Being a good receptionist is much more than just answering the phones!

You represent the company you work for, represent it well!

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After just hiring a new receptionist for our company I needed to conduct the standard training for the position.  Upon doing this, I realized that often we don't give the receptionist much thought because it's an entry level position in most businesses. 

As I was conducting the training for our new receptionist, I realized how it important it is to have a real professional in this position and that we expect the new employee to put their "best foot forward."   In our place of business, the reception area is where our potential clients get their first impression of what our company is really like.  A receptionist needs to be much more than just someone sitting at the front desk answering phones!

Here are some important points to remember if you have been hired for this position:


As the first person the clients or customers will meet and gree, you probably should dress even better than the other employees of the company you represent.  Professional dress is expected at all times and even on casual Friday, keep your  look a little more dressy.  Neatness and cleanliness are extremely important.

Answering the Phones

Typically answering the phones is the main duty of the receptionist.  Learn the phone and paging system quickly and correctly.  No one likes being hung up on!  Answer all calls with a smile on your face.  This will reflect in your voice.  An upbeat and cheery "hello" is very appealing to potential customers or clients.  Ask your trainer how you are expected to answer the phones.  All companies have different requirements on this.  I have had a boss that actually fired a receptionist because she sounded "grouchy and dead" on the phone when he called!

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Make a phone and contact list of all of the employees within the company that you will be taking calls for if it isn't already provided.  Make sure you know how to pronounce all names correctly.  It is also good to have a list of owners and their spouses and other family members that might be stopping by or calling in. 

Find out how all calls are to be handled for each employee.  You will find that some employees like to be paged, others liked to just have calls transferred, some are always out and want a message taken so they can return calls at their convienence, etc.  Are you allowed to give out cell phone numbers or email addresses?  Find out the company policy on this immediately.

Handle each call as though the person calling is the most important person in the universe.  Making potential clients and customers feel important is utmost in good customer service. 

Answers calls quickly.  Learn how to muli-task when answering calls.  Never put someone on hold for long periods of time without checking on them every minute.

Use Good Grammar

Watch your speech.  Do not slur your words or drop the "g" off.  If you didn't hear something that was said, don't say, "Huh?"  Use a more refined approach such as, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that.  Could you repeat your question?"   No slang words of any kind should be used in any conversation, on the phone or live.

Be Friendly

Greet each person promptly and courtesly when they approach your desk.  Be helpful and responsive, even if you are on the phone.  Make eye contact and assure them you will be with them in just a moment if you are busy.

Be friendly but don't overstep your bounds.  When someone calls or enters the office, they aren't there to hear your life story.  They are there for business and you need to respect that.  Polite conversation with someone while they are waiting is expected but don't probe and question them.  If it's part of your responsibilities, seat clients and offer them a drink or magazine while they wait.

Handling Complaints

If you encounter someone with a problem or complaint, don't give out any more information than necessary and never assume responsibility for the problem unless you caused it!  Learn to be diplomatic and how to "de-fuse" situations. 

Be Confidential

As the receptionist you may become privy to confidential information that even other members of the staff don't see or hear.  Do not discuss private company matters with others, in the office or out.

Respect the privacy of others and do not buzz in and out of offices unless you have been told to do so.  Do not give out personal employee information to anyone unless you have verified the need to do so.

Do Your Job

If you are bored and need more to do, volunteer to help co-workers with small tasks but always make sure that your duties are completed or performed as expected. 

Be Tidy

It's important to keep the reception area neat and tidy.  This is the first place others see when entering your business and they will always get a positive impression if your area is appealing and attractive.  Keep your work space organized so you find things quickly.  If you decorate for holidays, keep the decorations tasteful and to a minimum. 

Never perform personal activities at your desk such as eating or putting on make up.

Other Duties

If you are expected to perform other duties always double check your work.  Many receptionists are asked to write memo's or letters and it's important that you spell and phrase everything correctly.  Know your job and do it well.  Learn how to operate other office machines such as the copiers and printers just in case you are needed in pinch.