First impressions: How a good receptionist can make all the difference

In a recent survey by RADA Business (the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), 88% of respondents said they were quick to make negative assumptions about an entire organisation if they considered their initial contact with a human to be unhelpful or they seemed disinterested in them.

That really does emphasise that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

With so much riding on the attitude of your reception and receptionists, how much have you thought about the welcome people receive (or don’t receive) when they call or visit your business?

So what makes a good receptionist and how do you create a positive first impression for visitors?

Here are some top tips to help you get it right:-

The importance of a good receptionist

Often, reception is the first physical part of your business visitors will see.

You can’t blame people for thinking that your business is all over the place if that’s the impression your reception area conveys. If visitors have a negative experience with your receptionist, they’ll remember that and it will have a big effect on the rest of the journey they take with your business.

Imagine that a potential new client steps into your reception area.

They’re early because their train journey didn’t take as long as they’d thought. Your receptionist points out that they’re early and asks if they could take a seat.

It’s not a terrible experience, not rude, but imagine how much better the experience would have been if the conversation had gone like this.

Visitor: “Hi there I’m here for a 10 o clock meeting but my train got in a lot sooner than I thought it would.”

Receptionist: “No problem. I’ll call Mrs Owner and explain. I might be able to move the meeting forward for you a little so you don’t have to wait as long. Would you like a drink while you’re waiting?”

Now it’s not rocket science but taking the initiative to break away from the standard “take a seat and wait” line gives the potential client an insight into the values of your business.

If you call a business up and speak to a receptionist to ask a question, there is nothing more annoying than the ‘computer says no’ response. Incidentally, that’s the response one all too often receives from receptionists in Doctors’ Surgeries these days which could be the subject of a whole new blog but I digress.

We want to know that a human being will at least try to find out the answer and challenge to see if they can solve our problems in a helpful way.

A good receptionist will have the following qualities

Whether it’s in person or over the phone, a receptionist needs to reflect your business values in the right way.

Here are six key CV skills you should look for in a strong receptionist candidate:-

  1. Good communication skills

    The key skill a receptionist needs to have is the ability to speak well and convey information clearly. They need to be able to listen carefully too, so they can learn how they can best help people.

They should be great at making people feel at ease when entering the business and always go that extra mile to find out all the information possible. And they need to be able to do this without making people feel they are being interrogated.

  1. Ability to work alone without distress

    Unlike the rest of your team, who may be in one communal space, your receptionist could be working on their own out front.

You may be lucky enough to have more than one receptionist in your business but most SMEs will have a smaller welcome party. Aside from not getting too bored working alone, working in isolation from the team means that they will need to be able to think on their feet. They will need to be able to solve new problems quickly and creatively.

  1. No luddites

    It’s not going to give a good impression if a potential client calls your business only to be cut off when the receptionist tries to put them through to you. Equally, if someone is standing in your reception area waiting for a meeting whilst your receptionist is grappling with the room booking system it will give a less than professional impression.

Technology and online services change at a frightening speed, so it’s worth investing in on-going soft training for staff.

  1. Tidy working

    If someone visits your workplace, they don’t want to be greeted with a pile of papers on the reception desk, boxes stacked up and five redundant mugs of tea or coffee. Being well organised and having the right storage for a reception area will help to create that professional and welcoming look. Plus, if papers are out on display it can be a data protection issue too.

  2. Great at building relationships quickly

    We’ve already mentioned that a receptionist often works alone for most of the time. But, having the personality to build good relationships with other members of the business is vital. Your receptionist will need to know exactly who to go to with customer queries at any time. And good relationships with other team members will also mean receptionists will know meeting room preferences and staff members’ food allergies, etc.

  3. Calm personality

    Unfortunately, working with the general public does mean that you sometimes deal with irate, rude or unreasonable people or even people that are just having a bad day.

If you have a short fuse and fly off the handle quickly as soon as someone looks at you in the wrong way, reception might not be the best place for you.

A business should be looking looking for front of house staff who are calm under pressure, have a friendly tone and can manage strong personalities appropriately when required.

How to create a great first impression

Not only do you need to choose the right person for your reception but you also need to create the right environment. This can include:-

  • Comfortable furniture
  • Some planting
  • Artwork on the walls
  • Industry or relevant magazines (not editions from three years ago)
  • Any company awards or accolades
  • Your logo and branding

Investing in this part of your business is going to pay dividends in the long run and don’t forget that once it’s done, that’s not the end of it. Invest in ongoing team training and maintain the reception area so it looks neat and tidy.

Value the role of the receptionist

And don’t forget International Receptionist Day on 13th May 2020!

It’s an opportunity to make sure that you and others in your business show their appreciation for the efforts of your lovely receptionist.

Come and pay us a visit

We love meeting new people and our receptionists and reception areas are always friendly and welcoming.

Why not come and see us at one of our offices in ChelmsfordCheamWansteadSaffron Walden and London City or give us a call and experience them for yourself?!

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