What is a Front Office?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A front office is a designation that describes an area of a business where clients and company personnel interact. Front offices are typically called so because they are at the front or entrance of a business, giving customers easy access to office workers. This vital section of the business can serve many purposes, depending on the company, and are often the best place to obtain any customer-related information.

The front office may serve as the home for office machinery, such as fax machines and copiers.
The front office may serve as the home for office machinery, such as fax machines and copiers.

Front offices may have an entry desk staffed with a secretary or administrative worker. This main desk can offer assistance to incoming clients or customers, and can direct queries to correct personnel. Alternatively, all personnel in the department may be trained in customer assistance; since workers in this area of the business may have many duties, training all of them in customer service means that someone will almost always be available to help a client.

The front office is the part of the business where customers and company personnel interact, usually at the front of the business.
The front office is the part of the business where customers and company personnel interact, usually at the front of the business.

In addition to being a contact point for clients, this area may also serve as the main hub of communication for the entire company. Office workers often serve secretarial functions, and may be in charge of taking messages, handling orders, and relaying information to different departments. Many front offices work in concert with sales and marketing departments in order to create and distribute information to clients.

Fax machines are often found in a front office.
Fax machines are often found in a front office.

Depending on the size and function of the business, the front office can serve as a jack of all trades. Workers in this area may handle daily mail sorting and distribution, provide copy and fax services to other departments, work directly with clients, and perform data entry duties. A typical worker in this position will have a blend of customer service skills and office skills. Organizational skills, computer literacy and typing are often vital to surviving the hectic atmosphere of this area.

Clerks in a front office may sort mail for employees.
Clerks in a front office may sort mail for employees.

The front office may also serve as the home for office machinery. Common devices found in this area include copiers, fax machines, multi-line phones, postage and scale machines for mail, and office computers. Many experts suggest that it is wise to ask workers for assistance before attempting to use any of these machines; a broken or jammed machine can cause hours of headaches and slow production for an entire company.

The person in charge of this energetic area may have a variety of different titles, such as head secretary, office manager, office supervisor, or administrator. This person is generally responsible for training and managing assistants and serving as a department head. Front office managers typically have excellent managerial skills as well as a clear understanding of the company and its function.

Front offices may have an entry desk staffed with a secretary or administrative worker.
Front offices may have an entry desk staffed with a secretary or administrative worker.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments

stolaf23

I had "front desk" job at a residence hall. While usually an incredibly boring job, it still had its moments of stress. I had to contact the area coordinator and even the head of student life if something went wrong- including possible fires, vandalism, and student violence or drunkenness-, as well as make sure that residence assistants were available when people needed them.

sherlock87

@behaviourism, my aunt has been the secretary at a Washington, DC law firm for many years. While not the front desk coordinator of the entire office, she is the head assistant of one of the partners of the firm, and her job is also far more difficult than many people might believe. Secretaries in offices do a great deal of work that most people don't see- answering phones, taking messages, and keeping schedules- as well as dealing with the constant headaches of answering and forwarding multiple phone lines, leaving messages for dozens of clients, and also having to deal with constantly-changing systems determined by their managements.

behaviourism

Front office receptionists are usually much more important than it might at first seem. In some cases, the receptionist is also a front office supervisor, and therefore in charge of making sure everything that relates through that office is being communicated throughout the business; things like messages, people arriving for appointments, and meetings. In a way, it is not so different from places like department stores that have reception or customer service desks. Anything that goes wrong needs to be sent to the person at the front desk. While the stereotypical picture of a front desk worker may be a pretty young girl with little going on upstairs, many are in fact very skilled and serious about their jobs.

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