend or colleague to call your office periodically to see how your phones are being answered. If not according to your “instruction,” then as I say the solution is easy – unless of course they are your spouse (but let’s not go there).
When I was a sole practitioner, following a stint with the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, I remember my dire financial condition very well. But what I did I recommend to other solos (and have over the years), and that is to try to find someone to share office space with. In my case, I rented space from another solo for several reasons;
*Save money,
*Have access to a library,
*Share a secretary/receptionist,
*Obtain referrals from the other lawyer (and I did), and
*Have someone to talk with that knew the local lay of the land.
When I later went on my own, I hired a secretary/receptionist because I wanted my phone answered by a live person. Granted this was a FEW years ago, before voice mail – hell it was before computers (as in IBM Mag cards, ugh). But it doesn’t change anything. We are in the people business, and I think if a prospect calls, they want to reach a person.
I realize there are times that reaching voice mail immediately will serve some people’s needs (when dealing with some clients, friends, etc.). From a legal marketing perspective, however, when a demanding or potential client calls, you want a human to answer in my view.