Home Uncategorized The Lost Art of Answering the Phone

The Lost Art of Answering the Phone

by Theresa Schwab


One of my favorite memories from my tenure at Motorola is calling Dan Keitz and anticipating how he would make me laugh when he answered. Dan, an amateur comedian, replaced his previous outgoing voicemail message every day with another humorous one intended to spark a laugh from the caller and that it did. In this age of texting, chat, and website form fills, the skill of answering the phone appears to be a lost art.

Recently, I’ve been listening to service industry clients’ incoming calls. Clicking on each call felt like opening an exquisitely wrapped gift. I couldn’t wait to see what the next call revealed. How many rings will it take before someone answers?  The anticipation kept building. Is this call physically ringing somewhere and no one is answering?  Will anyone ever answer?

The calls answered by a real live human being held an element of surprise too. The wide range of greetings only furthered my curiosity. I envisioned war rooms filled with people robotically answering call after call. Others caught someone on their cell phone with a cacophony of background noise ranging from road noise to restaurants to echo chambers. It felt like winning when I scored one answered in a professional manner mentioning the business name followed by “this is _________. How may I help you?”

Here are a few insights and advise after listening to a few of these calls:

  1. Don’t make a prospect call you twice. It’s disappointing I have to say it. Have you set clear expectations with your team on how quickly to return calls, especially prospect calls?
  2. If you must have an automated attendant, have it pick up quickly.
  3. Always answer like the caller is a new prospect. It may be the 100th cold call, but don’t act like it.
  4. Be prepared and know exactly the questions to ask a prospect. Don’t act shocked when someone calls you wanting to do business. Give your team a script or detailed instructions for creating the best caller experience.

Even though I have my clients’ cell phone numbers, I will periodically call their office to experience their first impressions directly.

What emotions do you want to invoke in your callers – confidence, reassurance, enthusiasm, joy?

When was the last time you secretly called your office?


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