How to Answer Your Call Like a Professional

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It’s no secret that not everyone is comfortable answering phone calls or has great telephone skills. However, as a business owner, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re making a positive first impression on every call. This is where phone etiquette comes into play – it’s an essential resource for marketing your company and offering top-tier customer service.

At SOI, we understand the importance of phone etiquette and we’ve been providing professional phone answering services for businesses in Sydney for over 23 years. As experts in the field, we’ve put together 14 tips to help you master the telephone like a pro and ensure that your customers feel valued and heard.

Our tips cover everything from how to answer the phone professionally to handling difficult questions or queries with ease. We believe that by implementing these tips, you can maintain a professional image for your business, and your customers will feel confident in your ability to provide exceptional service.

1. Answer the Phone

It may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to answer the phone when it rings. Surprisingly, many businesses fail to do this, let alone answer before the third ring. Every call is an opportunity to make a positive impression on your customers and ensure that they feel valued and heard.

As a professional virtual receptionist service, we strongly discourage the use of the phrase “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.” Every customer inquiry is important, and a missed call can easily lead to lost business opportunities. If you don’t answer the phone, customers will simply turn to your competitors who are available and ready to assist them.

An unanswered call can break the trust your customers have in your business’s reliability and professionalism. It’s essential to answer the phone promptly to avoid making them feel underappreciated and undervalued. Always remember that every missed call is a lost lead.

2.     Three is the Magic Number

Answering the phone promptly is crucial to demonstrating your business’s reliability and providing exceptional customer service. When customers have pressing questions and concerns that require immediate attention, answering the phone quickly shows that you value their time and needs. As a business, it’s essential to answer the phone within the first three t between you and your customers. When you respond promptly, you demonstrate that you’re professional and dependable, further solidifying the customer’s trust in your business.

No one likes being kept waiting, and the last thing a customer wants is to be left on the phone as it rings, only to be transferred to a phone answering machine. By answering your calls within three rings, you can ensure that your customers don’t feel ignored or underappreciated.

We understand that answering all your calls can be a challenge, especially as a small startup or a growing business. The number of calls you receive, especially after a new marketing campaign, can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why it’s crucial to have a system in place, such as a telephone answering service or a virtual assistant, that can help you scale, conquer, and deliver exceptional customer service. Contact us today.

SOI Virtual Reception team are flexible customer communication experts. We provide flexible customer communication designed with your business in mind. From part-time, backup, overflow, and temporary basis to full-service support. SOI can help you reach your goals.

3.    Set a Standard Greeting for All Clients

Answering the phone with your business name is a crucial step in providing exceptional customer service. As a first point of contact with your customers, it’s essential to establish a level of reassurance that they have reached the right company and department for their needs.

When answering the phone, always greet the caller with your business name and identify yourself with a brief introduction.
For example:
“Thank you for calling Australian Building Company, my name is Ian. How can I assist you today?”

This approach ensures that the caller knows they have reached the right business and department, and that they’re speaking with a professional representative who is ready to assist them.

It’s important to note that you should avoid using both your company name and tagline in your greeting. This can result in a long and clumsy greeting that may confuse the caller and make them forget the real reason for their call. A brief, concise greeting is all that’s needed to break the ice and put the caller at ease.

In summary, greeting the caller with your business name and a brief introduction is a crucial step in providing exceptional customer service. By establishing reassurance and professionalism at the outset, you can set the tone for a successful phone call and ensure that your customers feel valued and appreciated.

4.     Keep Your Greeting Happy and Welcoming

Your greeting is a vital component of the customer’s first impression of your business. Answering the phone with a “smile” and a friendly tone is a great way to establish rapport and put your customers at ease. It’s crucial to keep in mind that your greeting is not just a greeting – it’s part of your brand and customer service experience.

“Good morning/afternoon, COMPANY NAME, ***** speaking.”
“Good afternoon, Serviced Offices International, CRISTINA speaking, how may I help you”
“Can I speak with Steve, please” (caller)
“Yes Certainly ……”

Remember to use small talk to build rapport and show interest in the customer’s needs. Listening to their concerns and showing empathy is an excellent way to build a strong relationship with your customers. However, be mindful of the situation and know when not to engage in small talk, especially with an angry or upset customer who needs quick information or service. View our article on how to handle angry customers over the phone to gain a comprehensive understanding of effective communication techniques for dealing with upset customers.

More positive wordplay examples:

Say: Absolutely
“Absolutely I can do that for you!”
“It is absolutely a great day!”
“I absolutely understand….”

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends……….
-Walt Disney-

Your vocabulary plays a crucial role in providing exceptional customer service. Using positive language, such as “Let me find that out for you” instead of “I don’t know,” or “I’ll direct you to someone who can help” instead of “You’ve called the wrong department,” shows your willingness to assist and builds customer confidence in your abilities.

Say: I’d be happy to
“I’d be happy to help you with this.”
“I’d be happy to assist you with this, let me look at this and get back to you by ……”
“I’d be happy to help, let me look at this and I will come back to you shortly.”

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’
-Maya Angelou-

Even on a ‘down day,’ training yourself to speak positively is a great customer service skill to have. It’s essential to be mindful of your tone and vocabulary to ensure that every customer interaction is a positive and memorable experience.

Want to ensure your phone is always answered with a professional & friendly tone? Our professionally trained virtual receptionist can help. From phone answering to scheduling appointments, SOI’s professionally trained virtual receptionists can do it all so you can focus on what’s important. With over 23 years of experience, our in-house team are professionally trained in specialist industries such as Allied Health, Accounting, Real Estate, Medical, Law, and Engineering, to name a few.

5. Always Attempt to Get the Caller’s Name Immediately

Always attempt to get the caller’s name from the moment you answer the caller. Callers will most likely give you enough information as soon as you answer the phone, actively listen and jot notes as you go to keep the flow of the call going.

Ask these questions:

  • Callers Name,
  • Company
  • What it is regarding.

After you have noted this name always use the caller’s name. This will show you are listening, help develop a relationship and make a much more personalised experience.

Ways to ask for a name

“May I ask who is calling please?”
“May I say who is calling please?”
“May I take your name please?”

“Yes, it’s JAMES” (caller)
“Thank you JAMES”

And remember: Always Note the name on your console as to ensure you don’t forget!

Cannot remember the caller’s information?

Here are a few phrases to help:
Can I confirm your Name/Company/what the call is in regard to?
I missed the company name earlier James, would you mind repeating again, please?

Cannot remember/understand the spelling of the caller’s name or company?

Way to approach without offending the caller:
“Can I confirm the spelling of your Name/Company?”
“May I repeat the spelling of your name?”

And remember! Full Name and Number must ALWAYs be taken down correctly. Use the Phonetic Alphabet to clarify letters you are unsure of how it is spelled. Example:

“Is that E for echo and B for Bravo?”.

6.     Show Empathy and Give Time to the Caller

First impressions count. Be friendly and show interest in your caller from the start of the conversation to the end. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Remember information about your caller so that they feel listened to. Pinpoint information, experiences or interests and offer up your own experience to build a relationship.

Example: If a caller talks about a holiday or a pet listen and add any information about holidays, animals or your experiences to build rapport.

  • Try to provide direct help to their needs and add additional support or information when possible. Show interest in their concerns, show empathy towards their situation, let them know their feelings are valid and you will help them with their concern or query.

These little details that may seem unimportant to you are important to your caller. Adding this to the conversation with show the character of your business and help build a relationship with the caller. They will feel they know your intentions and by extension your businesses and how they support their customers.

Create Meaningful Connections and Increase Customer Loyalty

Anyone can answer a call, but it takes the right person to create meaningful connections with your customers. Contact SOI today, we pride ourselves on our customer service and the relationships we have made along the way. We care about your business and creating a great connection with you and your customers every step of the way. We are an extension of your team, sitting alongside you, helping support you & your team as you grow.

7.     Caution of Slang

Using slang, buzzwords, or fillers can make your business appear unprofessional and undermine your credibility. It’s essential to train yourself to control your language when answering the phone and avoid using filler words such as “um,” “uh-huh,” or “okay.” Instead, use professional language and phrases to show your expertise and competence.

Using phrases such as “Yes, certainly” instead of “okay” is a great way to communicate in a professional manner while also sounding approachable. Since your language and choice of words can impact the customer’s perception of your business, it’s crucial to be mindful of what you say and how you say it.

Say: Yes, certainly
“Yes certainly I can do this.”
“Yes certainly I will …..”

Remember: If you develop the absolute sense of certainty that powerful beliefs provide, then you can accomplish virtually anything, including those things that other people are certain are impossible.

Training yourself to avoid slang and buzzwords can take some time, but with practice, you’ll develop a more professional and polished phone manner. By controlling your language and using professional phrases, you’ll convey a sense of expertise and competence to your customers, further enhancing your business’s reputation.

8. Practice positive wordplay

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

We can’t take credit for them great words, but they are some great words to live and work by. Simply adding “My pleasure” instead of saying: “No Problems, No worries” can go a long way to adding some positive wordplay!

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.

-Ralph Marston-

Another positive word to use is excellent. This word may not come as naturally as others but it is an excellent example of positive wordplay. Practice dropping the word excellent into a phrase every now and then will help elevate your phone calling abilities to an excellent need level.

“Excellent, I will let him know.”
“Excellent, I will get back to you.“

9.    Don’t let Humour Hinder Your Profession

Whilst humor can be a great way to connect with people, it’s important to remember that answering the phone professionally is critical to maintaining your business’s credibility. Using humor or slang can be risky, especially if you’re unsure who’s on the other end of the line.

Always be aware that your phone interactions are a reflection of your business and your commitment to providing excellent customer service. Maintaining a professional tone and demeanor during your phone conversations can help build trust and credibility with your customers. It shows that you take your business seriously and are committed to providing the highest level of service.

10.     Consistency is the Key

Your customer service interactions are an extension of your brand, and it’s important to ensure that every phone call is answered consistently and professionally. To achieve consistency, it’s essential to establish clear guidelines and expectations for answering the phone. This may involve creating a script or rules that anyone answering the phone on your behalf must follow.

Practicing and reinforcing these guidelines regularly can help ensure that your team is delivering a consistent customer experience. One way to ensure consistency is to conduct dummy runs and evaluate how the phone is being answered. This can help identify areas where improvements can be made and ensure that everyone is adhering to the same standards.

11.     Speak Concisely and Clearly

Speaking clearly is crucial to ensuring that your customers understand the information you’re providing and can follow the steps required to address their concerns. It’s essential to speak audibly and enunciate each word carefully, especially in remote areas with poor reception.

By speaking slowly and clearly, you can avoid the need for repetition and ensure that the conversation remains efficient and productive. Your customers will appreciate your efforts to provide clear and concise information, and you’ll be able to address their concerns more effectively.

Time is money, and every minute spent on the phone can add up. By providing only concise information needed to help the caller, you can provide efficient customer service that keeps your customers satisfied and coming back for more.

12.     Confidence is Crucial

Confidence is crucial when it comes to inspiring confidence in your customers. By speaking with professionalism, you demonstrate your expertise and instill trust, helping them feel confident in your business and the information you’re providing.

Confidence is essential in all aspects of customer service, from answering the phone to addressing customer concerns and providing support. When you exude confidence, you inspire trust and establish a sense of credibility that can set your business apart from the competition.

Confidence comes with experience and practice. The more comfortable you become with your role and responsibilities, the more confident you’ll feel when interacting with customers.

Remember to control the call.

Here are a few examples of when you may need to control the call to keep the call professional, effective, and friendly.

Is this an answering service?

If approached with this question remember to say their name and be completely honest. For example:
“No ***** I am the receptionist for ABC Solicitors, how may I assist?”

When you get no response when trying to transfer a call

A few phases to use if you get no response when transferring a call:
“Thanks for waiting again James, John is currently with another client”
“On another call”
“In a middle of a meeting– may I take your details and ask John to return your call?”

“Thank you for your patience James, John must have stepped away from his/her desk – may I take your details and have him/her return your call? Do you have a preferred time that you would like John to get back to you?”

The caller’s previous messages have not been returned

An unhappy caller that is frustrated by not having their call returned is never an easy call to take. Here are some phrases to use if the caller’s previous messages have not been returned.

“My apologies, they have been in and out of the office in meetings, could I take your details again and I will let XYZ know that you have called previously” (or you can say that you will mark the message as urgent)

Is XYZ in their office at the moment?

Some callers may already have an established relationship or know a specific person they are trying to reach. Do not say “I am not sure if they are at the desk”or “I think they may be there” or “No problems” All of these are very unprofessional.

If asked if a particular person is in the office, you should always check before transferring. For example:
“Let me try their office for you”
“One moment I will try their office”

13.     Stick to Your Word

Answering the phone within three rings and avoiding voicemail is ideal. Although voicemails may be necessary during situations like personal time off or last-minute meetings that may be beyond your control. In this situation remember when it comes to returning calls, promptness is key. Always aim to return calls as soon as possible and stick to any commitments you make in terms of timing. If you need more time to gather the necessary information, it’s important to communicate this clearly and set expectations accordingly.

Returning calls in a timely manner demonstrates that you value your customers’ time and their inquiries, and it helps to build trust and credibility with them. If a customer is waiting for information or a response from you, it’s important to keep them informed about the status of their request and let them know that their needs are a priority.

Even if a customer is not tech-savvy or able to find answers online, they should never be left waiting for a callback. Aim to respond within one business day to show that you’re committed to providing exceptional customer service. The early bird catches the worm – don’t let important sales or leads slip away due to delayed response times.

Not free to answer or return a call? Contact us today. Our professional virtual receptionists offer a personalised telephone answering services with message taking or team member based triaging the caller’s needs, call transfers and diary booking/scheduling and more. From phone answering to scheduling appointments, SOI is the complete package. SOI provides a team of professionals that are fully trained with the warmth of a traditional receptionist at a providing scalability, flexibility and cost effective.

14. What to do when the phone handling instructions are NOT to transfer calls

Even if you know the call can’t be transferred or you can get all the information straight away get in the habit of always placing the caller on hold. This gives the caller the impression they are being dealt with and transferred to the correct person/team.  Importantly this frees you to answer another call/s as and when required.

15. Ascertain the caller’s company name and what the call is regarding before transferring the call.

When putting a caller through to our clients we must ascertain their company name and what the call is regarding. For example:

How to find out the company details:

“James, are you calling on behalf of a company?”
“James, may I take your company details?”
“I’m calling from ABC Solicitors” (caller)

How to find out what the call is regarding:

“Thanks, James I will Steve know what the call is in regards to.”
“Will XYZ know what the call is in regards to?”
“The call is regarding David Jones which he is aware of (caller)”
“Thanks, James, I’ll put you through to Steve one moment, please.”

16. Can I Put You on Hold?

It’s important to handle putting a caller on hold with tact and consideration. Always ask for permission to place the caller on hold, and never leave them on hold for an extended period of time.

How to transfer a call or put the caller on hold

“One moment please JAMES, I will put you through”
“One moment JAMES.”

If you anticipate a long wait time, offer them the option of a call back instead. Remember to check in with the caller periodically, even if you need more time to find the information they need. This shows them that you haven’t forgotten about them and helps to maintain their trust in your business.

Phrases to use if the caller has been on hold for a while

“Thank you for waiting James, I will try John’s line again for you”
“Apologies for the delay …..”

Putting someone on hold can be frustrating, so make sure to use this time efficiently. Take the opportunity to gather any information or resources that you may need to assist the caller. When you return the call, be sure to thank them for their patience and provide them with the information they require.

17. Enjoy Answering Your Phone Like a Pro!

When everything is said and done, the most important thing is to enjoy speaking on the phone. We hope that this article has helped you on your journey to mastering the telephone like a pro. We take pride in being one of the best phone answering services

. We are committed to helping you capture every opportunity, connect with every customer and grow your business along the way.

We understand the challenges faced by today’s businesses. We support growth and help businesses reach their destination faster. Contact us today to find out more.

18. Contact SOI today

SOI Virtual Reception team are flexible customer communication experts. We provide flexible customer communication designed with your business in mind. From part-time, backup, overflow, and temporary basis to full-service support. SOI can help you reach your goals.

Our professionally trained SOI receptionists will answer your incoming phone calls in your business name, take appointment bookings and manage your online booking platform, so you can spend less time on the phone and more time on your customers.

The Answer to All Your Phone Answering Service Needs

Every business is unique, with its own journey and set of challenges. Our professional phone receptionists offer messaging and hotline services perfect for overflow and transferring of urgent calls.

With over 23 years of experience, our in-house team are professionally trained in specialist industries such as Allied Health, Accounting, Real Estate, Medical, Law, and Engineering (to name a few!). We will use our local knowledge and training to tailor solutions that best accommodate your business needs and take any volume of calls your business generates.

Designed for Businesses of All Sizes

No matter your size, we are the answer to your phone answering needs and can help support you throughout your business journey.

Our complete suite of virtual services will support your business. We handle transferring calls, bookings, reservations, message taking, call transfer screening and virtual receptionist duties.

Grow Your Business and Increase Customer Loyalty

Anyone can answer a call, but it takes the right person to create meaningful connections with your customers. We are an extension of your team, sitting alongside you, helping support you & your team as you grow.

A Tailored, Fully Customised Solution for Your Unique Business Requirements, Journey, and Growth.

Let us help you grow.

Contact us today. Always ready for your call, our SOI receptionists of over 23 years of experience will answer with professional care, allowing you to stay focused on what you do best. Whether it’s a few calls or many, we are confident in our ability to handle each call professionally and provide a seamless experience for your customers.

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Article by Michelle

May 12, 2023