A receptionist dabbles in a little of everything. She greets clients, customers and visitors, and directs them to where they need to go. She answers general phone and email queries, providing resolution when she can and forwarding the rest to the appropriate employee. She keeps track of important developments like package arrivals, and notifies the appropriate personnel. But her real importance transcends her specific duties. She serves as a unifying link in the company, and in many respects she is the company’s human face.
First impressions are powerful drivers in business, and when clients or members of the public visit a company in person the receptionist tends to be the first employee they meet. That makes her very important. Her appearance, manners, knowledge and helpfulness reflect on the entire company. A good receptionist must understand this role and feel comfortable with the responsibility. She must strive to always project a positive image and make people feel welcome, even during busy times or on bad days.
Most employees focus on their own work and don’t usually need to know what goes on elsewhere in the company. A receptionist, however, interacts broadly with people throughout the entire organization and generally has at least some awareness of everything that happens. This level of information makes her a valuable resource for anyone who needs to find information or support from another part of the company but doesn’t know where to look. The receptionist herself takes this broad knowledge base with her wherever she goes, and can continue to draw upon it as she advances in her career.
Single Point of Contact
Sometimes a receptionist constitutes the only point of contact between her company and members of the public, including clients, prospective customers and news reporters. Most people usually won’t question the information she provides them, so if any of that information is wrong the company might not have the opportunity to correct it until it has already caused some damage. This makes it very important to the company’s interests that the receptionist has good information to start with. She needs to be kept in the loop, updated frequently and advised clearly on when to verify information before supplying it.
Extra Pair of Hands
A receptionist’s jack-of-all-trades duties and her familiarity with the different parts of the company make her quite valuable as an assistant to help out with general tasks around the office that need doing. She may be able to help out with work like planning business lunches, preparing packages to mail, cleaning the break room, stocking the supply room and calling vendors in to fix broken machines or equipment. In some settings she may even be able to assist more senior employees in their own work, learning their jobs in greater depth and becoming a good prospect for eventual promotion.
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.