Business Etiquette: General Guidelines for Taking an Effective Phone Message at Work
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Business Etiquette: General Guidelines for Taking an Effective Phone Message at Work

Many companies and office managers still find it necessary to use a live person to communicate via phone. In order to keep a good flow of communication between outside clients, vendors, and staff, managers employ competent secretaries, receptionist, and administrative assistants to receive their calls for them, and to also return messages when they are unable to. The most important thing to remember when writing a business message is to be sure that you accurately record pertinent information in a comprehensible and organized manner.

Nowadays, robots have replaced humans in many capacities in the workplace. Some organizations even use robot calls and phone trees to convey messages.  In many cases this is the most cost-effective way to do business. However, many companies still find it necessary to use a live person to communicate via phone. In order to keep a good flow of communication between outside clients, vendors, and staff, managers employ competent secretaries, receptionist, and administrative assistants to receive their calls for them, and to also return messages when they are unable to.  Although it sounds like an easy task, some don’t know how to take an effective message yet. Even the most experienced secretary needs a refresher course on telephone business etiquette once in a while.  The most important thing to remember when writing a business message is to be sure that you accurately record pertinent information in a comprehensible and organized manner. Here are steps for taking an effective phone message in the workplace.

1). First and foremost, make sure you have your phone situated where you can easily access it, when it rings.  Set the ringer loud enough where you can hear it, but not so loud that it’s annoying or disturbing to your co-workers.  You should also keep spiral carbon copy phone message pads someplace on your desk so that you don’t waste time looking for one when you need to take a message.  If you don’t have spiral carbon copy message pads, I suggest that you purchase these rather than the single sheet pads.  The reason being, your boss may discard the originals, and may ask you to retrieve a message that you took previously for needed information. Keep plenty good quality pens at your desk, too.

2). When you hear your phone ring…you should try to pick it up after the second ring, if possible.  In the event you are not able to take your calls during office hours, you should forward your calls to an office person (possibly a receptionist) who is competent in taking calls and writing messages. If neither is possible, you should activate your voice mail alerting the caller that you are unavailable and state the option to leave a message.  Note: Never allow your mailbox to get full.  It’s nothing more aggravating to a caller than to hear “the mailbox is full”.  Also, you should never put a caller on hold for a lengthy period of time, or forget about a caller holding. 

3). When answering a call… you should demonstrate professionalism.  It’s nice to start by articulating a pleasant good morning, afternoon, or evening.  You should then state your name, the company and/or your department, or whatever your company decides. If the person the caller asks to speak with is out of the office or not available to take the call…simply say, “I’m sorry he/she (person’s name) is not available right now, may I take a message for him/her?

4). When writing a message…. You must listen attentively as the caller speaks. Make sure you get the correct spelling of the caller’s name, preferably, first and last name.  If you are in doubt about the spelling, simply ask them.  You should get a phone number, along with the area code, where they can be reached and the company name as well.  You should ask the nature of the call so that you can write this information in the space provided for comments.  Sometimes the caller may not want to state the reason for the call, and that’s fine.  Don’t badger the caller, but you might want to indicate this in your message, “didn’t care to leave a message”.  Also, if the message is urgent, be sure to mark it, urgent. You should repeat the information back to the caller to ensure accuracy before you hang up. The message is not complete until you accurately record the date and time of the call, along with your name or initials. Remember to press firmly when writing your message so that it transfers to the carbon sheet.  The message should be legible and comprehensive, being careful not to omit any details. The recipient, (most cases, your boss) should not have to second-guess what you wrote.

5). Placing the message…and lastly, you should immediately put the written message in a message bin or other location where the recipient expects to retrieve them. In some instances you may need to follow-up with the recipient on those urgent messages.

Store the carbons in an area where you easily access them, if you need to.  You can discard these after a sufficient period of time.

Tips:

*If the person is on vacation or will be out of the office for a length of time, be sure to let the caller know ahead of time.

*Never write a business message on scrap of paper, this is deemed very unprofessional

*Always be courteous to the callers

*Smile, the caller can detect your attitude

*Remember that you are representing your company…shine for the company!

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Comments (10)

I hate leaving a message on a machine, I way prefer it when real people answer the phone. If given a choice I would not use businesses that do not answer their phone.

Interesting and useful information. Thanks Donata

I rely on your wisdom and excellent presentation as well.thank you.

I prefer speaking to a receptionist who can forward my call to the person directly.

nice tips. Thanks.

Great topic, office etiquette is sadly lacking these days. I hate getting robot answers.

I was a 'live person' answering queries related to cable transmission and woe betide if the transmission got cut, I had to answer irate customers speaking a not so flowery language, phew.

It's amazing how many people do not know how to take a phone message properly. Usually vital information is left out.

Well written, thanks for the nice topic on business etiquette

Another excellent post. You are Number 1 Expert! Thank you Donata!

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