Suffolk Business Awards 2021: Pocket Receptionist shows power of putting customer first

Pocket Receptionist acts as a call-answering service for more than 500 clients

Pocket Receptionist acts as a call-answering service for more than 500 clients - Credit: Pocket Receptionist

Excellent customer service is critical for any business, not least those that deal with customers on behalf of other businesses. One company that does this – and does it very well – is Pocket Receptionist, which won the Customer Excellence Award, sponsored by Greater Anglia, at the Suffolk Business Awards 2021.  

Founded in 2016 as an offshoot of the very successful SwitchboardFREE call management and VoIP phone system, the Lowestoft-based company acts as a call-answering service for more than 500 clients, from property agents, tech companies and law firms to independent medical professionals and even the NHS. 

“One of the biggest problems our customers face is loss of business by being unavailable to answer every call,” explains Kelly Ball, sales manager for Pocket Receptionist. “Another problem many companies face is how to handle the disruption an inbound call can cause to workflows. By handling phone enquiries for our customers, we free up time and reduce disruption so they can concentrate on what they do best and improve efficiency.” 

In order to represent clients in the best light possible, Pocket Receptionist spends time getting to know them inside-out before starting to answer their calls. “We work really hard to understand what each customer needs from us, and our technical team help us to integrate into our customers systems, meaning we really become a part of their team and can offer real value,” says Rose Newman, HR and training manager for Pocket Receptionist. 

It doesn’t stop there, though. Regular touchpoints with customers ensure Pocket Receptionist’s teams are aware of any changes, such as a new contact, change of hours, or somebody being on holiday. And, using the company’s mobile app, customers can score and review every single call.  

“We ask for call feedback and anything our customers might like to change regarding the way we handle things for them,” says Natalie Engstrom, operations manager for Pocket Receptionist. “This feedback goes to the team leaders and in turn their team, so we can respond very quickly to any changes or directives that our customers might offer.”  

The winners and sponsor of the Customer Excellence Award posing with their award

Left to right: Jonathan Denby (sponsor – Greater Anglia), Matt Rayner, Natalie Engstrom, Christopher Venables, Rose Newman and Grant Hardy - Credit: Matthew Potter Photographer and Videographer

Not only is feedback important for maintaining and improving service quality – it is also central to staff training, an ongoing process which is managed through call feedback and regular appraisals. “Call-quality spot checks are also carried out twice daily, and one agent a day has a full overview in which messages, mandatory fields and good points are highlighted,” Natalie says.  

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With more than 500 customers on its books, Pocket Receptionist’s agents need to retain an extensive amount of information. That’s why all new starters go through a four-week training plan. “We run small teams of six so we can have a real in-depth knowledge of our customer,” says Rose. “This works extremely well and keeps things personal.” 

The company’s customer-centric ethos even extends as far as its monthly awards, which are only judged on the quality of customer service, as opposed to targets such as call volumes or workload. And this approach has now seen it recognised with a Customer Excellence Award. 

“This was our first experience entering any form of business awards, and to win on our first try was overwhelming and very humbling,” says Rose. “Our immediate celebration was a McDonald’s breakfast for the whole team the next morning in the office. 

“More so, it’s a true testament to the team and how hard they’ve worked to create and maintain such a high standard of customer service,” she adds. 

This has been maintained throughout the pandemic, with Pocket Receptionist providing an “essential service” to other businesses disrupted by staff shortages – as well as a large NHS trust and the London Ambulance Service. “In a way, the pandemic made us far busier than before,” says Rose. “We actually took on more call handlers and created a dedicated training person in the company throughout Covid to keep up with demand.” 

The company now has its sights set on reaching 1,000 customers by December 2022, which will require a large recruitment drive. More immediately, it wants to provide a 24/7 service to help night-time economy businesses and international customers, while offering a ‘loan worker’ helpline to overnight operatives. “We hope to achieve this in early 2022,” says Rose. 

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