I recently had to make an appointment at a local hospital for my son. I got caught in one of those telephonic rabbit holes, where you have to listen very carefully to pre-recorded prompts and try and decide which one best applies to your situation, before pressing the right button, only to find out the it wasn’t the option you were looking for. The call took 25 minutes – besides pressing prompts, I had to speak to quite a few of people while switching departments before getting to the person I needed. It seemed that every receptionist I spoke to was short, annoyed or could not help.

It made me think, Why are these people so angry and frustrated? Why aren’t their customer service skills better? Who decided that these people were the right ones for their jobs?

The irony is that for most people their first point of contact with any organization is the receptionist. It’s also true that in many organizations the receptionist is likely to be the lowest paid member of staff – so why do organizations put so little value in the vitally important role of receptionist? 

I have to admit to having a vested interest here. Not that long ago I was a receptionist. I think I was pretty good, and yes I was the lowest paid person in the company, but I believe it does give me the ability to speak with some authority on the subject.

So here is my list of top 5 qualities you want to look for in your receptionist:

Trustworthiness– They must be sophisticated, cultured and discreet. They must complete their daily tasks and meet goals. Your receptionist must treat all information with discretion, particularly when dealing with sensitive client accounts, but also for the company itself.

Communication– It may seem obvious, but your receptionist must be both friendly and patient, as well as being able to delegate. They should be able to handle assisting customers to direct their inquiries. Receptionists should be liked, confident and approachable.

Multitasking– Your receptionist should be able to hold a phone conversation while checking the calendar, inputting meetings on the schedule, handling multiple calls AND greeting visitors. It’s obviously difficult to multitask effectively, but that’s why not everyone is a good receptionist.

Organizational Skills- They must arrive on time. Receptionists should be set up and ready to go before the business is open so customers don’t have to wait while someone logs into the system.  They also need to know where everything is – customers don’t like to be kept waiting while you try and find their information. Your receptionist must be able to file correctly, and be structured in how they plan their day.

Adaptability– Even though a receptionist job description might be fairly simple the “and anything else that may be required” clause is an important one. The ability to quickly take on new and different tasks with minimal oversight, is going to be key to how successful the receptionist is in their job. I can’t begin to tell you how many “projects” I got involved in when I was a receptionist – not because I possessed a particular skill set, but just because I was available!

The point here is that as the company owner you are trying to make your customer happy, get them to return and hopefully even refer you. Because your receptionist is the first point of contact between the customer and the company, you need to make sure that they are the best representative of your company possible. So please make sure you hire well, give training and recognize the importance that this role has for your company.