The opportunity in every inquiry

Treat telephone contacts properly

By Jeff Davidson

Since anyone in your company is a potential public contact point, everyone must understand the opportunity in every telephone inquiry. Take the opportunity to thoroughly review with your staff how the phone will managed, and, if this applies to your business, avoid placing telephone reception responsibilities with the newest and least informed person in the office.

A key to ensuring everyone answers the phone properly is to generate a list of typical questions asked by callers along with the answers to those questions. If you maintain some type of central “switchboard” pre-determine how calls will be routed. If you must resort to screening, ensure that you offer the utmost in courtesy. There are many ways to both convey to callers that the requested individual is not available right not and to capture the essence of why they are calling.

Consider these messages:

  • “Mr. X has a full schedule today but would be pleased to return you call on Thursday morning. May I give him a message?”
  • “Ms. Z will be conducting a seminar today until late afternoon, but she has asked me to get complete messages so she can get back to you as quickly as possible.

Yes, these are long passages, but they convey to the caller courtesy, understanding, and a sense of his importance.

Putting Customers on Hold

Ideally, you never want to put a caller on hold or through irritating voice mail options because you introduce the possibility that he will hang up. However, these options are a business fact of life sometimes because it could be too much to field every call every moment someone calls. If you must place callers on hold, here are a few guidelines:

  • Always ask, “Can I put you on hold?” and then give the caller time to actually respond. Many callers do not wish to be placed on hold and with good reason. Consider that for whatever the reason, some caller might have greater motivation to get in touch with their desired party much sooner than later.
  • Avoid irritating jingles, music and repeating messages. Many callers, who are otherwise prepared to wait, continue working at their desks and appreciate the lack of noise while waiting.
  • Automated, one-time messages are acceptable. Your one time non-repetitive message can also conclude with a brief description of your products or services. Many businesses find that additional sales are generated because of this extra message.

In Perspective

Put in perspective, your phone relations with prospects can far outweigh the best advertising and promotion plans you might otherwise be undertaking.

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Jeff DavidsonJeff Davidson, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” is the world’s leading personal brand in terms of speaking, writing, or reflecting upon work-life balance issues. He is the author of “Dial it Down, Live it Up,” “Simpler Living,” “Breathing Space,” “The 60 Second Self-Starter,” “The 60 Second Organizer,” “The 10 Minute Guide to Managing Your Time,” and “The 10 Minute Guide to Managing Stress,” as well as 24 iPhone apps in the “Work-Life Guide” series. His books have been published in 19 languages, and in aggregate 141 times. Jeff is an Advisory Board member for The Organized Executive, a monthly publication of the Columbia Books, Washington DC. He holds the registered trademark as “The Work-Life Balance Expert.” Jeff can be reached at