Many of us started learning about taking a message during childhood, when the phone would ring for one of our parents or siblings and we were the only ones around to field the call.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
“Mom, the phone’s for you!”
“Who’s calling? What do they want?”
“It’s Mrs. Freese, calling about some party this weekend?”
“See if you can take a message. Tell her I’m up to my elbows in dishwater.”
While taking a message professionally is a little different from taking a message for your mother, the rules are surprisingly similar. You may not have realized it at the time, but by asking you to take casual messages like these over the phone during childhood, your mother was (in a way) preparing you to take messages in the business world.
We’ll cover the professional etiquette for taking a message via the phone that your mother may not have covered and talk about some of the common problems people experience when taking a message. Enjoy!
Phone Etiquette 101: Taking a Message
The proper phone etiquette is essential when taking a message from a caller. Without visual cues, you’re left with only your friendly voice to convey information and warmth to the caller. With the following tips, you’ll be able to take detailed, informative messages that give the recipient everything they need in order to return the call.
Answer the call by the third ring
Letting the phone ring beyond the third ring is not acceptable professional phone etiquette. Callers don’t want to waste their time waiting for you to pick up the phone, and starting a conversation with a frustrated caller may be setting yourself up for further problems. Answer the call before it reaches the third ring to start the conversation on the right foot.
Use a professional, informative greeting
As the person picking up the phone for the company, it’s your duty to let the caller know they’ve reached the right (or wrong) place. Answer the phone with a professional, informative greeting like this:
“Good afternoon! Thank you for calling Conversational Receptionists. My name is Tara. What can I do for you?”
This greeting gives the caller some important identifying information. 1) The time of day, 2) The company name, and 3) The employee’s name. This lets the caller know what time they’ve reached your office (if you are in different time zones, this can be really helpful!) while telling them they reached the right company and which employee they’re speaking with.
Once you’ve greeted the caller and they’ve revealed who they’re trying to get in touch with, it’s time to move on to step 3: Gathering the right information.
Gather the right information
Now that the caller has requested to speak with someone who is unavailable, it’s time to collect the right information from the caller. Taking a message that will be useful for the recipient means gathering all the information they may need at the time of the call. Every message you take should include:
- Caller’s name
- Caller’s business or company name
- The best phone number to return the call
- A summary of the purpose of the call
- The date and time of the call
You can gather this information easily without appearing like an agent of espionage. Just cheerfully ask! Here’s an example.
“Can I speak to Barbara? I’m calling about a meeting we have scheduled tomorrow.”
“Barbara is out of the office until around 1:00pm. I can take a message and pass those details on to her as soon as she gets back if you’d like! I just need your full name, the best number to reach you, and the purpose of the call.”
“That sounds great. My name is Daniel Eddings and Barbara and I are to have a meeting at 1 tomorrow, but I will be about 15 minutes late due to an unexpected change. She can reach me at 555-546-2323.”
Make sure you’ve got the correct info
Repeat the information given back to the caller to ensure you’ve written it down correctly. This includes the spelling of the caller’s name and company affiliation, the phone number, and the body of the message itself. Write the date and time of the call next to the message so the recipient will have this information as well.
Deliver the message to the recipient
Once you’ve taken down the message and ensured what you’ve written is accurate, you can deliver the message to the recipient. Do this in the method you’ve already agreed on with the recipient, whether that’s sending the message via email or text, calling to notify them of the message, or holding the message until they return.
Deliver the message written or typed clearly for the recipient to ensure they can easily decipher it and return the call later.