You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, and as your reception area is the first impression many clients get of your business, it makes good sense to make an effort here. We seem to be doing more and more online now, but when we do walk into a business – whether it be a small medical practice, a major accounting firm or a government department – we expect to be received well.
The receptionist is often the window to the organisation. Many people will judge the quality of a business by the person who first greets them. I often wonder why more effort isn’t put into training these people so they are exceptional. And when you are lucky enough to be greeted with exceptional service in return – it makes you feel really good.
So what are the top reception skills that will make your reception people shine?
1. Personal presentation
It’s great to see smartly dressed men or women on reception. Clean and tidy clothes, hair done neatly, fingernails neat and clean, and when you arrive you see them looking professional. They may be taking a call, or greeting other people, or they may be doing work on their computer. But they are not doing crosswords and looking bored, nor should they be chatting to friends or on personal calls, and nor should they be eating – especially a smelly, messy lunch.
2. Name badges and identification
Some organisations use name badges or name “bars” so you know the name of the person you are dealing with. This adds a friendly personal feel – but is not always offered as many feel it is no longer safe to share personal information with strangers. At the very least there should be a clearly indicated sign that this is reception or the information desk and you are standing at the right place in front of the right person!
3. Clean and organised workspace
When you first walk in you should see a tidy well-presented reception area or desk. This creates an immediate first impression of the organisation’s professionalism.
Yet with many places I have walked into, I have seen loads of boxes, some half open, as things have been delivered but not cleared away. Or worse still a pile of clutter and messy files stacked up or strewn around. And then when you ask for something, the person has trouble accessing any information because it is not at their fingertips.
And I have seen incredible breaches in confidentiality – with personal files and letters open and easily able to be seen or read.
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And if a person is going to be away from their desk at reception – and you walk into an empty space – it’s nice to be well informed. A well presented sign – saying “Back in 5 Minutes”, or “Please Take a Seat – We will be With You Very Soon”, or “Please Ring this Bell”.
4. Professional greeting
Of course the big make or break is the greeting you get when you arrive. It needs to be immediate acknowledgement – eye contact, a friendly smile, a greeting – knowing or asking the person’s name. It’s great to be greeted by someone who was expecting you, or someone who offers you a drink of water or coffee, or a newspaper while you wait. Or better still that the receptionist immediately calls the person you have come to see and advises them you are there. Don’t you hate it when they don’t do that? I have waited 10 minutes before seeing a receptionist actually advise the person I was there.
5. Acknowledge multiple visitors
The real skills of a receptionist are when several things happen at once – phones ringing, more than one person arriving at the same time. It’s not that hard to acknowledge someone arriving while still professionally dealing with a call. It’s also acceptable to briefly interrupt a conversation with other customers, visitors or staff to take a name and manage a new arrival. Yet too many seem to lose their ability to see or hear anything other than the one call or person or even task they are doing. This skill is essential for excellent service and should be tested at the interview – to determine how a person multi-tasks.
6. Respect everybody
It’s great when reception staff respect everyone – and respond with excellent service – whether it be clients, senior managers, staff, or suppliers. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy of responsiveness where staff and suppliers get lesser service.
7. Good communicator
A receptionist who has good eye contact, a smiley face and speaks clearly and with warmth is great. And when they summarise your request so you know they have listened carefully, it’s impressive.
8. Willingness to help
Everyone in a reception role is providing a service – it is a service role. They need to take responsibility and have a positive attitude to helping and how that they want to help.
9. Manage waiting period
It’s strange how some receptionists really care about the people waiting and ensure they are offered drinks, papers or that other suitable reading material is available.
They will even check with the person required and keep the visitor informed of any length of wait. Yet others will forget your name – and why you are there, or even forget you are there!
10. Avoid pet hates
There are a few things that really should be knocked on the head:
- No personal phone calls at reception.
- Never putting down the organisation, its products, people, systems, services.
- And never showing indifference to people waiting.
Eve Ash is a psychologist and managing director of Seven Dimensions, and co- producer with Peter Quarry of the Ash.Quarry Productions video10 Essential Reception Skills (From the Take Away Training series) www.7dimensions.com.au
Watch the video10 Essential Reception Skills
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