For Beginners: Receptionist Tips Part Deaux

By | Mar 10, 2008

On to Part Two of our Receptionist Tips series.

In Receptionist Tips I, I discussed phone etiquette for receptionists, although some of the tips are applicable to anyone in the admin support field. However, unless you are working on a switchboard, there’s a great deal more to being a receptionist than answering the phone.

  1. Appearance: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of appearance as a receptionist. You are the first person a client sees when they enter your business, and we all know how important first impressions are.Grooming is paramount. Hair should be clean and well styled. Clothing and hairstyle should be appropriate to the work environment. Obviously, if you are working in an attorney’s office, you will likely be required to present a very professional appearance with conservative hairstyle and business dress (in other words, leave the piercings at home). However, if you are working at an avant garde graphic design firm, you may be expected to dress in a much more fashion forward style. Whatever the work style of your office, make sure you meet the standards of dress and grooming applicable to your situation.
  2. Keep your work area neat! Again, first impressions are everything. Even though you are probably working on multiple projects at a time, you do not need to have them all scattered across your desk at the same time. Make use of drawers, file cabinets and letter trays to stow in-progress projects when they aren’t currently in use. The impression you want to give is of someone who is busy but organized.
  3. Speaking of busy, if you ever lack work, find something to keep looking busy. Ask for work if you don’t have anything to do. If there isn’t anything, then this is a good time to work on your Microsoft Office skills. Remember, if you want to progress past the level of receptionist, you need to have top notch software skills to carry you forward.
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  5. When you greet a client, stand up. This will add confidence and friendliness to your greeting. Don’t forget to smile. If they are there for a meeting, don’t forget to ask for a name and make note of the pronunciation so you can announce them properly. If they ask a question you can’t answer, just say you don’t know and tell them you will get the answer for them. Then get the answer! If the client has to wait, offer a beverage if you have them. Your goal is to make the client feel comfortable and welcomed.
  6. If a call comes in while talking to a client, excuse yourself and answer the phone. Ask the caller to hold a moment (don’t forget to say thank you) and finish with the waiting client. Then go back to the person holding on the phone.
  7. Know your office. At the front desk, you will be the person asked about how to find the restroom or water fountain, where to park (and if you validate parking), where supplies are located and myriad other facts. When you start a new job, try to make note of these kinds of information. They will come in handy in your day to day job.
  8. Cultivate patience. You will have to deal with difficult clients. You will have to stave off salespeople. You will have 3 people walk in the door at the same time that every phone line is ringing. Whatever happens, keep your cool and project an aura of confident ability. A certain amount of bravura can get you through a lot. And remember….
  9. Always know when and who to ask for help. When things are getting out of hand, don’t be afraid to ask for backup. If you don’t know the answer to the question, find out who knows. If all the phones are ringing and you have a line at your desk, take a few seconds to signal a backup to help. Needing help is not a negative. Not asking for help when it is needed is.
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18 Comments so far
  1. Barbara Swafford (8 comments) March 13, 2008 10:08 pm

    Jodith,What fantastic advice.  I only wish more people would practice it.  One of my biggest gripes is going into an office (especially a government office), and see people busy talking to each other, dressed too casually, and not having answers.  I begin to think, “and my tax dollars are paying their wage?”  Yikes!!!Have you thought about doing freelance work on training employees/  Or, maybe you also have to train the employer too. 

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..How To Get and/or Add A Gravatar To Your Post Comments

  2. MarkH (4 comments) March 16, 2008 6:17 am

    I think Barbara has an excellent point about training for the employers as well. There is often the impression that reception is an entry level position which doesn’t need a lot of skill, but I think it requires a great deal of skill to do properly. The employer has the responsibility to properly train staff, and “what a receptions needs to know” would be a good article.For example, one of the things a receptionist should know is who does what job. That is really a very complex task if you work in a workplace that fills many roles. In an engineering office, you might have administration, accounting, civil engineers, structural engineers, surveyors … and the list goes on. They all have their own specific tasks, yet reception might need to forward someone onto a specific area of expertise. That isn’t always a simple process.Reception can be a very hard job, and it’s good to remind employers (and other employees) that sharing knowledge is important so that the front line of the business is functioning properly. And yes, first impressions are very important, but it’s everyone’s job to make sure that happens and that a new receptionist has the information to do the job properly and well. The rest is up to you :)

  3. Jodith (189 comments) March 16, 2008 5:38 pm

    Thanks, Barbara and Mark, for your comments.

    I have thought about putting together a continuing education course on various secretarial topics to suggest to the local community college, but I just haven’t had the time to put together a suggested syllabus.  It’s one of the many things on my to do list :-)

    And, Mark, you are absolutely right.  Reception work is much harder than many employers realize.  It’s considered entry level because it often does not require advanced computer skills, but there are other skills that are very important in the position that must be learned.  I often think that employers discount the importance of the receptionist position.

  4. Adrianna (2 comments) July 18, 2008 1:13 pm

    Thank you very much this information was very helpful this is my 4th day on the job as a receptionist and for  the first time ever. I was kinda scared at first not knowing what to expect but iv got the hang of it and now reading this im more confident. Thank you

  5. Adrianna (2 comments) July 18, 2008 1:13 pm

    Thank you very much this information was very helpful this is my 4th day on the job as a receptionist and for  the first time ever. I was kinda scared at first not knowing what to expect but iv got the hang of it and now reading this im more confident. Thank you :)

  6. Ava (1 comments) February 25, 2009 1:43 am

    This is great advice indeed, im just covering for the usual receptionist, but things come to show there is indeed more to it then answering phones.
    Thank you very much for this.

  7. Ayaz (1 comments) October 15, 2009 10:17 pm

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences. I am just hired as a Receptionist, your post will really help me a great deal in starting my job. Thanks again. Keep up the good work.

  8. Jodith (189 comments) October 23, 2009 1:13 pm

    You’re very welcome! I hope the new job goes well.

  9. non exec (1 comments) December 13, 2009 4:43 am

    Excellent advice. Sometimes the basics are the things forgotten and you can lose goodwill and business if not attended to.

    Richards

  10. Jakk Bloggs (1 comments) December 14, 2009 11:12 am

    Fantastic advice thank you so much. Just what I was looking for, my wife needed info on this too. Barbara’s points are really well written so thank you 😀
    .-= Jakk Bloggs´s last blog ..Get a Mac Ad named campaign of the decade =-.

  11. Jodith (189 comments) December 20, 2009 7:53 pm

    I’m glad you found it helpful. I hope you’ll keep reading.

  12. ERIC CHRISTIAN KOJO GODYES (1 comments) July 4, 2010 4:04 am

    god bless you for shearing your knowledge to the whole world .it is very fruitful to me ERIIC FROM GHANA.

  13. Etiquette Girl (1 comments) August 3, 2010 6:38 am

    These tips are very helpful for going forward at a interview and the job you enjoy. Being in different settings, there are always an atmosphere of etiquette involved around your co-workers and authority figures. One good way is to look and learn different aspects where your working.

  14. Business (1 comments) August 28, 2010 12:19 pm

    The most important thing is attitude. Your attitude on the phone and in person is major. You always need a smile on your face and politeness in your voice.

  15. new homes (1 comments) September 9, 2010 4:26 am

    A great receptionist should always appear neat and presentable. Manners is also important.

  16. Whitney C. Bledsoe (2 comments) July 28, 2012 12:08 pm

    Once again, thank you so much for the wonderful advice! With my new found knowledge, I can not wait to start my new receptionist job on Monday! :)

  17. Jasmine (2 comments) May 27, 2015 11:39 am

    Thank you so much for your blogs. My mom introduced me to your site and it has really helped me with my new position. I have only been a receptionist at my new job for about 3 weeks and it has been a tad bit slow due to they haven’t had a receptionist in about 3 months so they are kind of used to doing things on their own. I have been reading a lot of blogs to help me when the work load starts to pile up (and to kill time) but I believe this is the most helpful site that I have read along with The Muse. Thank you for offering your insight and opinion and helping people like me feel a little more comfortable with their positions. Very Much appreciated. :)
    Jasmine´s last blog post ..Be Careful What You Keep On Your Work Computer

  18. Jodith (189 comments) June 5, 2015 5:56 pm

    Thanks, Jasmine. I really appreciate the feedback. That’s been my goal, to pass on some of the lessons I learned the hard way along the line.

    Good luck with the new job!

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