For twenty years I owned an advertising agency. Several times during those twenty years I would get a phone call from a client. “I just wanted to let you know that when Bruce (who was one of my art directors) answers your phone, the way he does it makes me feel so appreciated.” Clients actually took the time to call me to let me know how impressed they were with Bruce and with the company just because of the way he answered the phone.
Now the first thing to realize about this compliment is that Bruce, as an art director, was more than willing to answer the phone if it was ringing. Not his job, but he did it, and he did it in a way that built relationships and impressed people enough that they would call just to let me know what how great Bruce was and how good he made them feel just by how he answered the phone.
I was curious enough about the situation that I listened to what Bruce said and how he said it. The “how” was impressive. Invariably, he’d put down whatever he was doing and concentrate on the call. Then, as he answered the call, he’d smile. It’s amazing how people can actually hear a smile on the phone.
When he started speaking, he always included four elements: a greeting, our company’s name, his name, and then he’d ask how he could help the caller. His greeting wasn’t just a hello, it showed gratitude for the person calling: “Hello, thank you for calling PostScript” he’d start out. Then he’d give the caller his name: “This is Bruce.” And he’d complete the greeting by asking how he could help the caller, “How can I help you?”
So that’s it. Six simple steps to building relationships when you answer a phone.
- Take a moment to focus on answering the call.
- Smile just before you pick up the receiver.
- Say hello.
- Give your company’s name
- Then say your name
- And finally, ask how you can help the caller.
Why does it matter how you answer the phone? Because, first impressions matter. You can answer with a dull monotone “Hello” or “Ace Corp,” or you can answer the way Bruce did. The monotone “Hello” does nothing to engage the caller. Instead it leaves him wondering why he bothered to call at all. On the other hand, Bruce’s greeting not only makes Bruce look good, it makes your entire business look good.
Take a moment to call your office and listen carefully to how the phone is answered. Is it welcoming? If it is, great. But if it’s not, plan to do some basic phone answering training. It’s worth it.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.