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Answering The Phone

As a PA, Secretary or Administrator you are probably one of the first people a potential customer will speak to when they phone your company.  Phone answering skills are critical for businesses with the phone still being the most primary point of contact with customers even in this email-age. The way you answer your company's phone will have a big impact on your customer's first impression of your business. Here's how to answer the phone properly and win business:

1) Answer all incoming phone calls before the third ring – people really don’t like to be kept waiting!

2) When you answer the phone, be warm and enthusiastic. Your voice on the phone is sometimes the only impression of your company a caller will get.

3) When answering the phone, welcome callers courteously and identify yourself and your organisation. Say for instance, "Good morning. Lewis College, Craig speaking. How may I help you?" No one should ever have to ask if they've reached such and such a business.

4) Keep your voice volume moderate, and speak slowly and clearly when answering the phone so your caller can understand you easily.  Be careful though not to sound patronising if the caller doesn’t have English as their first language.

5) Control your language when answering the phone. Try to avoid slang, buzzwords or abbreviations.  Instead of saying, "OK", or "No problem", for instance, say "Certainly", "Very well", or "All right". If you're a person who uses fillers when you speak, such as "uh huh", "um", or phrases such as "like" or "you know", train yourself carefully not to use these when you speak on the phone.

6) Train your voice and vocabulary to be positive when phone answering, even on a "down" day. For example, rather than saying, "I don't know", say, "Let me find out about that for you."

7) Take phone messages completely and accurately. If there's something you don't understand or can't spell, such as a person's surname, ask the caller to repeat it or spell it for you. Then make sure the message gets to the intended recipient.

8) Respond to any voice messages within one business day. I can't emphasise this one enough. Remember the early bird? The early caller can get the contract, the sale, the problem solved... and reinforce the favourable impression of your business that you want to circulate.

9) Always ask the caller if it's all right to put them on hold when answering the phone, and don't leave people on hold for too long. Provide callers on hold with progress reports every 30 to 45 seconds. Offer them choices if possible, such as "That line is still busy. Will you continue to hold or should I have them call you back?"

10) Don't use a speaker phone unless absolutely necessary. Speaker phones give the caller the impression that you're not fully concentrating on his call and make them think that their call isn't private. The only time to use a speaker phone is when you need more than one person to be in on the conversation at your end and in these circumstances always tell the caller that you are going to speakerphone and explain why.

11) If you use an answering machine to answer calls when you can't, make sure that you have a professional message recorded, that does the same thing as tip 3 above and gives callers any other pertinent information before it records their messages. Update your answering machine message as needed. For instance, if your business is going to be closed for a holiday, update your recorded answering machine message to say so and to say when your business will reopen.

12) Train everyone else who answers the phone to answer the same way.  Check on how your business's phone is being answered by calling in and seeing if the phone is being answered in a professional manner. If they don't pass the test, go over this phone answering tips list with them to make sure that everyone at your business knows how to answer the phone properly.

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