How much significance do you give to the recruitment and training of your receptionist? Of course, you pay great attention to the appointment of your professional service staff. Their importance to the organisation is obvious because they are providing the service to your clients and customers that will determine whether you gain their business and more importantly maintain it. However your receptionist is the face of your organisation, your director of first impressions. That person is the first person your clients and customers speak to or meet when they make contact with your organisation. The way she or he speaks and acts, dresses and is groomed will either enhance their impressions of your organisation or have them not wanting to come back and looking for an alternative.
Towards the end of last year I had an appointment with a colleague at a professional service firm. While I was waiting in the waiting room, the two receptionists behind the front desk, about two metres away from me, were arguing with one another quite loudly and aggressively. One was accusing the other of not measuring up and not passing on messages to other staff members. I was embarrassed. They didn’t seem to care that I was there. More importantly, I had the impression from others that this organisation was fiercely proud of its reputation. At that moment, it lost its reputation with me. Regardless of how expert their senior staff were, it disturbed me that they felt it was acceptable to place people in their front office who were acting like this. I am sure I didn’t just come across a one off. I would be fairly certain that these receptionists were very deficient in interpersonal skills and in client engagement and that those who placed them there would see that behaviour in other places in the organisation.
I was reminded of this experience again this morning when I visited another completely different organisation, an allied health professional for a personal appointment. From the initial phone call to book the appointment, to the second phone call the next day when they contacted me to see if I could come 15 minutes earlier, I had a very strong feeling that I was with an allied health practice which cared about his patients. When I arrived at the clinic this morning, I was greeted warmly, asked if I would like a coffee or tea, offered a magazine, told where the bathroom was and invited to sit down. The two receptionists I spoke with in that clinic over that week left me with the same feeling. This place has values that sit very well with me. They had made a very good first impression. Before long that clinic will need to be paying me a commission because I will be referring many people to them. That’s the impact your director of first impressions can have.
So, do you really value your receptionist?
How do you show you value him or her?
Do you make them aware of the difference they make to the organisation?
Do you give them professional development training and other opportunities just like you do for other staff?
Do you have career development conversations with them about how they can advance their careers in your organisation or beyond, working with their strengths to do so?
If not, now is the time to start. They are your directors of first impressions and play an extremely important role in your organisation – but unfortunately are often taken for granted.