Perhaps this seems a bit over-the-top or unnecessary even; however, taking a message properly is important.  Both internally between employees and externally with customers, taking messages is an important part of the flow of a business.  This article will offer some tips in helping employees and assistants take more effective messages.

First, callers should not have to ask all of the questions.  By this, I mean that it is appropriate to provide some information.  To explain, observe the situation below.

Phone rings.  Someone answers.

Administrative Assistant:  Hello?

Mary Bianca (Caller):  Um . . . is this Tyson & Son’s?

Administrative Assistant:  Yes.

Mary Bianca:  Am I calling Mr. Tyson’s direct office?

Administrative Assistant:  Yes.

Mary Bianca:  Well, I’m looking for Mr. Tyson.

Administrative Assistant:  Well, he’s not here.

Mary Bianca:  When will he be back?

Many things went wrong in the conversation illustrated above.  For one, the administrative assistant did not answer the phone in a professional way.  This can be so damaging to a company.  The receiver should always provide the name of the company, the specific office if applicable, and a name, which the caller can identify the receiver as.  Other things the administrative assistant did wrong involve how many questions the caller had to ask.  Instead of saying, “Well, he’s not here,” the assistant could have stated, “Mr. Tyson is out of the office right now, and I expect him back by 4 p.m.  Can I leave him a message?”  This would have shortened the phone call, saving time for the receiver and the sender, and probably left Mary, the caller, not so frustrated.  How employees handle themselves over the phone reflects how the business is operated and perceived.  Professionalism is of the utmost importance.

Do not provide unnecessary details about your boss’s whereabouts.  For example, if an individual calls, asking for your boss, who happens to be taking the afternoon off for a daughter’s birthday, this would be appropriate.

George Samson (Caller):  Hi, may I speak with Bob, please?

Administrative Assistant:  I’m sorry.  Mr. McClellan is out of the office for the afternoon.  I expect him back tomorrow morning around 8 a.m.  Can I leave a message for him?

 George Samson:  Sure.  My number is 555-555-5555.  Please have him call me when he gets in.

 Administrative Assistant:  I will give him the message.

 Do not tell the person leaving the message that you will have your boss call him back, as soon as he gets back to the office.  For one, something could happen and your boss may not return for quite some time.  Second, you have no idea what your boss’s schedule entails.  Although, you may be his assistant, he may have some personal items of business to tend to upon his return.  He may not want to contact this person or whatever.  The list can go on.  The bottom line:  do not tell the person leaving the message that you will have your boss call him back immediately.  Instead, let the person on the other line know that you will give the message to your boss upon his return, and he will return the phone call at his earliest convenience.

 Screening phone calls and screening them in a tactful way is important.  For example, instead of just asking, “Who is this,” an assistant could ask, “May I tell Mr. Thompson who is calling?”  Again, this is more professional than the first way.  Another example is, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t catch what you said.  Could you please restate your name?”  This is always more appropriate than, “I can’t understand you.  Why don’t you try speaking English?”

 Listen attentively to the caller and when talking to him, address him by name.

 Be sure to use proper English, without the use of slang or profanity.  Also, refrain from chatting unnecessarily with callers.  Unless the caller is a friend of the office’s or an employee or spouse or something to that degree, keep the calls short and professional.  That does not mean one needs to be unfriendly.  Refrain from gossiping or relaying personal stories.  Again, stick to professionalism.

 If these tips and suggestions will be followed, companies can have more success, as their customers will view them more respectfully and professionally.  Training on phone etiquette is vital to a company’s well being.  This can be the difference between gaining and losing a customer.

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