What you can do to get callers to tell you the reason they are calling

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One of the most important jobs you have as a secretary or personal  assistant is to screen calls so your boss can work with as few interruptions as possible. Ideally, you will get the caller to tell you what they want. But most people don’t want to speak to "just" a secretary. You’ll have a better chance if you show how competent you are. Let Secretary Today help you.

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1 Make your voice sound professional

On the phone, the sound of your voice is as important as what you say. Speak clearly and with confidence. A low voice sounds shy, and the caller won’t want to talk to a shy person. So speak loud and clear – without shouting, of course.

2 Answer the phone with a clear phrase

Not every company has a policy for how employees should answer the phone. So everyone has their own style, and there is no corporate identity. But the telephone is often the first contact a customer has with your company. Make sure you answer professionally.

Secretary Today recommends you to answer the phone with "Good morning / afternoon / evening" then the name of your company, followed by your full name. By saying "good morning", first you are giving the caller the chance to get used to your voice. He or she will find it easier to understand you company name and then your name.

3 Use positive expressions

Make everything you say positive. For example, instead of "He’s not at his desk right now", say "He’ll be back in two hours." Negative expressions make you sound unfriendly, as if you don't want to help.

4 Offer your help in a professional way

You have told the caller – in positive words – that your boss isn’t there. Now you offer your help. The table below gives you phrases you shouldn’t and phrases you should use.

5 Don’t say "What’s it about?"

Don’t say "What’s it about?" or "What’s it in relation to?" even if that’s what you learned in your business English lesson! Both are fine grammatically, but they can sound as if you are trying to control the caller. You’ll find out what you want much quicker by saying:

  • May I ask you what it’s about?
  • Would you like to tell me what it’s about?

Once you know the reason for the call, decide what to do. For instance you might be able to help the caller yourself, or you can pass them on to someone else in your firm.

  • The 123 contract, you said? Actually, I should be able to help you with that.
  • I see. Well why don’t I put you through to Elke Braun in Accounts. She should be able to help you with that.

You may find some of these expressions a little unusual. But believe me – they’ll help you find out what the caller needs. Then you can help them, and at the same time, you’ll be helping your boss.

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