I remember it well. I walked into the lobby of a potential client. I was “greeted” by a woman with uncombed hair. She was popping bubble gum while listing to explicit rap music. Her bra strap was showing and you could see far too much cleavage. She was on the phone talking with a friend about, from what I could hear, her date the prior night. Believe it or not, she was smoking! I felt like I was in the office etiquette edition of “What Not To Wear”.
This was not my best office reception experience. After not being acknowledged for a few minutes, here is what transpired:
Me: Excuse me, Miss. (The thought did cross my mind to call her “Miss Bitch”, yet I refrained.)
Receptionist, after putting the phone to her side: Yeah, how can I help you?
Me, shocked by her tone: I’m here to see the owner
The receptionist buzzes the owner and says: Some lady is here to see you (she then promptly returned to her personal phone call)
Luckily, I was able to sign on the owner as a client. My first task was to clean up his front office from top to bottom. Unfortunately, despite additional training, we needed to let the receptionist go.
Great story, but how does this apply to you? If you are reading this you likely you have your website perfected, clients are calling and your office is buzzing. But when you have visitors, do you know what your office lobby communicates to potential customers or prospective employees when they walk through the door? Does your reception area create a great first impression? What do visitors see, hear and smell?
Hopefully your office’s lobby is nothing like the real life nightmare I shared at the top. Even so, we want your lobby to be welcoming for office visitors. These tips apply whether you run a traditional office setting or a shared workplace, and whether you have a live receptionist or an auto receptionist.
Office Etiquette Tips for Your Lobby
- Make sure your lobby is visually clean. Keep the reception area free of trash. Avoid storing items like boxes of files within eyesight.
- The reception desk and all workstations nearby should also be clean and organized. Assume visitors may look at any papers left out in the open. Therefore, keep confidential documents, and especially information about your customers or key vendors, hidden or out of the lobby entirely.
- Have a clear traffic flow within the reception area. Make first time visitors to your office comfortable through visual cues that indicate exactly where to go to check in as soon as they step into your lobby. Pathways should be clear.
- Inform visitors where the restrooms are. Use signage so visitors can direct themselves without needing to ask for assistance.
- Offer cold and hot beverages, like water, coffee and tea. Extra credit for also providing healthy snacks. Napkins and visible trash and recycling bins will help keep your lobby clean.
- Allow visitors to shed outerwear by giving them access to a coat closet or rack and umbrella stand.
- Furnish your reception area with enough comfortable seating for your typical visitor flow
- Provide reading materials, ideally about your own company, your industry and other topics that will interest your visitors
- If you have a TV in the waiting area, use it wisely. Consider looping a video on your business. Highlight the products and services you offer. Otherwise, tune your television to a channel of general interest to business people like the news or financial information.
- Music, too, should have broad appeal. Keep it quiet enough to allow employees and visitors can have a conversation in the lobby. Any employees within earshot of the door should wear headphones if listening to music at their desks. Headphones also help employees increase productivity by avoiding distractions.
- Avoid overly strong and artificial odors. The aroma of coffee will delight most visitors as they step inside. Otherwise, with so many people suffering from allergies, perfumes, colognes and other cover up smells should be avoided.
Conclusion: The Best Office Reception
A great reception area does not require a live receptionist. All that is required is that you take a few moments to experience your lobby from the eyes of a visitor. Combine the tips above with a visitor check-in app and you will create a noteworthy visitor experience.
Guest post courtesy of Cam Lemmon. Ms. Lemmon is a public speaker, business and office etiquette consultant and entrepreneur that has owned and operated several businesses since 1972. A Certified Public Relations Counselor, Ms. Lemmon is also a published author. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment is the array of causes she supports, including the American Cancer Society and Special Olympics.