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Telephone Etiquette Sounds Right
by
Wendy Weiss

A true story. In the course of sending out a mailing to prospective clients, I found it necessary to verify some addresses. I called the main telephone number for one of those prospective clients. The receptionist answered the call, and a conversation ensued…

RECEPTIONIST: ABC Company.

WENDY: I have some correspondence that I'm addressing, and I need to verify some information. Your mailing address is 123 Main Street?

RECEPTIONIST: Sounds right.

Sounds right? (Question: How did she get to work that morning?) Sounds right? Does this sound right to you?

The person answering the telephone at your company is your representative to the world. This is the person who makes the first impression for your company, and the world sees this 
representative as YOU. In this conversation, the receptionist seemed unconcerned, careless and not too bright. A caller could easily assume that this is the way the entire company functions, that it's the way YOU function. 

Think about the impression you wish to make. Do you want to be seen as clueless (I don't know my own address) or as intelligent, businesslike and professional?

Here are some tips to help make an intelligent, businesslike and professional impression on the telephone:

1. Hire someone whose speech is clear, articulate and pleasing. (Tip: Have your job candidates leave a voice mail for you. If you do not understand what they are saying, or 
you do not care for their tone or speech quality—no one else will either.)

2. Make sure that your telephone representatives know all key company information (your company name, address, etc.). Have that information posted prominently for easy reference.

3. Develop a plan to route and handle all calls. Have the plan in place before problems occur. 

4. Make sure that anyone answering your company telephone knows the responsibilities of various individuals at the company. Again, have that information posted prominently for easy reference.

5. There is an old saying, "The customer is always right." Bring that saying back. Treat all callers, even ones that call to complain, with respect and concern.

6. Try not to put callers on hold. (Do you like being put on hold?) If you must put a caller on hold, explain that you are doing so and that you will be back in just a moment. If that moment is longer than anticipated, go back to the caller and tell them it is taking longer than you anticipated. Offer them the option of calling back, going to voice mail or continuing to hold.

7. Do not chew gum, eat, drink or have conversations with other people in the room when you are answering telephone calls. Keep background noise to a minimum — no loud conversations or music.

8. Treat your callers the way you would want to be treated. If you're not sure, ask yourself, "How would I feel or react if someone said or did this to me?" Act accordingly.


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