Telephone Techniques for Receptionists – Eight Great Hates

In your next team meeting discuss ways of improving your telephone skills – think of those annoying things that annoy you when YOU are making a call to an organisation.What annoys people most when they are on the telephone? Being put on hold was a definite winner. However, there were other frustrating events on the telephone. Below are the “great hates” of all times:

1.       Being Put On Hold

People need to be put on hold – more so in an environment where confidentiality is vital. Never just put a phone down on the desk and not put it on hold – the caller will hear everything.

But it is the length of time people are put on hold for – and left wondering if they have been cut off. Ensure that callers are not left on hold for more than a couple of minutes before going back to the caller – apologise for the delay in putting their call through and ask them if they wish to continue holding – or if you can get someone to call them back. Give them the option.

Does your organisation have music while they are on hold – a good way of the customer knowing that they are still connected and not been cut off. Choose your music carefully.

If the caller has been waiting for some time and you are unable to put the call through take their details and tell them someone will call them back.

Always remember to thank the caller for holding and apologise for the delay.

2.        Call Waiting

People do not like being kept waiting in a queue – it can confuse the elderly, and can often cost people a lot of money if they are waiting on a mobile telephone. If your organisation has call holding do you monitor it and ensure that callers are not holding on for long periods of time.

 3.        Poor Screening

Screen the call before you put it through. Ensure that you have the correct information to enable you to pass the call to the correct person.

People do not appreciate being transferred several times  – ensure that you put the call through to the correct person that can deal with the caller.

Often calls can be lost when being transferred. Try to avoid this from happening.

Being alert whilst dealing with the telephone is vital.

4.        Mouth Noises

People do not appreciate heavy breathing down the telephone, sniffling, coughing or appreciate being spoke to by someone who is eating something at the same time. You should not drink whilst talking on the telephone either.

If you have to sneeze, cough or something similar put your hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone and apologise to the caller when you return to the call.

5.        Not Paying Attention

There is nothing worse than speaking to someone and they have a lack of interest in the conversation.  A lack of interest can often cause to a breakdown in communication and the caller to be put through to the wrong extension – or worse still a message not being taken correctly.

Also being asked to hold on whilst you speak to someone else – if you do have to do this apologise to the caller first before you speak to the other person – and then when you go back to the caller thank them for holding. Remember to mute the call – you do not want the caller to hear your conversation – remember confidentiality.

6.        Bad Attitude, Rude

No one likes to speak to someone with a bad attitude and more soto  someone who is rude. Ensure that you are always polite and helpful – especially if the call could be a complaint – try turning the complaint in to a compliment – and this can be achieved by being polite and helpful.

7.        Answering Machines

Some patients do not like answering machines – especially the elderly so avoid using these as much as you can. You will need to use an answering machine after surgery closes. Always ensure that your machine has a clear up to date message on it before you close for the evening. Repeat any telephone numbers slowly and repeat them twice.

Do you use a answering machine at lunchtime if your surgery closes? If so, ensure that you check it as soon as the Surgery opens after lunch and deal with any messages left on the machine. Again ensure that the message lets your patients know when you are open again after lunch.

Remember to have the appropriate messages on each evening and lunchtime. Also change your message every bank holiday – advising patients who to contact in the case of an emergency.

8.         Voice Mail

In today society voice mail is very much part of our working day – what would we do without it. But it has to be used correctly. It is no good putting a call through to a voicemail if you know that extension is not going to be there for some time ie days or weeks. Advising the caller first is the best option – explain that the person will be away for a while and ask if there is anyone else you can put them through to – OR if they are happy to leave a voicemail you can put them though. Do not just put the call through knowing it is going to go into voicemail. Ask the caller first.

Voice mail messages need to be updated accurately. The message needs to be clear and included in the message

  • Apologise for not being at your desk
  • Advise when you will be returning (time or if another day the day and date)
  • If there is another person that can help you can give their details/extension number but the Receptionists should be made aware of this.
  • Ask for a name, telephone and brief message and if you say you will get back to them ensure that you do.
  • And thank the caller for leaving their message.

The reason why so many people do not like voice mails is not the machine – but the person behind the machine – when they do not communicate and leave the appropriate message on the phone. Another hate is when someone leaves a message and their call is not returned.

If someone has been good enough to leave a message the least they deserve is a return call.

  • What is your personal “great hate” in telephone calls?
  •  Name three things you can do to eliminate the great hates?