The 11 Best Tips for Receptionists to Answer the Phone

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The phone rings.

Your usual receptionist is out sick. 

What do you do?

You could just let it go to voicemail. That would be easiest. No drama, no potential for getting stuck on the line for the next 30 minutes.

But what if it’s a potential customer?

They will probably hang up and try someone else.

So what do you do?

This is an all too common scenario for so many small businesses. The team is already maxed out and unable to stop what they are doing for a potentially time-wasting phone call, but at the same time, you can’t afford to lose leads.

For other businesses, the problem is that they are hiring a receptionist for the first time and just don’t know what they don’t know.

After all, you aren’t a professional receptionist, how can you be expected to teach a new hire all the ins and outs of a role that you yourself aren’t great at?

Well that’s where we are here to help.

When a potential customer calls, the first few seconds are the most critical. That’s when you make an impression that will either set the stage for a sale, or sink the deal before it ever gets off the ground.

While answering the phone isn’t exactly an art, having some tricks in your back pocket can help make sure that your receptionist is able to answer the phone with all the skill of a neurosurgeon and all the people skills of a kid asking for ice cream (they always know just what buttons to push, don’t they!).

The 11 Best Tips to Answer the Phone Professionally

  1. Ditch the generic greeting – No one wants to hear “hello?” when they call your business. They probably won’t be impressed with a flat “Sam’s Real Estate” either. Make sure that the caller knows that they got the right number and that you’re excited to talk to them. Try: “Good afternoon, Sam’s Real Estate. This is Jenny, how can I help you today?!” 
  1. Inject some emotion – I’m sorry to Ben Stein, but I have to say that if he answered the phone when I called the local mortgage company, I might just be asleep before he finished the greeting. Add some excitement and energy to set the stage for a great conversation.
  1. Make it personal – Make sure to introduce yourself in your greeting so that the caller knows who they are talking to. It’s a lot harder to get mad at someone when you know their name, so just by introducing yourself you already are reducing the risk of a bad encounter.
  1. Ask for the caller’s name – Following on the last point, ask the caller what their name is so that you can address them properly. We all know that the sweetest sound in any language is our own name, so why not use this to your advantage?
  1. Be prepared – As a former Boy Scout, this is my personal motto (as my wife will attest when we are packing for vacations…). It’s also one of the best ways to ensure that whoever has to answer the phone at your business will be best prepared for whatever comes up. Try making a FAQ document with all the common questions that your business gets and leaving this open on the desktop of your computer. This way, whenever a caller asks a question there is an answer handy and ready to go.
  1. If you don’t know, that’s ok! – Not knowing the answer is just fine. Just make sure that you deflect with a bit of style rather than saying you don’t know. “That’s a great question, let me find out for you” or “What a great question, one moment while I connect you with the best person to answer that question” are both great examples of deflecting with style.
  1. Ask before placing on hold – No one wants to sit on a dead line for an unknown amount of time, so before placing a caller on hold ask their permission. If you have a time estimate, even better, but if not just get their buy in first so that they don’t hang up while waiting.
  1. Train the whole team – In the event that your usual receptionist is out, or away on break, training the whole team on the best way to answer the phone will ensure that anyone walking by a ringing phone is best prepared to pick it up.
  1. Summarize the call – At the end of a call, make sure to restate everything that was discussed – especially any action items – to ensure that everything was captured correctly and both parties know what is going to happen next.
  1. Wrap up with a professional farewell – You could just hang up, but what kind of impression would that leave? Try something with more personality or specific to your industry to leave a lasting impression. Perhaps something like: “Thanks for calling Sam’s Real Estate, I hope you have a fantastic day!” It doesn’t have to be witty or out of the ordinary to make a good impression.
  1. Take a message if needed – It’s perfectly ok to ask to take a message for someone who is unavailable. Most callers will be grateful for it! Just make sure to give it a positive spin and wrap it up with an action statement: “Jan isn’t available right now, mind if I take a message and have her give you a call back right away?”

Hopefully, this sets the stage for you and your team to become pros at answering the phone professionally. Here at Donna Digital Receptionists, we’re all about making our client’s lives easier by taking the stress out of handling the phones for your small business. 

If you want to handle things in-house, we recommend checking out this article on the best voicemail greeting examples; but if you’d like someone to take it all off your hands, click the button below for a free trial of our services and see what we can do to give you back your time.

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