How to be a good receptionist (With definition and tips)

Updated 10 August 2023

Receptionists perform both administrative and public-facing roles in their work. They ensure that visitors and clients leave with a positive impression of the organisation while also providing employees with accurate information about appointments and other important details. If you're interested in becoming a receptionist, learning the relevant skills for the role can help with your job applications. In this article, we explain how to be a good receptionist and offer some tips to improve your receptionist skills.

What does a receptionist do?

Receptionists work in the reception area of an organisation where they greet visitors and guests, arrange appointments and pass key information on to relevant employees. They usually work with different departments and employees to relay information, handle customer enquiries or complaints and address a range of workplace issues. Some of the main responsibilities of a receptionist include the following:

  • greeting guests in a professional, warm and friendly way and informing key employees of visitor arrivals

  • answering telephone calls and responding to enquiries on behalf of the organisation

  • relaying telephone calls to relevant departments or employees

  • adhering to security protocols in the workplace by issuing visitor badges to guests and logging their arrival and exit

  • receiving and responding to various emails from employees and clients

  • managing office stock levels for office supplies and ordering new inventory when necessary

  • scheduling meetings and relaying dates with key employees and others in attendance

  • maintaining accurate office records to ensure the organisation has up-to-date information

  • administrative duties such as sending out faxes or documents, transcription or taking minutes for meetings

Related: How to write a receptionist CV (With template and example)

How to be a good receptionist

Whether you're looking to improve your existing receptionist skills or impress prospective employers with your receptionist abilities, look at the steps below to learn how to be a good receptionist:

1. Develop the right skills

Receptionists rely on an array of different skills to fulfil their duties effectively, so developing these skills shows employers that you're a competent receptionist. Some skills to develop as a receptionist include:

  • IT skills: Receptionists typically work with a computer and telephone system to respond to telephone and email enquiries. In some cases, receptionists also use specialised applications for scheduling appointments and contacting employees, which requires strong IT skills.

  • Initiative: Having initiative, or the ability to work independently, is another skill for receptionists to hone. Receptionists often directly respond to customers, guests or employees so knowing how to handle these situations without support or guidance is beneficial for the role.

  • Communication skills: At its core, the role of a receptionist is to communicate with both the public and the employees of an organisation, so good communication skills make the job easier. This includes both verbal and written communication skills.

  • Time management skills: Receptionists often handle multiple tasks for different people every day, which requires excellent time management skills. The ability to prioritise the most important tasks and get all the work done ensures the organisation functions smoothly.

  • Organisation skills: A receptionist requires top organisation skills to know where the right resources, people and information are. From creating schedules to filing contact information efficiently, organisation skills have many uses for receptionists.

Related: Receptionist skills: definition and examples

2. Maintain a professional appearance

As receptionists often act as the face of an organisation and greet visitors, maintaining a smart appearance ensures the business looks professional. The first impression that someone gets upon arriving is usually the result of the receptionist. As a result, receptionists dress professionally and adopt a formal attitude.

There are a few other things you could do to help maintain a professional appearance, such as staying focused on workplace activities. Instead of browsing your phone when things are quiet, perform administrative tasks like filing documents. You could use quiet moments as opportunities for self-development during these times, studying workplace resources like health and safety guidelines or undertaking certification courses.

3. Become a good communicator

Although there are many different skills that receptionists employ in their job, one of the most important ones to develop is communication. Writing professionally, listening to people and speaking clearly require good communication skills, but good receptionists strive for excellence in this area. For example, some receptionists study a second language if the organisation's clients are from another country. This level of commitment to communication skills ensures receptionists fulfil their duties in the most competent way possible.

Related: Why is communication important? (And how to improve it)

4. Know what's going on in the workplace

Receptionists are often a point of contact for all employees in the organisation to learn about day-to-day activities and any workplace updates. As receptionists work in a public-facing role, they usually know what happens in the organisation, such as when deliveries arrive or guests enter the building. They're the first people to know who has called the organisation and they enjoy a general overview of business happenings. They even know about things like internal and external vacancies in the organisation, so make sure you stay up-to-date with activities and changes in the organisation.

5. Maintain a positive demeanour

Maintain a positive demeanour when interacting with the public and employees. This ensures that people feel comfortable around you and are willing to come to you if they have any questions. By staying positive, you're in a much better position to fulfil some of the job's duties.

In some cases, receptionists also deal with angry or challenging individuals. Whether it's employees, clients or visitors, a receptionist's job is to help de-escalate any hostile situation, which a positive demeanour helps with. The best way to do this is by employing a level of empathy with them and understanding that their anger or frustration comes from somewhere other than you. Try to help them in any way you can, but don't let them draw you into an argument, as it appears unprofessional. Instead, remain positive and try your best to handle the situation calmly.

Related: How to be a positive thinker: 6 ideas for positive thinking

Tips for being a good receptionist

To help you work towards becoming a competent receptionist, take a look at the tips below and try to adopt them into your working life:

Smiling helps

It might seem small, but smile as often as possible while working as a receptionist. It ensures that you come across as friendly and welcoming while also improving your mood. Smiling even helps during telephone calls as it creates the right tone for a warm telephone voice.

Avoid chewing gum

Avoid chewing gum or eating while at your receptionist's desk. Not only is it difficult to understand someone when they're eating, but many people see it as unprofessional. Try to always eat away from your desk and avoid things like chewing gum. Separating your desk from the place you eat also improves your mood and gives you a separate environment away from your workstation.

Try not to use your smartphone too much

In a similar way to eating food at your receptionist's desk, try to avoid using your smartphone while working. Although for most receptionists a smartphone is a suitable way to contact employees, the most professional approach is through using the internal telephone system of the workplace. Having your smartphone nearby also increases the chances of distracting yourself and in some cases, it looks unprofessional, such as when you're idly browsing on your smartphone.

Have a notepad or paper available at all times

Receptionists often receive memos, messages and other small pieces of information that they can easily forget about. To help avoid this, try to always have a piece of paper or notepad nearby to jot down notes quickly. It's particularly useful during telephone calls as you can write down key points or information you can refer back to after the call. If you have these notes in front of you, you're much less likely to forget about them.

Related: Productivity tools for effective work and organisation

Greet callers and visitors by name

To personalise the client, visitor or caller experience, receptionists often greet them by their name. This isn't suitable for every case as you might not expect their visit or call, but if you do it's good practice to use their name to ensure they feel welcome. This not only gives a good impression of the organisation but also confirms that the person you're dealing with is who you expect.

Confirm details during the call

If you're handling a telephone call, try to confirm and double-check details while they're still on the call. This ensures that you've got all of the right information available from the initial call and avoids misunderstandings like incorrect name spellings. It also avoids the need to call someone back if you miss a piece of information or get something wrong.

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