A large part of my workday consists of answering phones.
Now, I don’t mind phones. I usually have to take a second to organize my brain before I pick up the receiver, and I often get a little flustered when I am asked questions I can’t answer or when folks get uppity, but on the whole the telephone and I are friends.
The people on the phone, however, are a little less easy to deal with. The vast majority of them mean well, I know that, but I can’t get past their habits, the niggling little things that make them impossible to understand.
And so, Internet, I have written this guide for you, so that you may be the Informed Few, and so that you can live your lives in ways that make receptionists happy to do their jobs.
1. Speak a bit slowly.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to halve your speaking rate, or even quarter it. We are not morons, we happy few at the other end of the telephone line. Most people do not realize how quickly they talk, though, and they don’t consider how much communication comes through their body language or just the shapes their mouths make while forming the letters. When we’re denied these aides, it becomes very difficult to tell what the heck is being said, and so a little extra care is required to clarify your intentions. On that note, please…
2. Speak extra clearly.
Dot your i’s. Cross your t’s. Make sure your consonants are consonants, your vowels are vowels, and that your words have endings to them. I have had a number of callers who ask questions like, “Uh, helluhhhh, ineh tuhnuh the prielisdin onduh ellud hum?” I am sorry, Sally-Ann-Caller, but I do not speak lazytalk, and while I would love to answer your question, I’m going to need a bit of help. Without the differences between t’s and d’s, without the noble ‘g’ gracing the end of an ‘ing’, we receptionists won’t be able to complete your call as dialed.
3. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a face-to-face interaction.
This should be self-explanatory, consider, dear friends. You are all nice, polite, well mannered people. You would never walk away from somebody while they were speaking, would you? You wouldn’t look them straight in the eye and ignore a ‘how are you’ or leave without thanking them for their help, would you? Of course you wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t do any of those things on the telephone either. Treat the receptionist as though you were standing next to them, as though they could see you, as though they might remember your face next time you approached them. Treat them as though they might tell their friends about you over cocktails, when the drudgery of their work day is over and they can kick back and vent about the jerks that ruined their day.
4. Remember who is in charge.
In many situations, the person that answers your phone isn’t the person that’s responsible for yoru troubles. If they are good at their job and have a shred of humanity, they will do their very best to help you out, but yelling at the receptionist? This is like kicking a puppy because your car broke down or breaking your kid’s toys because your shoes are too tight that day. A receptionist is a human being, and you have the power to make or break their day. A friendly ‘thank you so much!’ or even returning the traditional ‘good morning’ greeting can set the tone for all of their interactions, and doesn’t it feel nice to have that potential? Go ahead. Be nice to the receptionist, and earn a feather for your angel wings.
I know, I know, I’ve given you a lot to think about on your next phone call. Many of these are second nature to the Well-Mannered Individual, but we all need reminders now and again to keep our noses clean. I hope this helps.