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Business phones are best answered by a human, rather than a machine

Employees should answer in a polite, consistent manner.

Friday, July 25, 2014 - 6:57 am

Q. Karen, what is the best way to answer a business phone? I am often surprised at how unprofessional some people sound on the telephone when answering for a business.

A. It is often assumed that people would know how to answer a business phone, but that is not always the case. So, I believe some specific instruction on how a company wants the phone answered is important for any business.

First you want to answer the phone on the first or second ring. Letting a business phone ring too many times can send the message that you don't care about your your clients or you are not eager for business.

Answer by identifying the company, and then the name of the person answering the phone should come next. For instance, Smith and Jones law office, Jane speaking.

Smiling while answering is transmitted in the sound of your voice. And over 70 percent of the message is conveyed in voice tone. So do pause before answering and give the caller your full attention.

Be careful in having a receptionist or assistant ask too many personal questions if someone wants to make an appointment with a physician or attorney. The caller is making the appointment to seek the advice of the professional, not the receptionist. Even though it is important to have a general idea of the reason for the appointment, so the proper amount of time can be blocked out, asking for too many details can be offensive and violate the client or patient's privacy.

Always ask, in a polite way, before putting someone on hold. And if they agree to be put on hold, be sure to check back with them frequently and then give them the option of giving them a call back.

Don't say, "I don't know" if there is a question you can't answer. It is better to say, "let me find the answer to that question and get back to you."

When answering the phone for someone else, don't say, "who is calling?" and then tell the caller that the person they want to speak with is busy. It can give the impression that the person just doesn't want to speak with that particular caller..

Companies that have people answer the telephone, instead of a recording, come across much better to the public. If you do have your calls answered electronically, make sure the caller can get to a person quickly.

Be sure to keep voice messages up to date and professional.

Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. To submit questions, email features@news-sentinel.com.