Does your office need an ‘enforcer’ on the front desk?

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Question: "We're hiring a receptionist for our new business. Originally we were looking for the sunniest, friendliest person we could find, but then someone mentioned that with the number of aggressive vendors and solicitors we might have coming in, plus unexpected visitors, that person will need to have a very firm hand and not be afraid to lay down the law, so to speak. Now I'm not quite sure what sort of personality we should be leaning toward. What works best on the front desk?" - Martin, Office Manager 

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary August 15, 2014 at 9:45 am

As an admin professional who has several years of experience I have been on both sides, as a receptionist and an executive assistant. All of these comments are excellent. The only thing I may add is the importance of the receptionist having the support of the assistants and management to back them up and make clear any and all expectations so they will not be left wondering if they are handling things in the manner in which they are supposed to. Also, if expectations or policies change they receptionist should be the first to know and in a timely manner and don’t forget to communicate, communicate, communicate!

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June August 8, 2014 at 7:08 am

Receptionists can be both friendly and enforcers. At our company they are the front line. We provide them with the over all process they need to follow for vendors and visitors and give them “go to people” to call when they need assistance. As an executive admin assistant they have my back and vise versa.

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Dena August 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I am a Receptionist and I agree with you Rita 100%. I believe I do exactly what you wrote.

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Jennifer August 7, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I am going to echo those folks who are saying that the two things (sunny & firm) are not mutually exclusive. I think the word “professional” is the key here. A sunny and overly talkative person who shares too much information can be just as detrimental as someone who seems stern and standoffish. In my opinion the right person will have a warm, welcoming demeanor, but know where to draw the line at both extremes.

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Debbi August 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm

My office had a receptionist with a “firm hand” so to speak. When she retired we hired a “sunny” personality.
I recommend the “sunny”. It is easier to teach a “sunny” to be firm with vendors than it is to teach a “firm hand” to be cheerful to clients who come in to the office.

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Treva August 7, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Very well stated! :-)

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Sarah August 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I agree! on
Sunny!

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Treva August 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I recently hired a receptionist to cover our front desk area and wanted someone who could handle solicitors even when there is a “No Soliciting” sign on the door. I am very happy about our new hire because not only does she have the friendly personality and professionalism we wanted, but she also knows how to be firm in a professional way. It is all about being assertive and getting the point across without being rude. I would just make sure that whomever you hire has those qualities.

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Rita August 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Who said being sunny and friendly can’t deal with aggressive vendors? As a matter of fact, I find the friendlier and more cheerful our receptionist is, the easier it is for them to diffuse anger and aggression. People who are “sunny and friendly” usually have a very deft hand when dealing with aggressive, upset or down-right angry customers. And, since they do it in such a nice, sincere, friendly way, the person on the receiving end usually just deflates.

Sometimes stern and professional can come across as unfriendly, unprofessional and even rude. As long as your receptionist has very clear instructions about handle such demands, they will be fine. Plus, everyone else in the office will have the benefit of working with a cheerful, friendly co-worker.

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Eliza August 7, 2014 at 4:27 pm

You just need a highly functional and experienced receptionist who can be pleasant and also sharp enough to determine when a visitor or vendor is on hard-sell mode. Basically, you should establish some protocol for such events at the front desk (others must have to relieve the front desk receptionist from time to time). It should be what to do if such and such occures. If it’s used consistently, everyone will be clear and those pesky aggresives will Finally, you should ensure your interview questions are behavior-based to get to the skills necessary to accomplish the goals you need in that position. I’m thinking: tell me about a time when you were in a front desk position and had to deal with an irate customer. How did you handle it? What would you have done differently? What worked. That type of thing. Good luck with your recruitment!

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Rachel August 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

As an admin for over 9 years I would have to say to continue with your first instinct and try to find the sunniest, friendliest person you can find. I work for a construction company who receives a large volume of vendors and I have been told I’m a very cheery person. I haven’t had any issues with people being too pushy that I felt uncomfortable because of my personality. Actually, some of the ladies who cover the front desk for me while I am away have experienced more issues than I have, because they have come across too stern and are mistaken for being rude. In most cases the admin you have sitting at the front desk will set the tone for the company. You want people to be greated by a warm, professional person when they enter your company for the first time, so that even if they are a vendor that your company is not interested in doing business with, they have a positive outlook on your company and won’t want to bad mouth your company to other vendors or customers. I would say if you interview someone and you like their personality, but aren’t sure how stern they can be in difficult situations, to hire them and send them to a seminar to learn some tips.

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Tina August 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Since what you want is a sunny, friendly person, hire that type of personality. If you are finding that the vendors coming to your business are pushy, the skills to deal with that type of person would be easier to teach then trying to change a personality.

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Lisa Ketchum August 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Being sunny, friendly, and helpful when greeting customers and vendors doesn’t mean you can’t also be assertive when it comes to front desk duties. As the front line person to any organization, the receptionist should be all of these things. They should have the skills to do the tasks required of the job efficiently and effectively so that operations behind the scene run smoothly. Being assertive while not coming across too harsh is a learned skill. Don’t be afraid to hire someone who has the abilities and fits the culture and then mentor and coach them on how you’d like pushy vendors handled.

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Joyce August 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I had a wonderful receptionist with all the nice qualities who was trained to nicely say “…will be unable to see you without an appointment due to his/her busy schedule (or other commitments), may I take your business card to pass it on?” Or they can be given a phone number to call. If it is a small company, the receptionist can have a supply of business cards, IF you want them calling you. The receptionist usually took their card and/or materials and told them I would contact them if I’m interested. My mantra is “Be professional, be polite, and pass it on.” As long as the receptionist is armed with alternatives, what to say, and back-up, and know what the expectation is in advance your choice should work out fine. If I ran into the sales people in the hall, I’d just reiterate what the receptionist told them (even if I had a few minutes), so I didn’t undermine her efforts. You can hire the person that fits in with your business and staff; they can be “sunny” and still have inner strength especially when they know you support their efforts.

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