A great receptionist is a huge asset to any business, small or large. A receptionist is important because they’re often the first impression that a client or business partner has with your company. So an emphasis on being personable is even more important when someone is working with or purchasing from a small business. Most of all, people expect a higher sense of service when working with ‘the little guy.’ Whether you’re looking to hire a quality receptionist or you’d like to be a good receptionist, below are some personality traits of a great receptionist.
Personality Traits of a Great Receptionist
You knew this one was coming. Lets go ahead and get it out of the way. First and foremost, a great receptionist is friendly! They are polite to anyone who calls to speak with you or make an appointment and they’re always smiling when someone new walks in the door. Some people aren’t naturally friendly. Not everyone learned the same manners. Though friendliness can be taught, it comes naturally for some. That type of person, of course, would be the ideal candidate for a receptionist position. Then every caller and visitor will immediately feel invited and welcome.
A great receptionist loves to chat! No matter if the receptionist is in-office or a virtual receptionist. Either way, they’re going to need to do quite a bit of talking. Day in and day out. If you’re shy or an introvert a receptionist position might not be your best choice. Introverts often need downtime to rebuild energy between social interactions. Often there is a consistent flow of work with little downtime between social interactions.
The best receptionists are able to naturally create a rapport with the people who frequently call or visit your establishment. They’re natural conversationalists and make those in their presence immediately feel more comfortable. They’re generally friendly, likable people.
The above being said, it’s also important that a great receptionist knows where to draw the line when it comes to being sociable. I’ve witnessed far too many receptionists carry on personal conversations with colleagues while a client was waiting to speak to them. The client has a lingering feeling of discomfort even after being acknowledged after a brief period of feeling ignored.
A great receptionist will know that clients should get attention first and foremost. They’re quick to cut an employee-to-employee conversation short as soon as a client or partner walks in the door. That gives people that award-winning customer service experience.
Open to New People
Virtual and in-house receptionists serve people from different backgrounds, cultures, ages, races, and classes. Someone from any walk of life could call your place of business. A great receptionist is one that is able to adapt to someone that may have different ways of communicating or have cultural differences that come off as impolite. Cultural sensitivity may not seem like the first thing that comes to mind in hiring a receptionist. But think of your customer base and make decisions based on that.
It’s great when someone is comfortable with talking with others. But the ability to do so in a way that conveys the message professionally with simple language is paramount. A great receptionist is a great listener. They’re able to listen carefully to the concerns or questions of the caller and give thought out and clear answers. A soft, calm tone on the phone is ideal.
Receptionists take charge of various forms of communication often. They write emails, take messages, answer phone calls, dictate memos and meet wit people in person. A great receptionist will be a competent writer, typist, and speaker.
Judicious and Careful
Receptionists are often in charge of important information. Sometimes that information is confidential. Other times a cross-corporation email blast is called for. A receptionist should have good judgement. They should take clear messages that do not get lost in translation. Then they’ll take care of each of these messages to see that they get into the right person’s hands.
A great receptionist will have systems in place that will allow them to pull up necessary information quickly and efficiently. They’re careful enough (see above) to put information and items in the right place and organized enough to retrieve it. It seems like their inboxes are always conquered. Also, receptionists don’t have a cluttered workspace. They know how to organize an office in such a way that if you need to call them on their lunch break for an item, they’ll be able to quickly point you in the right direction.
People love recognition. If you’ve ever been a regular at a business and begun to be recognized, or better, greeted by your first name, you know how important it can make you feel. A great receptionist will remember your regular clients and their specific needs. They’re the type to say, “Good Morning Mr. Jones. Mrs. Braxton will be with you in a moment. Would you like black coffee again today, or something different than your last visit?”
Attention to detail is signature for a small business. A great secretary who pays attention to the little things is the icing on top of the cake.
Technological systems are constantly changing and evolving. A great receptionist will follow in their suit and be comfortable using the phone systems, copiers, printers, computers, and other various technology that they are asked to use. Most of all, they’ll be quick typists and pros at using word processing software. In addition, familiarity with Excel, Google Drive, desktop publishing, social media, design or industry-specific software may be important. It all is dependent on your expectations of the receptionist and your small business’ goals.
Open to New Ideas
Managers ask receptionists to do a variety of tasks. They’re sometimes asked to change a traditional formatting for paperwork from one person to the next. Someone reluctant to change is not always the best fit for a receptionist position.
Every customer that walks in the door or dials your business’s phone number isn’t always going to be having a great day. Neither is every person employed in your office. A great receptionist will have a great attitude regardless of the attitude of the person that walks in the door. They’ll be patient with those who lack patience and will remember to be kind.
Patience is arguably the most important trait of a receptionist because proper care of customers boils down to taking time for the individual.
It isn’t uncommon for a receptionist to find themselves with many tasks to do in a brief amount of time. And a receptionist is also taking orders from many directions: the phone, in-house customers, their direct supervisor, and other people that need assistance. A great receptionist will not feel overwhelmed because they’re keen at prioritizing and able to work under duress. They won’t act emotionally in response when things get heated. And they don’t crack under pressure.
They’ll be level-headed when dealing with an angry customer. They’ll be stoic in dealing with people that are demanding and emotional. Then they’ll continue to work efficiently despite them. They have a high emotional intelligence and don’t allow others’ emotions to affect their own.
Remaining calm isn’t the only tool for dealing with angry customers. Receptionists have to deal with a variety of emotions just as they have to deal with a variety of people from different backgrounds. A great receptionist recognizes and responds appropriately to any level of emotions that a guest or caller has.
A great first impression is a must. Receptionists who look and speak in a professional manner can achieve a great first impression. An in-house receptionist must dress in business attire that is appropriate for your business, keep their hair kempt and have good personal hygiene. Their personal phone won’t distract them nor will chewing gum. They’ll have great posture throughout the day.
A great receptionist’s professionalism can be seen across all platforms. Therefore, they’ll use the appropriate telephone etiquette for asking and answering questions and have proper email etiquette. If your business is using business text messaging for customer service or other aspects of your business, they adhere by the proper business texting etiquette as well. (And, yes! Business text messaging professional.)
Capable at Multitasking
Receptionists get many tasks done in a day. They welcome guests, connect them to the appropriate staff, answer and screen calls. They’re taking messages, maintaining calendars, accepting deliveries and completing paperwork. Receptionists are also generally on top of file management, they may accept payments and schedule appointments. All while keeping call wait times brief. And that’s just to name a few!
A great receptionist gets those tasks done. And they do so efficiently. At times they’ll do many of those tasks at once. So some would say that the ideal receptionist would have ran away and joined the circus–they’re that good at juggling all of these duties!
A Case Study: My Favorite Receptionist
Some people downplay the role of the receptionist. “Just a receptionist” or “just a secretary” is something that many uninformed people say. But a great receptionist makes or breaks a customer service experience. And don’t just take my word for it. There’s customer service psychology that’ll back that up.
An Example of Her Empathy
A truly great receptionist is memorable. Not too long ago, I was attending a doctor’s office regularly. The receptionist, Barbara, was often the one to call when my doctor received information regarding test results that were negative and a non-issue. When there was a possibility of something startling to occur, she’d call me and let me know right away that if this happened I needn’t worry. That it wouldn’t be as bad as it would seem and was a regular occurrence.
At the end of this call, she asked me: “Do you have any questions about this? I just don’t want this to happen to you and for you to worry. Because it’s a non-issue and a normal response. I don’t want you to feel like this hasn’t been fully explained to you in case it does happen.”
She seemed fully concerned about my current feelings, yes. But she also had forethought and considered emotions that I could have in the future. Then, she addressed all concerns to avoid that worry.
An Example of Her Sociability
Barbara always makes me feel welcome in the office. She does more than let the doctor know I’ve arrived. After she does that, she knows just how to engage me in such a a way that I feel welcomed and the wait time feels insignificant. She asks questions that are engaging and is a fantastic conversationalist. She doesn’t just chat about the weather. That kind of small talk makes me squirm.
An Example of Her Damage Control
Barbara almost always answered the phone when I called. But once, she wasn’t the one to answer. I asked the receptionist who picked up if a certain medication would interfere with my current medical condition. Because my doctor who prescribed it asked me to double check with this other office. The woman who answered the call said she’d speak with the doctor and give me a call back.
So I waited. Long after business hours, I realized I never received a call back! Since it was a Friday, I didn’t expect to receive a call for the next few days. Afterward, I did some research on the internet and the medication’s packaging and decided to go ahead and use it.
Then on Tuesday the next week, I received a call from Barbara. She said she had just come across a note with my question and saw that I hadn’t received a call back. First, she let me know that she spoke to the doctor and it’s perfectly fine if I used the medication and I can continue to do so. Then she began to ask me around what time and when I called, if I could remember the name of the person who answered. She explained that she was out to lunch, apologized profusely, and let me know that she was getting to the bottom of it. And that it wasn’t acceptable. Also, she let me know that if I don’t receive a call back within a couple hours it is okay to continue to call back, it won’t be a nuisance and answering my questions is their priority.
Hiring a Great Receptionist is Important
A bad receptionist is bad news and a bad receptionist will rob you of leads. How? By not answering the phone professionally, answering questions well, or answering the phone in a timely manner at all. Small businesses need all the leads they can get to continue growing!
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: a receptionist is the face of your company. That face should be smiling, professional and inviting. As you can see from the case study above, a great receptionist is memorable. And customers and clients will associate a feeling care with your small business. Then they’ll keep coming back.
Apply this to your small business
A great receptionist can make or break the judgement of your business. Bad customer service is worth noting and often people will even leave negative online reviews of your company if they’re not treated well by your staff. Due to this, the above traits should be considered when hiring a receptionist for your company. Some may seem more or less relevant based on your business model. For example, if your business is mostly online you may prefer to hire a virtual receptionist. The way they keep their hair and posture is less important.
Now, try this…
Consider the specific needs for your small business. Then, make adjustments to your personal list of great receptionist traits. If you’re considering going the virtual receptionist route, we know a great answering service that employs receptionists with all of the right traits. They’ll give your customers the same memorable experience as the above-mentioned case study.