Brrrring! Who is it?

While email plays an integral role in business communication—and indeed our daily lives—the telephone remains a critical portal into your business. In many ways, the telephone remains the only time-tested method of getting in touch with who you want, when you want.

People reach out by phone for a variety of reasons, for example:

• They don’t know the name of the specific person to whom they should speak;
• An email thread has turned counterproductive, and an action or an answer is needed;
• Someone is driving and making a phone call is more convenient (and safer!) than sending an email;
• A topic and/or conversation is too sensitive or complex for email.

Regardless of the reason and despite the proliferation of email (and texting), important calls such as these are placed and received each day. Truth be told, the way they are answered can either help, or possibly hurt, your business.

The manner and method in which a phone call is answered creates a first impression for the person on the other line; the person will immediately form a positive or negative opinion of you and your company even before they speak to someone other than the receptionist. Thus it is critical that a few basic “telephone etiquette” skills are instilled in your company’s employees.

Here are four suggestions that can make the all-important first impression a positive one:

Phone calls must be answered promptly

Business phone lines should be answered within two or three rings. Any more than that, callers may begin to question the professionalism of the company they are trying to reach. An unanswered call does not necessarily convey being busy in a good way. The caller may even start to wonder if they dialed the wrong number, and they may even hang up. Staff your business’s main phone lines appropriately, and train employees to not let the phones ring more than three times before they answer.

Use a friendly, pleasant tone of voice

It is important that employees who do answer the phone do so with a warm, inviting tone of voice. The front desk is often very busy, and in addition to fielding outside calls the person in that role is likely directing internal calls, greeting visitors, accepting packages, and more. Despite the overload that can occur at certain times of day, there can be no chance that callers are greeted with anything less than a “smile.” You never know who may be on the other line!

Record information accurately and completely

The transfer of information is key for both the caller and the person they are calling. An incorrect name or call back number means that the call won’t be able to be returned. Staff must be trained to take the important details from a call: who placed it, when they called, who they are trying to reach, the purpose of the call, and a return phone number or alternate contact.

Don’t put anyone on hold for an inordinate amount of time

We’ve all been there: the extra-long hold time. We place a call, are put on hold, and the reception never comes back. Remaining on hold for even 20 seconds seems like an inordinate amount of time, especially for the truly impatient or hyper-busy folk. If you have to put the caller on hold for an extended period of time, be sure to alert them that you are still searching for the answer or for the person they are trying to reach. Doing so may allow them to leave their call back information rather than waste their time sitting on hold.