A receptionist is an employee taking an office/administrative support position. The work is usually performed in a waiting area such as a lobby or front office desk of an organisation. The title "receptionist" is attributed to the person who is employed by an organisation to receive or greet any visitors, patients, or clients and answer telephone calls. The term ‘Front Desk’ is used in many hotels for an administrative department where a receptionist's duties also may include room reservations and assignment, guest registration, cashier work, credit checks, key control as well as mail and message service. Such receptionists are often called front desk clerks.
Over the years, we have come to associate ‘front office or ‘reception’ with a very pretty and energetic woman you first walk in to greet and ask for help. In some unfortunate scenarios, we are met with very grumpy “cannot be trusted to deliver your CV to HR department” faces that act forced to be where they are. However, the reality of things is, the front office is more than just a place to answer calls, give clients directions to departmental offices or hand out forms of sorts (depending on the nature of the organisation).
Front Office is what I like to call the Heart of the Organisation. This is where initial contact with business is made; customers first make interactions potentially seeking one’s products and or services. This ‘initial contact’ is what makes or breaks business. Here, clients (who are your income generators) make the decision to part ways with their hard earned monies. It is vital that you ensure their decision is undisputed as much as possible. The appearance of a front office area and receptionist is important, and a dress code should be enforced. Their personal hygiene must be well attended to, and their overall grooming should be neat and orderly.
If your organisation has a casual dress code, it should be noted that certain pieces of clothing are not appropriate; skimpy shorts, skirts and revealing tops. If you have tattoos, these should be covered up. One should be smart and comfortable. Just recently, I walked into a very big brand name restaurant hoping to place an order for lunch. Its lunch time, I am a nice human being and therefore I understand that I may have to compromise as many like me are here looking for lunch. Unfortunately for me, the lady at the counter felt that chewing gum while catching up with her friend on gossip was more fitting on this particular day.
So after affording her a relatively long time for redemption, I decided that leaving them to their gum and gossip would be more supportive than parting ways with my money. No way am I referring any of my friends or family here! Potential Revenue came in, took all its friends and family and it walked out! In as much as many can relate with many such moments, I found myself not angry but wondering if in fact her employer or manager had availed adequate training for this role. It is essential to clearly outline what is expected of the employee throughout their workday. A front desk receptionist serves as the face of the organisation.
Are they aware? They are the first, and sometimes the only, person the guests interact with before deciding to buy or not. Your Organisation could be selling burgers made with a “slice of heaven” in each but there will never be a chance to “test drive” these burgers. Your clients will never find out these heaven slices if your front office isn’t in order. Although this is an entry-level role, the receptionist needs a great deal of skill perform the many tasks. A successful receptionist must be both an excellent communicator and strong administrator. They should also be able to comfortably interact with individuals of all professional levels.
There is much in terms of what the employer can do to ensure top notch service delivery. This includes employers continually training their front office staff. This may be through frequent refreshers courses in house and outside. Suggestion boxes for clients may also be made available so you know where to improve. Employers could look into delegating some decision making power to front office staff so that they are better able to make timely decisions for clients and thus feel empowered while learning accountability. Rewarding excellent service by having ‘employee’ of the month competitions may also encourage staff to put out their best.
Most significantly, I feel, employers must understand what front office means and make sure the candidates they hire also get this. Being in front office is a lot like acting on television- one cannot afford to be feeling ‘offish’ and be relaying this to clients. When the clock strikes you go into ‘character’; you must smile and deliver, lest you pull “cannot be trusted to deliver your CV to HR department” faces to clients!