You never get a second chance at first impressions

Olivia Bohringer, August 04, 2016

I’m Olivia – intern, account executive, proofreader, occupant of the corner cubicle, and answerer of the telephone.

The phones here are not unlike the one on your own desk, I assume. Every office phone I’ve encountered is interchangeable, industrial and secured with a twisty cord between handset and base that makes even a millennial like myself nostalgic. It chimes hourly and, though I may still get clammy hands when the familiar tone rings, mostly delivers good news.

Sometime after 9 am, the first caller beckons me. I’m nervous, unnecessarily; the speaker on the other end of the line has never wronged me to deserve any such reaction. My exchanges via phone have only included civility. I’ve greeted the receiver to find automated voices, familiar clients or colleagues of my colleagues. I’ve encountered misdialers, solicitors, and telemarketers. Most often, I meet the voices behind the names I recognize from long email chains.

Minor apprehension aside, I’m well trained on the phone. Previous to McDill, I worked as an account executive in the sales department of my university’s Student Media where I made call after call after call after, well, call. If calling to make an appointment at the dentist sends your knees knocking, cold-calling will thicken your skin to rival a rhinoceros. As a student, I’ve been told that everyone needs to work in sales at least once – and they’re right. Asking for money is hard, and asking for money over the phone from strangers is even harder. But it teaches that phone calls are not your nemesis, but instead an opportunity to share a few moments of human contact in our very digital world.

But here I sit, a handful of internships landed and dozens of extensions dialed later, still associating shaky hands with a ringing phone, knowing it’s my greeting that will be the first impression of McDill Design – a role I don’t take lightly. I often think about a quote that one of our clients, Johnson Controls, references from their past CEO Fred Brengel: “Answer the phone as if your job depended on it.” So I reach for the handset, and I smile big enough that they can hear it as I greet them. And I smile even bigger when I get the occasional recognition for a call well answered, because my job does indeed depend on it.