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 have been cut off. If you are transferring a call, be sure to give the caller the extension. That way, if they are cut off, they can dial or ask for the extension directly.
Another courtesy is to tell the person getting the call what the caller wants. That will spare callers 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.
■ 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 OK with being put on hold if he knows why.
■ 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.
■ If you place a person on hold, get back to them every 60 seconds to let them know you haven’t forgotten them. If you have to do this two or three times, ask 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 have 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 was transferred to ask the person to take down my number and please call me back if we got disconnected. It worked. Twice more I got disconnected and each time the person called me back, saving me from starting over at “For all other inquiries, press . . . ”E-mail questions about business etiquette to firstname.lastname@example.org.