Proper Phone Etiquette

If part of your job is answering phones and taking messages, don't underestimate the importance of this task. It takes someone who is bright, quick and patient to do it well. Doing a good job on the phones will gain you extra brownie points and get you noticed.

On the other hand, you could be the brightest kid on your block, but sounding dour instead of upbeat, terse instead of friendly, or unsure instead of competent can quickly negate all the positive qualities you have to offer. Here are some phone tips:

• Be polite, pleasant and upbeat.

• Be professional.

• If several lines are ringing at once, don't let them all just ring while you're on another line. Stop to answer each line and ask the callers to please hold.

• Don't leave people on hold for too long. If the person they're waiting to talk to is on another call, give them the option of holding a while longer or being called back. If they choose to hold, check back in with them every once in a while, so they know they haven't been forgotten. Also make sure they want to continue holding.

• Don't yell across the room for someone to pick up a line before putting your caller on hold.

• Take the time to get names right, and ask the caller to spell his name if in doubt. (It's terribly embarrassing to return a call to someone when his name or number hasn't been written down correctly.)

• Screen calls: ask who it is and what it's regarding and help answer questions when you can without having to interrupt your supervisor.

• Don't be afraid to ask; get as much information as you can from the person calling:

Who do they need to talk to? Where are they calling from? What is their phone number? When can they be called back?

• If a caller asks if your supervisor is in, don't automatically say "Yes, just a moment," and then upon finding out that your supervisor doesn't want to or can't talk to this person at that particular time, come back and use the old "he's in a meeting" line. Instead, when asked if he's in, it's safer to tell the caller you'll check if he's available. You would then report that you're sorry, but he's not available at the moment and could someone else help the caller, or can the call be returned later? This way, you're not having to imply that your supervisor is purposely trying to avoid the call.

• Be considerate, empathetic and as helpful as possible to people who are calling to look for work, and never forget that it could be you on the other end of that phone.

No matter where you're working, it's best to answer the phone in the manner expected in that office/environment, but always add "(your first name) speaking" or "this is (your first name)." In production offices, for example, very rarely will you hear someone answer the phone with the name of the show. They usually just answer by declaring, "Production!" It's much friendlier to have someone greet you with, "Production, this is Katie," and it's nice to know whom you're talking to.

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