Business Etiquette Rules for a Receptionist

by Dennis Hartman; Updated September 26, 2017
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Receptionists are usually the first people you see upon entering an office, which makes them an important representation of the companies they work for and the other professionals in the office. Observing business etiquette is a major part of a receptionist's job, but the diverse and changing opinions of just what constitutes good manners make it difficult for a receptionist or supervisor to determine appropriate behavior.

Significance

The importance of a receptionist as the person who delivers a first impression to callers and visitors is difficult to overstate. A receptionist with poor manners sets a negative tone before a meeting and fails to inspire confidence in potential clients. On the other hand, a receptionist who observes business etiquette gives a strong sense of professionalism and efficiency. This not only enhances the company's image to outsiders but also helps other workers feel as though their office is a professional place to work.

Types

Receptionists represent their employers in a variety of ways. Answering phone calls and greeting visitors are two of the most common duties for receptionists, and both require proper etiquette. Company policy might require receptionists to use a predetermined telephone script when receiving calls and contacting different types of clients. In other cases, receptionists are allowed to use their own discretion in handling each interaction with a different, though appropriate, level of formality and professionalism. Individuals who work in the office sometimes pass on additional rules to a receptionist, such as when and how the receptionist may contact them.

Training

While some offices require receptionists to hold a high school or college degree, much of a receptionist's etiquette training occurs on the job. Receptionists might start out working in an office with a position that doesn't require interaction, such as a data entry job or an office assistant. An attention to company policies and how receptionists behave might qualify new employees for a first-time receptionist position, which will generate experience that can be useful in pursuing other receptionist jobs.

Considerations

Every industry and office has its own rules for a receptionist's etiquette. Some offices require a formal mode of dress and speech. Others impose a more casual form of etiquette to make clients feel relaxed and welcome. Communication between a new receptionist and supervisors is essential so that everyone knows what is expected. As a receptionist, if you're unsure of the etiquette for a particular situation, politely excuse yourself and ask a supervisor or senior receptionist how you should respond.

Tips

Even though every office is different, receptionists can still benefit from some of the same tips. Multitasking is essential to good job performance, but when someone enters the office it's important to give her your full attention. This means placing calls on hold or completing them quickly, setting down papers and making direct eye contact. A receptionist's work space should be free from clutter to project a more professional demeanor and also to make it easier to complete simple tasks like finding information and offering someone a pen to fill out a form. Finally, when leading someone into an office, the receptionist should always take the lead to ensure the guest that his presence is allowed and to save him the embarrassment of not knowing where to go.

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