In today's world of immediate gratification it is rare anymore to even find a company with someone to answer a phone. With the trend of auto attendants more and more companies are opting to not have a live person answer the phone. Personally I think that is a mistake, but that is a topic for another day. As a result of dial by names and auto attendants, I am finding less and less the traditional "gatekeeper" of old.
I will date myself, but at one time in my professional life, I was that gatekeeper. This was before cell phones, before LinkedIn and before email. Yikes, yes I am truly that old. Back then, when someone was incredibly demanding and would call for the president of the company, they would demand his home phone number. 99% of the time I would politely tell them that was against company policy. Generally speaking though people would take a phone call from anyone that called. It was simply a matter of saying, "No thank you, I am not interested".
So today, much to my surprise I came across a rather rude gatekeeper. Today I was calling on a large, local financial services company. I had already been in contact with a person at that company and had built a relationship with them. Unfortunately they had left the company. So my conversation went something like this:
GK: Hello, can I get your name please?
GK: Are you a current financial services client or are you looking to become one?
(Note: I am actually a prospect for them and they were treating me as such initially)
L: No I am actually calling for a different reason. I was working in the past with Sue Jones. She is no longer there and I understand that Joan Johnson has taken over those responsibilities. I am trying to reach her to follow up on the work I had done with Sue.
GK: What is this in regards to?
L: Your tradeshows and events.
GK: Where are you calling from?
GK: What is your phone number?
GK: What is the company name?
L: Total Displays
GK: Hold on, let me check
L: Thank you
GK: Due to her position within the company I am unable to put you through.
Ok, that was a complete new one to me.
So what is a hardy, pig headed sales person to do? I called after 5 and the gatekeeper had gone home. I was able to access a dial by name and get my contacts email address. No I didn't speak with her in person, but the door cracked open slightly.
Now keep in mind, I wasn't trying to reach the president or even a C-Level exec. I was trying to reach a corporate events manager.
Brand is everything about your company. It is how you answer the phone, how you treat people, the language you use, your marketing materials and so much more. People seriously underestimate the depth and power of a companies' brand.
So this experience raises some questions for me?
1. When your business is a B2C business does it damage your corporate reputation when you are stand-offish or not approachable?
2. With the advent of social media and auto attendants, how important is the gatekeeper?
3. What does it say about the company culture?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years. She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients. Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David. They help people look great at events and trade shows and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers. If you would like to learn more email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/