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A good phone manner can leave a lasting impression on both you and your company.

Sun Moritz offers advice to FOH readers

Good manners are something that almost everyone’s mother drilled into them at birth.  Do you ever remember those times where you could almost feel the eagle eyes of your parents burning into your back?

The whole time knowing that they were waiting impatiently for the phrase ‘Thank you’ to be emitted upon receiving the gift you had just been handed.  Now, however, we – or at least most of us – have grown to be adults, and as adults we don’t need to be prompted into saying certain things!

From time to time we may forget the importance a kind tone and carefully worded phrases might have on an individual.  This can leave a lasting impression on both you and the company that you work for, so it is imperative that one should carry themselves professionally while handling a conversation.  Of course one of the most important areas of your business is the way in which you hold yourself on the phone.  In this area it is easy to disassociate the voice on the other end from an actual person, and this can promote apathy in your manner.

In this article we will go over some simple rules one must employ when conducting a conversation with somebody one has not conversed with before.  Remember that you may be the first and only contact a person may have with your company, and first impressions always last.  Here are a few initial tips to help you on a first call:

  • Always remember to try and answer the phone promptly, before the third ring if possible:  this will give the impression to the caller that their phone call is important.
  • Before picking up the receiver, take a second to compose yourself, and discontinue any conversation or activity such as typing or chewing gum.
  • Keep the tone of the conversation light and speak clearly.
  • Always follow up bad news with good news.  For example, if the person they are trying to reach is out, offer them a chance to leave a message with you or on their voicemail.
  • Always use the hold button so that the caller does not pick up any conversation which is being held near by.
  • When transferring a call, be sure to explain to the caller what you are doing and where you are transferring them to.
  • Always have a pen and a pad of paper at hand to take down notes, as well as any contact details such as phone numbers and email addresses you can provide to the other person.
  • When the called party is not in or in a meeting, responses such as ‘I am sorry s/he has just stepped out of the office at the moment….” should be used as well as an alternative form of communication, to protect the privacy of those in the office and to provide a tactful response.

7 Key steps to becoming a more professional receptionist

  1. Corporate Awareness – Simply answering the phone clearly does not make a good receptionist – there is so much more to the role of the receptionist.
  2. Take responsibility – A corporate receptionist should always be willing to have the buck stop with them.  Be prepared to recognize and identify the sacrifices that they make.
  3. Smile at all times – If a caller is difficult, it is not the receptionist’s right to question or object to how a client is feeling when they call up.  They must maintain their professionalism, dignity and display the highest form of courtesy.
  4. Treat every call as if it’s the first one of the day. – Remain refreshed, calm and focused.  Allow receptionists to take time out (if possible) to get some fresh air as the role can be stressful at times.  They must give the caller their undivided attention.
  5. Listen – Clarify – Confirm – All professional receptionists should apply this rule from the beginning.  A good receptionist/telephonist has distinguished listening skills and is able to administer this skill with ease.  They must clarify everything – even the smallest details – and confirm back their understanding of the situation.
  6. Secrets and Lies – A diplomatic persona is required at all times.  Very often, your receptionist will be privy to information which should remain confidential.  At times receptionists are often required to maintain security and must use their tact and common sense to diffuse a potential breach.
  7. Confidence – Composure – Courtesy – Displaying these three skills (amongst many others) will always ensure that your clients remain clients.  How one is received is vital to company success, growth and retention of business.