our everyday life

Business Etiquette Rules for a Receptionist

by Oubria Tronshaw, studioD

Receptionists perform many duties, but their primary responsibility is to create an engaging and friendly atmosphere for the companies they represent. Since receptionists are typically the first people clients see or speak to, businesses are often judged based on the skills (or flaws) of their gatekeepers. Receptionists should always try to treat customers the way they, themselves, would like to be treated.

Attitude First

Since receptionists are the face of the company, having a “can do” attitude creates the impression that the company is resourceful and reliable. Try not to admit that you don’t know the answer to a client’s question. Instead, say, “Let me find someone who can answer your question.” If you’re asked to do something you can’t do, say, “Let me find someone who can do that for you.” Regardless of your limitations, always try to assert your -- and by extension, the company’s -- capabilities.


A little smile goes a long way in the business world, both in person and over the phone. Greet customers in a friendly, personable manner that instantly softens their mood. Rather than simply saying, “Plevin Company,” smile and say, “Good morning, Plevin Company, this is Lynn speaking, how may I help you?” Now the caller feels like you’ve helped him already, and he’s more inclined to be friendly towards you in return, even if he was initially upset.

Get it Right

Accuracy is one of the most important attributes of an efficient receptionist. Keep a notepad and pen with you at all times to write down client names, messages and special instructions. Listen well, pay attention to detail, and ask people to repeat and spell as necessary.

Perception is Everything

A receptionist’s behavior is extremely important, even when she isn’t speaking directly to clients. Keep personal calls and conversations to a minimum in the waiting area. Refrain from speaking loudly or using off-color language. Keep your clothes, hair and nails neatly groomed, and keep mints on hand for fresh breath.

Offer What You Have

Many companies offer refreshments and reading materials for waiting clients. Receptionists should always offer what they have -- even if it’s only a glass of water -- to create an atmosphere of professional warmth and hospitality.

Keep Your Cool

Receptionists are often pulled in several different directions at once, but it's imperative to keep your cool. Frazzled receptionists leave the impression that the company doesn’t have matters under control. To keep from feeling overwhelmed, focus on one person at a time. Take care of the people on the phone first, and give an honest estimate as to how long they’ll have to hold. If you’re busy when visitors enter, immediately smile and make eye contact with each one. Hold up a finger to indicate you’ll be with them in a moment, and gesture them towards a seat. Apologize to customers who have been waiting a while, and keep clients informed with frequent status updates to keep their patience from wearing thin.

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images