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How to Be a Good Receptionist – a Guide to the Skills Needed - 5 Useful Tips

Updated on June 9, 2019
Gloriousconfusion profile image

I managed a small business for 20 years, hiring & training staff, keeping them happy and loyal, in a harmonious and productive environment


What Does a Receptionist Do?

Be very aware that, whether it be over the telephone or face-to-face, the receptionist is normally the first point of contact within an office or organization.

It is Important to Understand and Remember That a Receptionist is, in Effect, the Organization’s Ambassador

All receptionists should bear this in mind when communicating with clients and business associates

How the client feels after this initial contact with the receptionist may well reflect on how the rest of the relationship with the firm fares

An unhappy or disappointed client does not augur well, whereas an impressed client will lead to a positive experience.

This Can Be Summed Up In a Short Phrase - Make Clients Feel Valued!

What Do I Know About Receptionists, And How Did I Gain This Knowledge?

I am now retired, but when I was a solicitor I was a partner in charge of managing a small business for twenty years.

This means that I was the person interviewing and employing staff, setting out what was required of them, whilst at the same time keeping our workers happy and loyal, in a harmonious and productive atmosphere.

Before I qualified as a solicitor as a mature student, I worked variously as a secretary, a receptionist and a news typist. Having seen the situation from both sides, so to speak, I have therefore had plenty of opportunity to gather ideas about what makes a good receptionist, and I used this knowledge to set out a job description for one of our new receptionists when I was the boss.

I recently came across a typed-out version of our receptionist's duties in one of my old office files, and have used it as a basis for the advice that follows.

The Subject of the 5 Tips Below Are Based on the Job Description Which I Gave to Our Own Receptionist

They cover:

1. Welcoming clients

2. Reception Area

3. Interview Rooms

4. Telephone

5. Confidentiality

Here Are The 5 Steps to Becoming the Ideal Receptionist:

1. Make Clients Feel Welcome:

  • Ensure they are comfortable and relaxed
  • Show them where to put their coat
  • Offer them a drink
  • Point out magazines, cheap theatre tickets or other gift tokens, colouring pencils to entertain children; and see if they’d like a brochure or business card
  • Get their names right, including difficult spelling, and show you remember it and them when you see them again, and ask how they are and how their family is (when appropriate and if not too busy)

2. Reception Area:

  • Keep it tidy and attractive
  • Tidy up magazines, dispose of old and tatty ones, remove old papers
  • Water plants, remove dead plants and dead leaves and flowers
  • Pick up debris such as paperclips and rubber bands

3. Interview Rooms:

  • Remove Used cups, arrange drinks mats and chairs neatly
  • Pick up debris such as paperclips, files, papers and anything which is not relevant to the interview
  • Wipe clean any surfaces, including notice board (if appropriate)

4. Telephone:

  • Answer within three rings if possible – people hate waiting a long time for someone to pick up the phone
  • Apologize if the caller has been kept waiting
  • Always try to sound cheerful, enthusiastic, helpful and polite
  • Announce the name of the firm clearly
  • Speak very slowly and clearly and don’t mumble, so that people can actually catch what you are saying without your having to repeat it
  • If the person being called is not available, ask whether the caller would like to leave a message (either on an answerphone or by leaving a message personally with you)
  • If you are unable to transfer the call immediately, take a full written message including date, time and name and what the call is about. (The actual time may be relevant if the person being called needs to know whether another communication superceded it, or how long the caller has been waiting for a return call)
  • If dealing with a complaint or angry client, stay calm and polite and remind yourself that they are not angry with you personally, but with the situation

"Hallo - How May I Help You?"


5. Confidentiality:

  • Don’t discuss client’s business or expose their correspondence in front of another client
  • Always close the door of the interview room if the client hasn’t done so, to give them complete privacy

And Don't Disclose Clients' Business Outside The Office


Occasionally something happens at the office that you may want to discuss outside. Maybe somebody was rude, messed things up, or had a problem you wish to talk about. Just remember, never say anything that would reveal their identity. How would you feel if your doctor or lawyer mentioned you by name when discussing a problem with colleagues or family?

Priests take confessions in private, and everyone expects that confidentiality to be maintained and respected. Likewise medical and legal experts are expected to stay schtum. Before exposing anyone to consequences arising from lack of confidentiality, stop and think very carefully about the effect of what you are doing.

Of course professional people may discuss a case with their colleagues - they might say something along the lines of "I had an interesting case the other day, what would you do if.......?" or it might be "There was a problem in the operating theatre/in court and we had to......" But no names are mentioned. This is second nature with professionals when information needs to be exchanged but the identity of the subject is out of bounds. This is what confidentiality is about.

Remember You Can Adapt This Information to Make it Appropriate For Your Own Workplace

You don't need to follow the advice slavishly - just use it to prompt yourself to think about what would work best for you, whether

as an employer or as an employee

HasThis Article Helped Your Understanding in Any Way?

Did You Realize How Important a Receptionist's Job Is?

See results

You'll Love This Fawlty Towers YouTube Video Clip - The Receptionist is Very Patient With a Somewhat Aggressive Customer

© 2018 Diana Grant

Do Leave a Comment Here - You'll Get a Good Reception (Nudge-Nudge)

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      When I was Principal, one of the parents made this very clear to me how much people enjoyed going in because of one person. This person is a domestic assigned to run errands in the reception but she is happy, upbeat and she knows almost everyone. It was one problems less for me.


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