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The Office Phone Is Not a Dinosaur.

Office phones really are very much in use even if many of us also have a cell phone at work.

Answering calls, making calls, and talking on the phone are pretty basic skills we have all mastered. The big challenge office phone users face is managing phone calls—transferring calls, placing a person on hold, and using the phone for conference calls.

Transferring a call. Nothing is more frustrating than being told you are being transferred and then the line goes dead. You’ve been cut off. For the person doing the transferring, be sure to give the number of the extension to the person being transferred. That way when they are cut off—and it is a matter of when it will happen, not if it will happen—they can dial or ask for the extension directly. Another courtesy is to tell the person to whom the call is being transferred what the caller wants to spare the person being transferred from having to repeat themselves.

Placing someone on hold. Being put on hold and then forgotten is really frustrating. Here are three ways to avoid annoying your caller when using hold.

  • First, before placing a person on hold, give them a reason for your action—“I’ll have to check to see who is responsible for that.” A person is more likely to be okay with being put on hold if he knows why.
  • Second, consider the words you use to put a person on hold. Asking is much better than telling. And after you ask, be sure to wait for the person to respond.
  • Third, if you place a person on hold, get back to them every sixty seconds to let them know you haven’t forgotten them. If you have to do this two or three times, consider asking if you can take a message instead.

The conference call. I’m guilty: Invariably I manage to lose one person or another when I set up a conference call. Now I warn people that if I disconnect them, I’ll call them right back. Then once I’ve got everyone one back on the line, I ask each if they can hear the other and make introductions as needed. Note to self: Get to know my technology and practice initiating conference calls.

Here's one final piece of advice based on a horrendous customer service experience I had recently. I was transferred from person to person at least 16 times and was completely cut-off several times. I learned that as soon as I arrived at the next transfer, to ask the person to take down my number and to please call me back if we got disconnected. It worked. Twice more I did get disconnected and each time the person actually called me back, saving me from starting over at “For all other inquiries, press….”.

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