8 Receptionist Phone Answering Tips From the Pros

Written by Nicky Walker - Senior Marketing Developer
Our top 8 phone answering tips

The greeting a caller receives when they call a business is like the shop window and front door of your business in one.

Rightly or wrongly, callers will likely take their experience of phone conversations as an indicator of what they can expect from the business as a whole in terms of quality of service, efficiency and professionalism.

Clearly you want that shop window and front door to reflect the best possible image of your business and show that you provide excellent customer service with every answer.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important receptionist phone answering tips that you can follow to give callers the very best impression of your business and its services when answering phone calls.

Our top tips for answering customer service and business calls

1) Answer phone calls promptly, ideally within three rings

First things first, if the caller has to wait longer than they expect for a member of staff to answer the phone, they will immediately question how well the rest of the interaction will go.

It’s a difficult balancing act though: Staff are already busy when, out of nowhere, the phone rings. Should they drop everything and answer the phone? Well, it depends what they are doing, some things really can’t be interrupted.

On the other hand, particularly for a small business, it is a very big ask to employ a receptionist just to field phone calls. What should they do if calls go quiet for a while? More importantly, what should they do if more than one call comes in at a time?

Connect’s virtual receptionists are here to step in and provide your business with the on-tap call answering capacity you need.

2) Greet callers warmly and professionally

We have all had the experience of calling an organisation only for our call to be answered by a receptionist who just sounds like they don’t want to be there and that they definitely don’t want to be answering phone calls. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? And it certainly doesn’t make you enthusiastic about your relationship with the organisation. If it’s a business, it might even make you decide not to have relationship with it.

Greeting callers warmly

A great way to perk up your phone answering greeting is to take a moment to pause and smile before answering to convey friendliness in your voice. You will find that it really helps you answer incoming calls with a clear and pleasant tone of voice.

3) Identify yourself and your company immediately

It might seem obvious but you would be amazed at how many people get this wrong: The first thing you say when you answer the phone should be a greeting that identifies the organisation.

You might also like to identify your department or yourself too so that they know they are through to the correct person to help. Maybe it is because people have internal calls ringing on their extension as well as external calls, but it is amazing how often the first thing you hear from a business is just “hello?” Sometimes it isn’t even that polite! This is definitely not the professional phone answering experience that customers and others expect.

Clearly you don’t really want to answer every internal call with “Good morning, welcome to International Components, Mike speaking, how can I help you?”, the day just isn’t long enough. Ideally you should be able to differentiate internal and external calls so that you can modify your phone answering greeting.

At Connect, we always make sure that we answer every call with our client’s preferred greeting, usually the company name, it’s all part of our professional receptionist service.

4) Listen attentively to the caller’s needs without interrupting

For many businesses, or job roles, many of the calls answered are about the same few subjects or are even asking the same question. That doesn’t mean that you can just assume you know why the person is getting in touch with your company though.

It isn’t just good manners to listen carefully to what someone has to say, it is crucial if you want to be able to provide the experience that callers expect from a professional receptionist.

Take notes if necessary to remember important details as you speak to them but make sure all your focus is on the conversation. They will be able to tell if you are doing something else while you speak to them so make sure they have your undivided attention.

5) Give every caller the personal touch in phone conversations

Now that you have greeted the caller and understood why they have called, it’s time to make sure that you maintain effective communication for the rest of the conversation.

Make sure you are speaking clearly and enunciate words properly, particularly if the caller might come from a different part of the country than you or farther afield.

You should also avoid using jargon, acronyms or overly technical language when in a phone answering role unless the caller indicates that they are familiar with them by using them themselves.

Finally, it is also a good idea to occasionally use the callers name if it seems appropriate. Don’t over-do it though or you might sound like a bad marketing letter! If you need to transfer them to another department or team within your organisation, explain to the caller that you are going to transfer them to the best person to help them .

6) Remain calm and composed, even if things get heated

You can never tell who the next person will be to call so it’s inevitable that sometimes we all end up speaking with angry or difficult callers.

The most important thing is always to remain calm, professional and composed yourself. Don’t let the callers emotions transfer onto you, instead try to be patient and offer assistance proactively and with empathy. It can be difficult on the phone without being able to pick up on body language, but try to follow not just what is being said but how it is being said including the tone of their voice.

Dealing with angry callers

Sometimes people find themselves shouting at the first person they encounter before they calm down and try to resolve things properly. They might even apologise when it dawns on them that they are speaking to a receptionist not directly to the person who caused them to be angry!

Some callers might have trouble following the conversation, especially if they are older or not fully fluent in English. Always make sure to remain patient, especially with callers who may be confused or frustrated. It’s all part of the variety that keeps phone answering interesting!

7) Use the ‘Hold’ button sparingly

It’s perfectly reasonable to have to put a caller on a brief hold, in fact, anyone calling a business almost expects it. However, if you do need to put them on hold make sure you ask their permission first and, ideally, let them know how long they can expect it to last.

Callers rightly find it quite rude to suddenly hear a tone followed by phone on-hold music. You should also avoid putting callers on hold for extended periods whenever possible.

If you really need to, you should return to the caller to apologise and let them know what you are doing to resolve their query.

8) Verify and repeat back information to ensure accuracy

If you take any information from the caller, make sure you confirm it back to them, particularly their phone number it any reference number.

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of background noise to make it hard to understand the person talking, just an unusual accent or a bad mobile signal can prevent you from collecting accurate information.

It can be a good idea to use the NATO phonetic alphabet to double check any spellings that might not be clear. The last thing you want is to end the call and find that the information that you have taken does not let you attend to the reason for the call, particularly if you are answering calls from potential customers.

It’s important to end the call as professionally as you began. Make sure that you ask the caller if there is anything else you can help them with.

If they are satisfied that you have covered everything, end the call with a polite farewell and invitation to call again if needed. Sometimes that’s the end of it, but other times it’s just the start so, if you need to get back to the caller or pass information on to someone else. make sure you follow up promptly on any promises made during the call.

Connect Virtual Receptionists

At Connect, all our messages and actions are completed immediately by our virtual receptionists when the call has ended. If you would like to find out how our services, including the tips above can benefit your business, whether you are a small business, a solictors, or a company with hundreds of employees, please get it touch for a free trial.

Call on 0330 3333 777, request a call-back or set-up a trial online by clicking here

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