As I sat in my first reception training workshop with Lionel Bourgeois, Director of VETTA Internationale, I was astonished to find out about some of the day-to-day challenges many receptionists face. In particular, many feel they are ignored and seen as ‘just a receptionist.’

This false idea was quickly challenged when Lionel explained how important a receptionist’s role is in any company. “You are the first point of contact. You are the one customers and employees look to when something needs to be done.”

Many of us sat quietly as we digested these words. It then dawned on me. Perhaps the single most important quality receptionists can start working on is assertiveness. No, not aggression, assertiveness….

If you are an assertive receptionist, you:

  • stand up for your rights
  • establish facts
  • take pride in your work
  • refuse to let people bully you
  • are great at questioning people to establish the relevant facts so you can make the best possible decisions and transfer calls efficiently
  • are able to break news to unwanted callers and have the skills to obtain relevant contact details for callers.

Some important guidelines for all you skilled receptionists are:

  • adopt a positive inner dialogue for situations where you are required to be assertive
  • be clear, specific and direct in what you say
  • if necessary, keep repeating your message if you encounter objections
  • ask for clarification if you are uncertain about something
  • if necessary, acknowledge diversion tactics, then again repeat your message
  • adopt appropriate body language to back up your assertion
  • keep calm and stick to the point
  • always respect the rights of the other person

And always ask yourself these questions:

  • how can I express my message more clearly?
  • how can I be more specific about what I have to say?
  • am I likely to have to repeat a message? Will I feel comfortable doing this?
  • what body language will I use to back up my message?

Lionel Bourgeois does way more than an ordinary training workshop. His is an experience that left me feeling confident, and with a greater sense that my role as receptionist matters and that what I do does indeed make a difference.

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