Do You Need a Front Desk Receptionist?

When someone walks into your business, you want someone to greet them. When someone calls, you want someone to answer the phone. And when you need to reschedule appointments or follow up with clients, it would be nice to have someone around who can handle that.

In many ways, a front desk receptionist is the face of your business. They’re the first person customers see when they come to your building, and they can set the tone for someone’s entire experience with you.

While a front desk receptionist is typically an entry-level position, this person will have to become intimately familiar with the way your business works and the tools you use to stay organized and communicate effectively. Your customers or clients will expect them to answer a wide range of questions about your operations and services, as well as direct them to the right employees when necessary.

But hiring a receptionist also adds a lot of overhead to your business. And they won’t solve every problem: a receptionist isn’t going to be picking up the phone or responding to customers after hours.

So, do you need a receptionist? 

In this guide, we’ll outline:

  • The duties of a front desk receptionist
  • The cost of a receptionist
  • How to know if you need a front desk receptionist

By the time you finish, you’ll be ready to decide if hiring a receptionist is the right move for your business. You’ll also come away with ideas for how to make a receptionist a better investment and some of the challenges you’ll still have to navigate.

The duties of a front desk receptionist

The best receptionists are often described as good multitaskers with good communication skills. That’s because a front desk receptionist has to juggle a variety of administrative duties while handling inbound calls and assisting in-person customers. 

A receptionist’s specific tasks depend on what your business does and whether you have other employees to share these responsibilities. Still, businesses often rely on receptionists to handle miscellaneous jobs that fall outside other employees’ responsibilities. By taking on these duties, a receptionist can free up your more specialized employees to focus on their area of expertise.

Here are some of the things you can generally expect a receptionist to do.

Assisting in-person customers

Every time someone walks into your business, you want it to be immediately clear where they’re supposed to go and who can help them. A front desk receptionist gives customers a designated location to find out what you’d like them to do next, whether they have an appointment or they just dropped in.

Receptionists generally work right at your business’ entrance, and customers and clients intuitively know this is the person they’re supposed to ask for help and get direction from. This is a role no phone answering service, auto attendant, or virtual receptionist can replace. 

Your receptionist takes up physical space, which allows them to function as a gatekeeper to the rest of your business. They’re a buffer between your employees and your customers, optimizing the flow of people so that employees experience as little disruption as possible while ensuring that every customer feels taken care of.

This is why it’s so vital that your front desk receptionist understands the ins and outs of your business operations. They need to know what paperwork a client needs, who they need to see or speak with, and how to get your customers what they’re looking for. They need to be familiar with your tech and tools so they can quickly retrieve and relay information.

You’ll need to train your receptionist on how to handle the common types of customer interactions and requests they’ll encounter, but a receptionist also grows more valuable over time as they field unusual questions and become more familiar with your business. While prior industry experience isn’t typically a requirement for a position like this, it certainly makes a receptionist more valuable.

If you’re regularly overwhelmed by the number of walk-in customers or find that welcoming people into your space is disrupting your ability to serve your clients, it’s a good sign that you’d benefit from adding a receptionist to your team.

Answering the phone

When you first started your business, you may have been able to juggle assisting customers and answering the phone. But as your business grows, call volume increases. And missed calls mean missed business. That’s somebody who was trying to schedule an appointment. Or wanted a quote for your service. Maybe they just wanted to know if you were open, or if you had a product they needed. If you don’t pick up, they may just go to a competitor, or change their mind. 

A front desk receptionist frees you up to focus on other areas of your business and reduces the likelihood of missing calls. But unfortunately, a receptionist doesn’t eliminate this problem. When you’re closed, your receptionist isn’t going to pick up the phone. And if they’re on the phone already or assisting someone in-person, they may still have to send someone to voicemail.

Nobody wants to leave a business a voicemail and wait for someone to call them back. Most people don’t even listen to their own voicemails! So why would they assume you do? When you don’t pick up, most customers hang up.

Having a receptionist increases the likelihood that a friendly human will be there to answer questions and schedule services. But since they’re only human, they’ll still  miss calls.

If you’re primarily considering a receptionist to answer the phone, you should look into another solution, like Numa. Numa turns your business phone number into a communication hub, enabling your customers to start a text conversation with your business instead of leaving a voicemail. 

You can still answer like normal. But if you’re busy or the call comes after hours, Numa will handle it for you. And at only $49 a month, it has much less of an impact on your bottom line than hiring a receptionist.

While many businesses still rely on receptionists to answer calls, this is something we’ll likely see changing as business phones catch up to consumer expectations

Calling clients

Depending on your business, you may be looking for a receptionist to make outbound calls to your clients, scheduling, confirming, or rescheduling appointments, giving quotes, or updating customers about a request they made.

It’s common to use receptionists for these sorts of outbound communications, but it’s essential to keep in mind that outbound phone calls are notoriously ineffective. ZipWhip surveyed 500 consumers and found that 87 percent of them screened calls from numbers they didn’t recognize. 

Almost nine out of ten of them won’t pick up when you call. 

And get this: a different study found that when consumers get a voicemail from a number they don’t recognize, 80 percent of them don’t even listen to it.

This isn’t an argument against getting a receptionist. But if you’re going to ask them to reach out to your clients, the odds are stacked against them. You’re going to want to give them better communication tools. (Like business texting.) That way, they can do the job you’ve hired them to do, and you won’t have to wonder if your clients got your message.

Sending and receiving mail

When someone from your business needs to sign for packages or distribute your business mail to the right people, that often falls to a front desk receptionist. They’re the first person your mail carrier will interact with, and this is generally considered an administrative duty.

Additionally, some businesses still utilize direct mail for marketing and communications. Preparing this mailing is tedious, but you need someone to stuff, label, and stamp all those envelopes, and it’s common for receptionists to perform this task between other responsibilities.

Stocking supplies

Whatever your business, there will always be supplies you depend on to keep things running smoothly. At the very least, it helps to have a designated person to keep office supplies and cleaning products stocked. Your front desk receptionist can be responsible for maintaining your inventory and ordering supplies when your shelves start getting low.

Keeping records

The more paperwork your business operations produce, the more critical it is to have someone keeping things organized. Whether you rely on physical documents or digital ones, your receptionist will likely become the point person for tracking down files, maintaining records, and staying on top of action items.

Since receptionists are often scheduling appointments and communicating with customers, they also wind up doing a lot of task management, reminding your employees about follow up actions, scheduling changes, and other updates.

Responding to online communications

Unless your business is big enough that you already have someone managing your social media channels, email platform, and chat on your website, your receptionist may take this on. If no one is responsible for managing these communication channels, no one is going to prioritize them. And your front desk receptionist is already going to be responsible for inbound and outbound phone calls, so it makes sense that they would be in charge of these channels, too.

Depending on the scale of your business and the volume of communications you receive, you may need to hire people specifically for these roles. But for most main street businesses, a front desk receptionist can manage social media, email, and chat.

You may have other tasks you want a front desk receptionist to be responsible for, too. That’s fine. Just be sure you specify them on your job description.

The cost of a front desk receptionist

Hiring a front desk receptionist is an ongoing investment in your business. The average salary for a receptionist in the US is $36,983, but it’s important to look at your city’s average salaries and consider a candidate’s experience. The salary range is generally between $33,000 and $41,000 per year. You’ll also be paying benefits on top of that, including time off, insurance, social security, and possibly retirement funding.

Of course, if you don’t need a full-time receptionist, that will drastically lower those costs. But that will also reduce their value to your business. (Presumably, you want someone available to answer the phones during all business hours.)

There’s an upfront cost that’s important to keep in mind, too: training. Once you decide to hire someone, it could take weeks to teach them how your business works, walk them through all of their responsibilities, and explain the nuances of all your tools, programs, and devices. The more time you spend training your receptionist, the more effective and valuable they’ll be. But that also means you’ll have more to lose if it doesn’t work out or they take another job.

Before you hire someone, you need to be confident that the benefits of a front desk receptionist outweigh those costs.

When Salon on Barry realized they couldn’t afford a receptionist, but they couldn’t keep up with juggling calls and serving customers, they enlisted Numa’s help.

See the case study.

So, do you need a receptionist?

Hiring a new employee is the most expensive solution to free you from phone-related responsibilities. But they also don’t just answer phones. Before you decide to hire a receptionist, make sure you consider what you actually need them to do, and explore other potential solutions.

If you need someone available to assist in-person customers, and your other employees can’t serve that role (or it’s interfering with their other duties), it’s probably time to hire a receptionist. You don’t want your clients standing around waiting to be helped while your employees are all working in the back.

There are also a lot of administrative duties that simply can’t be automated. A front desk receptionist often winds up being a sort of “jack-of-all-trades,” taking on responsibilities like mailing, scheduling, stocking supplies, organizing files, and keeping records. These tasks don’t directly impact your revenue, but when your specialized employees have to do them instead of providing your services, that can significantly disrupt your business operations.

These are all good reasons to hire a front desk receptionist. But if one of the main reasons you want a receptionist is to answer the phone or make outbound calls (such as scheduling or rescheduling appointments), there’s a more affordable solution you’ll want to consider: Numa.

When it comes to answering calls, Numa can outright replace a front desk receptionist. And when it comes to outbound communications, Numa gives your receptionist super powers. 

Numa transforms your business phone into a communication platform, enabling your employees to text customers and send links to schedule appointments or complete other tasks (like writing a review).

And if a customer calls and no one is available to answer the phone, Numa jumps on the line and asks if they’d like to text instead. Up to 80 percent of people who call businesses that use Numa choose to start a text conversation. (And if they still want to leave a voicemail, we transcribe it for you.) 

Numa uses conversational artificial intelligence to answer basic questions and get your customers the information they need. If Numa doesn’t know the answer, it pings you to let you know someone needs help. At that point, you can respond at your convenience via text.

Whether you’re determined to hire a receptionist or you’re still deciding, it’s worth considering how a solution like Numa can ease the burden of communication and make your business more effective. (Or make your receptionist even more effective.) 

See how Numa works. 

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