As a popular sayings goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." The person who occupies the front desk at a business office not only has a gatekeeper responsibility of controlling visitor traffic but also helps set the tone of what kind of service and attention the client might expect to receive.
Your front desk wardrobe needn't be expensive or the latest fashion, but it should be neat, clean, freshly pressed and project professionalism. Whether or not your office has a formal dress code, what you wear to work should be consistent with the type of services the office provides to its customers. Men and women should both refrain from using too much cologne, having radical hairstyles (unless it's a salon or modeling/acting agency), sporting clothing or accessories that are politically incorrect or offensive, or neglecting basic hygiene.
Most offices have policies that dissuade personal phone calls for other than emergency situations. Even if your own office is more liberal about this, it sends the wrong message to walk-in clientele if you're too busy yakking about your diet, your boyfriend, or your life to give them the acknowledgment and attention they deserve. If you're on the phone with an actual client or vendor, it's perfectly acceptable to ask whether he would mind being put on hold or called back. If you're just wrapping up a call, you should always acknowledge the new arrival with a smile, a mouthed "I'll be right with you," and a gesture to have a seat.
Even if you're having absolutely the worst day of your life, a customer or client should be the last person to know this. Stay pleasant, cheerful, polite and helpful. Taking out your frustrations through anger and discourtesy or unloading your problems on clients as if they were your personal walk-in therapists is likely to lose your company valuable business. If you're too stressed to handle the front desk professionally, you probably shouldn't be at work.
Never leave items in plain sight on your desk that could compromise the safety and integrity of the office. This includes office keys, address books, calendars, Rolodex files and personnel documents. Your computer monitor should not be visible to incoming guests. If you have to leave your desk, whatever computer file you were working on should be closed. You should likewise take special care of personal items such as purses and wallets and ensure that they are either on your person or locked in a drawer whenever you are away from your desk.