Supporting The Receptionist



I recently held a training session for a group of new Receptionists. They ranged from being in their current posts from 6 weeks through to 6 months.

I particularly enjoy New Receptionists Training. I love the group participation and the eagerness to learn more about the role of the Receptionist. Each person came from a different organisation but all have the same goal, wanting to do their job to the best of their ability.

And they can only achieve their best by being trained to do so. You as employer, a manager team leader or fellow Receptionist owe it to any new members to the team and help them to achieve that ultimate goal. You also owe it to you patients and customers by having well-trained staff.

I try to make they training session interesting, including ice breakers and lots of team participation. One of the exercises we did was “What would you have found useful in your role when you first started ”. This question raised a lot of answers, and we had a great discussion around each one.

Some feedback to the question included:

  • More training – especially around confidentiality
  • Knowing who does what in the organisation (staff list and their main roles)
  • Days and hours of staff working at the organisation.
  • Up to date telephone list.
  • Knowing the 999 policy
  • More training on the phone system
  • Emergency procedure for Reception
  • Disability awareness – especially wheelchair users.
  • Knowing what staff are in and out of the building
  • How to deal with a difficult caller
  • Who to report to when the Receptionist has a query (some were still confused on who to report to)
  • Need for more policies and procedures for the Reception area
  • Daily/weekly checklist for new Receptionists.

We discussed all of the above in great detail. Many of the group had no idea of their emergency procedures. Some didn’t know if their reception area had a panic button and some spoke of having a difficult caller and admitted that they found this really difficult to deal with. 75% of the group didn’t know that their “fancy” Reception desk was in fact a desk designed for people with a disability and everyone agreed that they would have found a daily/weekly checklist helpful when they first started, thus reducing the amount of time they had to keep asking other members of the team.

Many admitted that they felt uncomfortable dealing with people with a disability, the fear of getting it wrong and upsetting the person, and because of that fear they felt that they didn’t approach the person in the way that they deserved.

Some of the group said that they felt inadequate having to keep asking over and over again what to do. Some simply were left to find out everything themselves and others felt that they have been given great support. A mixture but every single one of them all said that they felt regular ongoing training was important.

Receiving feedback after the course brought some of the following comments:

  • Training is very beneficial
  • Understanding the importance of team building
  • Dealing with difficult people at the front desk and over the telephone.
  • The importance of confidentiality in the workplace.
  • Feeling confident and being able to ask if they were not sure
  • Felt more confident after the session
  • Knowing that a lot of what they are doing they are doing right.

I asked what training they would feel would benefit them further in their role and the feedback was

  • Confidentiality
  • Disability Awareness
  • Telephone Skills
  • Dealing With Difficult Situations in Reception.

Do you have regular contact with new Receptionists? Do you have any idea if they are struggling with any aspects of their role?

I always met with a new Receptionist after they had been in the job a week, then I would meet with them after a month, and again at 3 months. The meeting was a 2 way process – for them to understand what we expected from them, and to find out if we could do anything for them to support them in their role and to identify training needs.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Effective Listening Skills

A good receptionist will have excellent listening skills. By listening to the patient you can often hear an unspoken message. They might say one thing but might actually mean something completely different.  There might be several different reasons why the patient is not actually telling you what it is they want – give them every opportunity to do this by listening to what they are saying.

Tips for being a good listener

Give your full attention to the patient. Do not be distracted by other members of the team, or seem as if you are bored. Body language is also very important especially eye contact at all times.

Focus on what the patient is saying – sometimes patient find it hard to put into words what they actually mean, it might be because they are embarrassed, confused or simply looking to you for guidance on what to do – concentrate on what they are saying. listen to help solve what it is they want. Listen first and then ask the questions.

No matter how busy you are never rush the patient – listen to the patient before you begin to speak – you are not listening if you are too busy trying to butt into the conversation. Avoid interrupting.

If you are not clear on what the patient is requesting ASK – and if you are still unsure it is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker has said. Get them to confirm that you have “heard” it right.

Possession of all the information – to solve problems and make decisions, it is necessary to obtain as much relevant information as possible. Good listening skills help you to get as much information as possible about the patient. If you learn to listen to the tone of voice, you may also gain information, which the patient maybe did not intent to communicate – but could sometimes it could be vital. Careful listening motivates the patient to continue talking.

Improved relationships – The patient may have the opportunity to get thoughts, feelings, facts and ideas of their chest. As you listen you will in turn understand them better. The patient will appreciate your interest and this is where a good patient/receptionist relationship can develop.

Resolution to differing points of view –Disagreements can be best solved when you and the patient listen carefully to one another. This does not mean that you will ultimately agree with their point of view, or them with yours, but you can show that you at least understand it.

Remember to use body language – smile, nod your head, frown and laugh,  these are all ways of showing that you understand the conversation. It also shows the patient that you are listening to what they are saying. Listen with your face as well as your ears!

After the patient has finished give feedback – let them know that you understand what it is they have requested – this gives the patient the opportunity of correcting the conversation if they have not made themselves clear.

Better understanding of the patient – Listening carefully to the patient will you give ideas on how they think, what they feel to be important and what they are saying. You will be in a better position to effectively identity and develop their needs and ultimately provide the best care and service.

Vital to listening skills

  • Good body posture
  • Look interested
  • Act interested
  • Good body language
  • Good eye contact
  • Avoid interrupting
  • pay attention to non verbal messages.
  • Listening in return
  • Co-operation.

New Receptionists Training (1)

I will be sharing some of the training that I did with Receptionists whilst working within the NHS.

My aim was to train staff in all areas of customer care. You might think that some of it is very basic and perhaps a bit too obvious. But believe me – there is nothing I took for granted.

A lot of the time I employed Receptionist that were returning to work after several years being a full-time mum, some had never worked in an office environment before and other had never worked on a Reception desk before.

Some of them did not know how to answer a telephone and deal with the call  in a professional manner.

What I did see was the potential in these people, they were keen to work, were very loyal and extremely good at customer care. So my duty to them was to ensure that they were supported in every way and this included training to help them in their roles.

I believe that fully trained staff are confident staff. And confident staff are usually very good at their jobs.

We take it for granted that when the Doctors Receptionist answers the phone she knows what she is doing, the patient puts their trust in that person answering the phone.

The same when a patient comes to the desk, again the trust is put in the Receptionist to guide them to the appropriate healthcare personal. This can only be done with training. And everyone has to start somewhere.

I have seen it all too often, new Receptionists are left to a more senior Receptionist to train them – it works well most of the time, but there are areas that perhaps a mentor does not want to do.

I had senior Receptionists coming to me saying that the new Receptionist might not have been very good on the telephone, although they dealt with the call it could have been handled more efficiently. But they didn’t feel it their place to tell the new Receptionist how to answer the telephone, what to say, how to dress and how to speak to people at the Reception Desk. And I had to agree –they were busy enough doing their own tasks, busy enough having to show a new person the ropes, so I decided that every new receptionist would have “New Receptionist Training”.

We all have to start somewhere and where better with the appropriate training that is needed for the job!

My blog will share will you the contents of the training – but the best part of the training was the two-way participation – each section was analysed, discussed and if appropriate sometimes changed. I was always will to listen to new ideas and ways of improving our service to our customers and staff.

It was my experience from working on the Front Desk that set me up through my Career – so what better way is to “listen” to others – many changes, procedures and policies were put into place listening to the staff that work so very hard on the Front Desk.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved