Before I dive into how to answer an office phone, I want to tell you about an expression I used often when I was in the telecom business:
Ring no answer means click no business.
I was inspired to write this post as a result of my futile efforts to get in contact with a company that I possibly wanted to do business with. After multiple contact attempts, I concluded that if the company is that difficult to get in contact with on the sales side, they’re likely equally or even more disorganized on the administrative side.
Is your phone and web presence scaring away customers?
The Back Story on My Poor Customer Service Experience
I read an article recently in one of the business magazines that referenced a company that specializes in fixed-income investments. After reading a few of their blog posts, I decided that maybe it was time for a call.
After multiple failed attempts to connect with them by web and phone, I decided that I didn’t want to do business with them but—and more importantly—decided to write this blog post to share with you how important it is that your small business doesn’t make the same mistakes.
After all, you work so hard to attract customers to your website that once they’re there, you want to make sure that you treat every customer with an amazing experience, and includes everything from how easy it is to find your business’s phone number, to filling out a form on your website.
So, I filled out the contact form on the website, and that included my name, email address, subject, message, a CAPTCHA, and a submit button. The only problem is, the submit button was broken.
I clicked on submit, and the form never submitted. The little wheel just spun and spun. In fact, I started writing this blog post at 11:30 a.m, took a break for lunch, and when I came back to my computer at 1 p.m., the little icon was still spinning.
Their contact us page doesn’t list a sales email address, so I had no choice but to call them.
Let me preface this article by explaining that I owned a telecom business for almost 30-years.
Before we get into the tips to answer the office phone professionally at work, I wanted to share a classic Lily Tomlin funny video of her on the reception position (it’s a personal favorite). If you want a quick laugh, it’s worth the one-minute view (or you can skip to get to the balance of this article).
How to Answer An Office Phone Professionally
In this particular company’s case, the number is answered by an auto-attendant that says, “Thank you for calling ABC Company. If you know the extension of the person you wish to reach, please enter it now. For a directory, press 1. For sales, press 2, accounting press 3, marketing press 4, along with 4 other options.
If you’re going to answer the phone with an automated attendant, the proper etiquette is to keep the options on the main auto attendant menu short. Maybe 1 for sales, and 2 for support. That’s it. You don’t need 7 options on the main menu. As far as the auto attendant is concerned, you should follow the KISS concept, (keep it simple stupid).
I press 2 for sales and end up in someone’s voice mail.
I press 0 for service and end up in the same person’s voicemail.
Always Answer the Phone
IMPORTANT – If you’re going to provide an option for sales, the proper etiquette is that you MUST always answer the sales queue. I don’t care how busy you are, when the sales phone rings, it’s all hands on deck, and even more importantly, if you’re going to offer an option to speak with an operator, you should always answer that phone as well. There should be no exceptions to this rule.
I hang up and call back. This time I press 0 from the main auto-attendant. Someone answers. I ask the person for the email address for the sales dept. She says, “Hold on,” and transfers me to the same person’s voicemail box.
I hang up and call back once again. I press 0. Someone answers the phone, I hear a few seconds of some background noise, and then CLICK.
I hang up and call back once again. By this point, I am quite sure I have no interest in doing business with the company, but for my own interest’s sake, I am curious about what will happen.
Someone answers. This time I say to the person, “Please don’t transfer me. I just want the email address of someone in sales.” She says to hold on one second. She was actually rude. I get the voicemail once again.
I hang up and call back once again. Once again, some background noise and then CLICK. I’m now thinking that this is definitely not how to handle customer inquiries.
I’m now determined to get in touch with the company, not because I want to do business with them, but because I want to provide them some background on what happened during my correspondence with them.
By this point, I’m thinking … “This is not how you run a business”.
I do a LinkedIn search for the company, find one of the principals, and send them an email. In the email, I explain that I am a frustrated customer looking to get in contact with someone to discuss some of the fixed-income investments that are listed on their website.
The president responds with an apology and suggests that we arrange a phone call. I respond and suggest the next day at 10 a.m. Unfortunately, I never heard back from him.
It was the above incident that inspired me to write this article.
How to Answer an Office Phone Call at Work Professionally, Every Single Time
15 Tips on How to Answer an Office Phone at Work
- Your auto-attendant (should you choose to answer by auto-attendant) should state, right at the beginning of the message, “Thank you for calling Company ABC. For sales press 1 and for service press 2. If you know the extension of the person … The auto-attendant should be short and sweet, and the sales and service options should be right at the beginning. Proper etiquette is to have a pleasant phone greeting.
- Always answer the phone. Quickly. No matter what. Whether the call is sales or service-related, you should never send a caller to voicemail. Your staff need to handle customer inquiries directly, and quickly.
- Never blind transfer a caller to an individual’s extension or voicemail box. That is just plain poor etiquette. Whoever is answering the phone should always make sure that the recipient is going to answer the phone before the call is transferred. If there’s no one there, politely tell the caller, “I’m sorry. Bob is away from his desk. Would you like me to take a message, would you like voicemail, or is there something I can help you with?”
- You should have a standard receptionist answering phone script that is the same, regardless of who answers the phone. For example: “Thank you for calling Company ABC, this is Mary speaking. How can I help you today?” or, maybe even, “How can I make your day great?” Reception etiquette is so important as this is the first person that your potential customer will speak with.
- Whoever answers the phone should always have a smile. Your customer can hear the smile at the other end of the phone. There’s nothing worse than calling and hearing a grumpy individual with poor manners who would rather be doing something else.
- Every individual in your company should have their voice mail greeting properly set up. There’s nothing worse than hearing the system answer with the automated voice. Every individual needs to have their own individual voicemail box greeting set up. And this should sound professional.
- When people answer the phone in the office, they should answer professionally. An example is: “Good morning, this is Jeff Wiener speaking. How can I help you.”
- Your automated attendant greeting should be professionally recorded. There are countless studios that will record a professional greeting for not even $50. If your company is going to force every caller into an automated attendant, at least spent a few dollars, and make a small effort to record as professional a greeting as you possibly can.
- All calls to reception should be answered inside of 3 rings. By the third ring, the call can hunt to another extension
- When you put someone on hold, what does the caller hear? Do they hear a beep-beep, or, do they hear music? And if they hear music, what kind of music is it?
- If you’re going to put someone on hold, the proper hold procedure in a call center, or, at the reception level is to say “can I put you on hold for a brief moment?” And then, make sure that it’s brief (under one minute). Anything more, and you’ll potentially lose the customer.
- Make sure that every individual that you have answering phones, or speaking with customers, should be speaking with customers. Some people are just plain rude. Their etiquette is just bad. If so, then move the person to a different position.
- Make sure the phone doesn’t ring more than 3 times prior to going to someone’s voicemail box. Anything more is bad etiquette. And if it does go to the voicemail box, then every individual in the company should have voicemail set up, and again, every individual needs to record their own greeting.
- Make sure that you don’t use a speakerphone to answer incoming business calls, unless you absolutely need to.
- And here’s bonus tip #15 – save your back and neck by using a full-duplex, binaural, noise-canceling headset. Not only will your body (and posture) thank you for it, but, you’ll also be able to type, and work while on the phone.
The way you answer your office phones is how you present your company and brand to the world. Like I said earlier in this article, ring no answer means click no business.
How Should The Receptionist Answer the Phone?
You should wherever possible make sure that anyone responsible for answering the main incoming business phone, whether at reception, or, in the call center, clearly state the company name, their name, and answer the call within 3 rings. The greeting could sound as follows:
- “Thank you for calling Company ABC, this is Mary speaking. How can I help you today?” or, maybe even,
- “Thank you for calling Company ABC, this is Mary speaking. How can I make your day great?”
Reception etiquette is so important as this is the first person that your potential customer will speak with.
How Do You Answer an Office Phone Call
Every individual in your company should have their voice mail greeting properly set up. There’s nothing worse than hearing the system answer with the automated voice. Every individual needs to have their own individual voicemail box greeting set up. Here are some sample voicemail greetings for individuals:
“Hello. You have reached the personal voicemail box of Mary Smith. Today is Tuesday, June 12th. I will be out of the office between 11 am and 2 pm, otherwise, I will be available to answer calls. If you leave me a message, I will return your call as soon as I can. For operator assistance, please press “0”, and to reach someone in our call center, please press 1.”
8 Tips on How to Handle Web Inquiries (This is the Step Prior to the Office Phone Call)
- Your contact form should be prominently displayed at the top of the contact us page. In fact, the form should be on every page. And don’t use the word “Submit.” You need to be more creative with words like “Contact Us for More Sales Info” or “Get Better Rates Now.”
- The form should clearly indicate that the customer info from the form will be completely confidential and that you won’t spam them.
- The form should indicate how long it will take to get in touch with the customer. For example, let them know that a salesperson will be in touch within 2 business hours (for example).
- Most importantly, your form MUST work. Test it often. And when someone does fill out the form, do these three things:
- Send them to a thank-you page that converts
- Send an email to someone in sales letting them know of the sales lead (and CC someone in senior management), and
- Start them on an email drip campaign. You can let that be a part of handle customer inquiries.
- Your contact us page should also have a sales email address listed. Some people aren’t comfortable filling out the form. When someone does email sales, you need to respond within 10 to 15 minutes.
It is so expensive to find a new client. Don’t chase them away with a poorly designed website that doesn’t convert, an auto-attendant that is way too wordy, phones that don’t get answered, a rude receptionist, or poor customer service. Doing any one of the above is a bad sign. Doing all of the above is a business’s death sentence, and definitely not how to handle customer inquiries.
Before you go, I think you might be interested in reading this post titled: Do you Have the Most Important Trait Required to Become a Millionaire?
And here’s another: How to Start All Negotiations Like a Champ. You Must Know This One Thing
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