How to deal with cold calls on the switchboard.

We are often asked questions by our front of house managers’ forum members, which we then put to the panel of London’s finest reception managers. One recent question was whether any of the other managers had some advice on how to deal with cold-callers.

Here are their replies, I hope you find them useful.


Unfortunately we do receive lots of cold calls too however we always put them through to specific contacts which we are advised on.

Some companies have a general email enquiry email address for such calls, this does of course mean you have to monitor it but it also acts as a deterrent. If people call and don’t have an actual name we don’t entertain the call but anyone can look at a website and obtain name information if they dig deep enough.

We have set up a fake voicemail box for IT and Facilities and put all calls through there. In general all our managers say that if it is a call they are expecting they would have their direct line number so they are not worried about losing any calls. The amount of cold callers is huge and to be honest this helps us as well as them as we don’t have to waste time on the call etc.

We get a lot of sales calls for our I.T department, we advise callers that we have a “no name policy” so if they don’t have the name of someone currently working in the department, we are unable to transfer their call. We are also registered on TPS (telephone preference service) so if the caller is extremely difficult or pushy, we do make it clear that we are registered for this service and as such they should not be calling without our consent.

We inform that we operate a no name policy. If they wish, they can send any literature in the post addressed to the Facilities Department.

Here are some basic filtering techniques you can use to get the caller to disclose if they know the staff member or if they are trying to gain a direct sales call transfer through the switchboard:
Is …. expecting your call? Will …. know what this call is regarding? I am required to announce the call, please let me know the nature of the call for announcement purposes?
NOTE – If you believe the call to be a sales call, take the person and company name and announce the call to the internal member staff explaining that you believe this might be a sales call: the internal member of staff may request not to take the call. If you are required to do this, please tell the caller that the internal member of staff is not available to take the call.

It’s an art that must be learnt. These “cold-callers” are only trying to do their job, however irritating they may be, and I refrain from remedies such as having one’s calls screened because I get to keep my ear to the ground and know what’s going on.
So in my last life, my deputy and I used to keep a league table of how fast you could get rid of a cold-caller while remaining completely polite. I think our personal best was around 32 seconds. Excellent.

We have a drop box we send cold calls to. Alternatively we ask callers to email a generic email box monitored.

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