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Telephone Techniques
by Andrew E. Schwartz

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How important is your telephone? Compared to attributes like product knowledge, supervisory skills, and data base processing, telephone skills may seem mundane. Yet the telephone is a tool of paramount importance as it mirrors your organization's image. Ironically, many receptionists and other front line organizational representatives never receive formal telephone training; therefore, their telephone techniques can put an organization at a disadvantage. Your support staff's telephone manner can enhance your corporate image, so it is crucial that telephone etiquette be part of office repertoire.

Although telephone etiquette is a rare commodity in the workplace, once recognized as an asset, it can be acquired with proper training and persistence. The communication problems that plague many organizations are so elementary they are often overlooked. Many executives think telephone courtesy is innate since courtesy is common sense, however, proper telephone behavior is not always so obvious and easily executed. Therefore, proper protocol must be established. However, how many times have you overheard staff use inappropriate phrases such as, 'I'm sorry, he's all tied up right now,' or 'Mr. Jones is out to lunch?' And how many times have you conducted a major search for a pen while the caller reverently recites information over the telephone? Fortunately, there are a host of practical solutions to the problems of poor telephone communication.

Assess the situation: A perceptive manager must look long and hard at the organization's telephone communication policies. Are there any; if there are, are they pertinent, and do staff abide by them? If there are no current policies, compile a list, distribute to each employee, and insert it into your operational procedures manual. Next, evaluate staff's telephone techniques. If clients complain about lack of courtesy, about not getting return phone calls, or about being left on hold for too long, then your support staff may be damaging your image. In addition, if you often get bothersome calls, calls that others could easily handle, or if you often receive incorrect messages, then your employees may need a refresher course in etiquette.

Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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