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Create the right impression

Everybody knows that first impressions count. That's why being on the front desk is such an important role. You're the first point of contact for parents and visitors to the school and it's up to you to set the right tone.

The course stressed the importance of being well-turned out and of adopting friendly, positive body language. That means a nice welcoming smile - even when you are feeling tired and fed up.

From time to time, parents arrive at the school feeling angry or upset. You have to stay calm and make it clear that you understand their point of view, even if you don't agree with it.

You need to decide quickly if it's something you can deal with yourself, or whether you'll have to find the appropriate teacher.

Parents who don't have English as their first language sometimes have difficulty making themselves understood.

You have to be patient and try to reassure them with your body language and tone of voice. It may be frustrating for you, but it's even more frustrating for them.

There was advice on good telephone manners. It's not about putting on a posh voice - it's about listening carefully, even if there's lots going on around you. And if you say you're going to call back, then you absolutely have to. There's nothing worse than promising to do something and then not doing it.

You need to make sure that everyone is treated courteously, from delivery men to bin collectors. A good local reputation is priceless

Sandra Rumsey is receptionist at Chase Lane Primary School in Waltham Forest, London. She was talking to Steven Hastings

The details

The Receptionist in the Front Line is run by Etch and will be repeated on March 11, 2008. Go to and click on Support Staff. pound;185+VAT.

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