Telephone Manners Very often the telephone is the source of a caller's first-and perhaps lastingimpression of you and your company. The telephone can be one of your biggest assets or the bane of your existence. The ability to handle telephone calls properly is a secretarial quality that executives consider extremely important. The correct use of the telephone can speed business, build goodwill, project the best possible image of your company, elevate your office in the eyes of your superiors, and thus be important to your own success. If you learn to recognize frequent callers' voices at once so that you can address them by name, you will gain the reputation of being exceptionally keen. Knowing your equipment is essential. You must know what each button and switch on your telephone is for and how to use it. You must also be aware that telephone systems have made remarkable technological advances in the past decades, providing a wealth of equipment designed for special needs in the office. Telephone company representatives will be glad to answer questions about automatic dialers, call forwarding and call pick-up features, special signaling devices, and a wide variety of other options. (See Chapter 13 for further discussion of telecommunications. ). .telephone Develop the habit of picking up a pen and reaching for a pad as soon as the rings. .. Try to pick up no later than the third ring. Smile when you answer the telephone. Your voice will be more cheerful. . .. . . . . . . . When answering, always identify your company, yourself, or your employer: "Good morning, this is the Marric Company (or "this is Kathy Wertalik," or "Ms. Robertson's office"). How may 1 help you?" Hold the handset about 1 W' from your mouth and speak directly into it. Do not chew gum or smoke while you are on the telephone, and always keep the radio volume low. Unless you are instructed to screen calls, do not say, "May I ask what this concerns?" It can make the caller feel unimportant if he or she is not put through. Should a caller ask for someone who is unavailable, you could say, "I'm sorry, she's talking on another line. May I help you or would you care to speak to someone else?" Never say "She hasn't come back from lunch yet" (and it's 3 p.m.), or "He's playing golf today," or "I don't know where she went," or "He isn't in," without elaboration. Courtesy requires that you give correct information, but do not state facts that could lead to a misunderstanding or divulge information you are not authorized to give. Understand what constitutes an emergency. Sometimes a call will necessitate interrupting an important meeting, but use good judgment about doing so. Before you place a call, be certain you have the information you need. It is rude to put someone you have called on hold while you are thumbing through a file. Avoid slang and technical words the caller may not understand. . If you find you have dialed incorrectly, offer an apology instead of hanging up abruptly. If a caller dials you by mistake, never say "Wrong number" and abruptly hang up; instead, say "You've reached the wrong number, I believe." The caller might be a customer who has confused your number with the one above or below it in his or her own listing. Always end a call with "Good-bye." Be sure to let the caller hang up first; after the caller has hung up, replace your own handset gently. If the caller persists in talking, you might have to say "I'm sorry, bUt I have a call on another line," or "I'd like to talk longer, bUt I'm due at a meeting now," or "Excuse me, but Mr. Nichols has just buzzed for me." Ask the executive for a priority list for accepting calls. Arranged in descend ing order of priority, it might look something like this: l. Internal calls from superiors 2. Calls from customers or clients 3. Internal calls from others 4. Calls from suppliers or salesmen 5. Calls from civic, trade, and service organizations 6. Personal calls You might want to arrange a buzzer signal to let the executive know of espe cially urgent calls. It is helpful to plan for the convenience of other members of the office staff who may answer your phone when you are absent. Write down the greeting fa vored by your employer and keep it by the phone, together with a list of referral numbers and answers to frequently asked questions. You may be asked to take dictation over the telephone. Unless you have some kind of hands-free telephone device such as a speakerphone or a telephone shoulder rest, you may have to ask that some things be repeated. It is wise to read the entire dictation back when finished. If you are asked to monitor a tele phone conversation and take notes on it, get the main points as you would if you were taking notes at a lecture. Taking a message Always take complete and accurate messages. Ask people to spell their names; it is easy to make a mistake. Repeat all numbers, digit by digit if necessary ("Sixteen-that's one-six?"). Telephone message forms are available from stationery and office-supply stores. The form illustrated in Fig. 3.1 contains the following essential information: date, time of day, name and number of caller, message, name or initials of person taking the message, and whether the call is to be returned. Even when there is no message, it is a good idea to record the fact that a call was received. Putting the caller on hold Never put a person on hold for more than 30 seconds. If you cannot handle the first call within that time, take a message from the sec ond caller. Clients have been known to change their minds about a sale because of being neglected on the telephone. Before you place someone on hold, ask permission to do so: "Hello, ABC Company. . . . I'll see if there's someone in the marketing depart ment who can help you. Would you mind if I place you on hold for a few moments?" (Not "Please hold.") If your phone system plays music while people are on hold, be certain the music is soothing and the volume is pleasing. Remember, music is not a license to keep someone on hold indefinitely. Finally, if you are disconnected, it is the responsibility of the caller to place the call again. If you placed the long-distance call, ask the operator to give you credit for the call. Soal 3 Chapter 3: Business Etiquette Fig.3.1 Telephone Message Form To Date .3" R S /0Ls::. TELEPHONED Time ')( tt..:...lS ::. PlEASE CALL CALLED TO SEE YOU WIll CALL AGAIN WANTS TO SEE YOU URGEN T I RETURNED YOUR CALL I I Operator Transferring a call It can be annoying and expensive for a caller to have to repeat a story to several people. If you have to transfer a call, try to connect the caller with the correct party. If you do not know who that might be, take the caller's name and number and be certain that someone returns the call. Answering machines Although many people still do not like speaking to answering machines, these machines have become a fact of life. Never hang up on a machine; it is rude. Obviously your call is important-that is why the person has an answering machine. Speak briefly, clearly, and slowly. Leave your name, the date and time of the call, a message, and a number at which you can be reached. If someone does not return your call within a reasonable time, call again; tapes break and mechanical failures do occur, and the person may not have received your message. When preparing your own recorded message, write down what you want to say and practice saying it. Listen carefully to the message after it has been recorded to be certain it produces the desired effect. Answering services If your company uses an answering service, always let the service know where your employer can be reached in an emergency. Since your business often depends on the service, remember to show your appreciation; a box of candy or a fruit basket is always appreciated during the holidays.