Work skills: Answering a phone call

It's your first secretarial seat since leaving school/college. Your nerves are shattered and your stomach full of butterflies. You're sitting at your desk when suddenly your telephone begins to ring. What do you do? Apart from the initial reaction, which is 'RUN!', using the 10 steps below may help you get through your first day of answering calls:

  1. It is always best to have a compliment slip nearby when answering calls so you can either remember the name of the company that you work for (especially if it is a difficult name) and/or their telephone or fax details.
  2. Try and be confident. Take a deep breath and pick the phone up.
  3. Announce your company/department/boss's name to the caller (i.e. Construction Department, Susan Wright speaking how can I help you?).
  4. It is always best to make a note of who the caller wishes to speak to (i.e. if you are working for more than one person), the callers name, the company they belong to and the reason why they are calling.
  5. If you are unable to catch the caller's name always ask them to repeat it. If you are unsure of the spelling of the caller's name, it is always best to ask them to spell it just in case.
  6. Once the caller has announced who he/she wishes to speak to, it is always polite to say " Please hold on I will just check to see if he/she is available" or " One moment please" whichever is more comfortable for you to say.
  7. When ringing through to your boss (or the person concerned) say "I have Mr Smith on the line from Smith & Sons, do you wish to take the call?"
  8. If your boss says "Can you take a message", return to the caller saying "Sorry but Mr Martin is unavailable at present, can I ask him to call you back?" If the caller says yes, make a note of his/her telephone number and pass on the message to your boss.
  9. Always try to be polite - even if the person on the other end of the phone isn't.
  10. Try not to get too upset if you have a difficult caller. If the caller is getting too upset/angry, the best thing to do is say "one moment please, I will see if I can find someone else to assist you" and put the call on hold. You then need to find a more senior secretary to deal with the call on your behalf.
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