Receptionists are the first contact that clients, patients or customers have with an office or company. First impressions matter, so it is important to be warm, welcoming, conscientious and adept at the key receptionist attributes of multitasking, phone skills, computer skills, organization and people skills.
As the receptionist, you make a positive impact in many peoples' lives each day. Smile to release positive chemicals into your brain that lead others to smile back and feel good about you and the business. Ask appropriate questions, listen attentively to customers, tend to their needs, invite them to take a seat and offer them water or something to drink, when appropriate. Give customers, patients or clients clear and kind directions for anything they need to do and be available to answer their questions or pass on important messages to others in your department who are better able to help.
Receptionists keep track of who is on hold on the phone, the daily schedule, what is happening on the computer screen, as well as clients or patients waiting for appointments. While many people think this multitasking, science has shown that the human brain actually rapidly switches between tasks rather than completing multiple tasks at once. Find ways to make it easier for your brain to switch focus. Keep a pen and notepad near the phone to make notes about who is on hold. Tape computer program cheat sheets next to the computer or to the monitor screen. Set up sign-in sheets for clients or patients to keep track of who is in the office and how long they have been waiting for their appointment. Productivity systems relieve you from the stress of having to remember everything and make it easier to prioritize what is most important, as you serve with a smile.
Receptionists are responsible for answering the phone and directing calls to the appropriate extensions. Answer the phone with a friendly tone and a smile on your face. Thank the caller for calling your place of business, share your name and ask how you may be of service. Listen politely, make notes and direct the client's call to the appropriate line or voicemail box. Phone systems vary from office to office, so if you encounter a system you have not used before, ask someone to show you the ropes or find the system manual online to get comfortable with what the buttons on the phone mean and how to transfer callers to the appropriate extensions.
Receptionists normally have access to client billing programs, as well as to electronic office calendars. Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point are necessary for basic job tasks. Some receptionists are required to have excellent typing skills, as well as knowledge of industry specific computer programs. Learn new computer skills with the help of a pro through your local parks and recreation department, or the local community college. Apps and webinars are an alternate way to learn basic computer skills that give you an edge on the job. Confidence about your computer skills lowers job stress and makes it easier to feel happy and confident as you interact with clients and supervisors.
Receptionists often file important documents, sort mail, send mail, keep up with customer receipts and more. Create organizational systems and habits that set you up for success. Set up a file folder for everything that needs to be filed and work on filing during slow parts of the day. Choose to sort mail when you are not trying to serve clients or customers, and paperclip receipts from the same business day. Keep your mailing supplies in a caddy that is easy to grab when it is time to send out mailings. Envelope moisteners, automatic staplers, paperclips, self adhering stamps and pre-printed labels make mailing time a breeze.
People Skills and Self Care
Receptionists encounter all kinds of people. It is easy to be nice to a client who is smiling and cheerful, but sometimes a client is having a rough day or upset for some reason. Focus on your breathing to stay calm, maintain kind eye contact, listen to what they are saying, empathize with their emotions and commit to staying in the solution. The right people skills naturally diffuse difficult interactions and bring peace. Remember that you are responsible for your own emotions and behavior, but not the other person's. Practice good self care that prepares you to think clearly and be emotionally healthy as you serve people who are struggling, stressed or upset. Good sleep, nutrition and physical activity prepare you to give your best to your employer and their clients.