The Role of Receptionist

The role of the Front Desk Receptionist has changed considerably over the past few decades due to the incredible changes in Telecommunications.  Operators were once required to manipulate a network of multiple plugs and cords on sometimes very large switchboards.  There were tricks to this, and dare I say that I have actually worked with one of these contraptions.

Then came the DTERM enabling one person to effectively manage the multitudinous calls that are part of the everyday operations of an effective front office operator.  Today, a tremendous amount of communication is carried out via email and mobile phone, but the DTERM is still evident in many companies and continues to be an excellent tool in managing all stakeholders requirements.

The role of the Front Desk Receptionist can sometimes be undermined by the way people think about the position.  It can unjustly be seen as a ‘lower level’ role, which can be thankless and not considered to be of value.  This is far from the truth as any company will tell you.  The person who sits in this role is considered to be the ‘face’ of the organisation, and has to ‘champion’ the professionalism of the company and of the office they represent.

This role can be seen either as a ‘stepping stone’ to future promotion within the company, or a long term career position. 

In one of my ‘Job Ready’ workshops I ran recently, a woman said that her expertise was Animal Photography, and her career aspiration was to work for National Geographic Magazine.  A tall ask you may think.  I asked her what could she do now to realize her aspiration?  She was unsure, but said there had been a job advertised with this company for a Receptionist, but she hadn’t given it any real consideration, as that wasn’t what she wanted to do.

This was a missed opportunity.  If she had applied for the position, her expertise in this type of business would probably have given her an edge on other applicants.  It would also mean that she would have been working within the very company she was targeting.

This is true for anyone wanting to work for a particular company, just open your mind to what is possible.  A job as a Receptionist can often open doors to future prospects for promotion.

Being a Receptionist allows you to meet a myriad of people from across all facets of business.  If you work within Government, the opportunity to connect with people across many agencies is par for the course, opening up huge network opportunities with professionals from diverse backgrounds.

The attributes of an professional operator are many:

  • They LIKE people and are able to readily engage with a broad scope of diversity in a highly professional and welcoming manner.  
  • They meet and greet visitors to ensure positive experiences.  How customers feel when they enter  a business for the first time, will depend upon how they are received.  An accomplished Receptionist will be adept at putting people at their ease.
  • They understand the value of high-level customer service so that they answer calls promptly, introduce the business, and offer their name.  This spiel presented in an articulate voice will confirm to the caller that they have rung a particular company and will will feel more comfortable speaking to the operator as they now have that person’s name. 
  • They understand that it is not always appropriate to call someone by their first name if they do not know them personally, so they will address the called using a polite title eg Mr or Mrs, ie Mr Smith, don’t address as Rob or Robert in the first instance.  The older generation should be treated with a certain respect when addressing them, as they do not take kindly to someone being too familiar eg calling them by their first name or shortening it to Rob.  It should never be assumed that this is acceptable.
  • From an internal perspective, staff gravitate towards members of staff who possess the ability to make everyone feel special and that each request for assistance is important and will be undertaken in a friendly professional manner.  The Receptionist, due to the diversity of their role,  are seen as the ‘go to’ person for information.  They are also excellent at managing the functionality of the front desk.
  • An excellent Receptionist is the Gem of any organisation.  They have an innate ability to multi task, take control of the everyday operations of the front desk and are champions at keeping the communicative wheels of the organisation operating effectively.  They understand the business that they represent, enabling them to easily redirect inquiries quickly to the most appropriate member of staff.

Companies place great value in having the ‘right’ person appointed to their front desk, as the quality of interactions here will have an effect on how people see the organisation.  If their experience is a positive one, they will not hesitate to continue to expound the virtues of the company.  If however it has been a negative experience, this will not augur well for future potential business interactions.

From a staff perspective, it is also incredibly important to appoint the ‘right’ person to the job, as there are hundreds of interactions that this position manages on a daily basis.


It is important to appoint someone who actually enjoys the role, and will make the position their own.  They need to be an excellent communicator, whilst understanding the importance of business etiquette.

They should have capacity to multitask ensuring that deadlines are met and actions are taken in a timely manner.  The ability to work under pressure as there will be times when there are conflicting priorities that need to be managed.

It is also essential that the person has a positive ‘can do’ attitude.  This allows for a closer working relationship with colleagues and will also enrich the role.

If a business can find such a person, they have found their GEM.

NEVER underestimate the role of Front Desk Operator.  The role is valuable and valued.  It reflects the professional image of any organisation and any person who sits in this role should be seen as a professional in their own right.

It is an opportunity to be part of a company undertaking business that you may have a passion for eg  the Health Industry, Animal welfare, Finance, Welfare Agencies, the list is endless.   

My message to any job seeker, is to broaden your horizons when it comes to considering a role.  Whether you are starting out in your career, or changing course, the role of Front Desk Receptionist is one that opens doors and offers opportunities for those of you wishing to give it a try.

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