In business, so many opportunities are missed due to the poorly taken, scribbled or half collected message. This often results in an important client or new prospect not receiving a call back or a response from you. Alternatively, badly taken messages can lead to costly errors or detrimental mistakes.
How often do colleges tell you that someone has called for you and when you ask them for the contact’s telephone number, they say “He said you’d have it” or “oh sorry I thought you’d have that”? This is by far the most common oversight, but many more message taking mistakes can also occur.
To reduce these occurrences, here are five top tips from us here at Message Takers. Each day we answer the phones for a number of businesses of all types and sizes and successfully collect messages based on the requirements of each client.
1. Keep Message Materials to Hand
If you have a telephone on your desk or are responsible for answering any calls for your business or at work, you should always have materials to hand where you can simply collect details from a caller.
This might be as simple as a pad and pen. However, we’d urge you to do a little more than that, because you’ll often end up with scribbled messages that are illegible. Also, that old friend ‘doodling’ can cause issues. So many people pick up the pen whilst on the phone and their mind wonders, so they begin to start drawing, scribbling and doing little patterns or doodles on the pad. This is messy and will lead to mistakes and make it almost impossible for those receiving messages to read them.
If paper is your friend and you prefer manual ways to collect information, we suggest the creation of a form for taking messages. This will help you to standardise the process and the information that is collected by those working around you. However, you still have the issue of handwriting, which dramatically varies from person to person.
You could go electronic and ask that all messages are sent via email. This is really effective, because in the first instance, it gives you an audit trail. Staff and colleagues can no longer say they were not passed a message you sent to them, because this can be checked and monitored. If you are using this as a method to collect messages, you might want to educate those working around you as to what information to collect. This could be as simple as small posters kept near to each telephone displaying the information to collect..
2. Information to Collect
The four most common and possibly the most important details to collect when you take a message are:-
• The caller’s full name
• Their company/organisation name
• Their telephone / mobile number
• Email address
It used to be commonplace to just collect each caller’s name, company name and telephone number, but with email now being used so frequently, it has become increasingly important to collect this information too. And once you’ve collected these details, it is then fine to collect general information from the caller, i.e. the reason for their call etc.
3 Spelling & Verifying Details
Many names and company names can be difficult to spell or understand over the telephone and for professionalism at ALL times it’s vital to get this right (remember the telephone does compress the voice compared to when you speak to someone face to face). Remember that after you’ve taken a message a colleague may use it to confirm details via email and it does not look very professional and certainly gives the wrong impression if they spell the person’s name or company name incorrectly.
The key question to keep in mind ready to ask is …”Please can you spell that using the phonetic alphabet?” The caller doesn’t have to know phonetic alphabet by heart, but they’ll know to spell saying ‘A for Apple’ ‘C for Chocolate’. In short this gives you an audible clue to each letter they’re saying.
Once you’ve collected this information and checked spellings, it’s important to verify these, i.e. repeat vital details back to the caller. To save time, you might want to do this as you collect each piece of information to save time. The most important details to repeat are the contact telephone number and their email address. At least if you have these details correct, other information can be checked with a call back or by email.
4 Control the Call
You might find that you need to be politely insistent when collecting information from a caller. They might try to tell you that the person they are leaving the message for has their number. You won’t be being impolite if you say “can I take it anyway, because it’ll be more convenient for them to have it to hand.” This can work quite well. When you take a telephone call and you find that you are collecting a message, it will work better if you have in your mind the key details to collect…so before putting the phone down, you should be thinking that you need to collect their name, company name, phone number and email etc. This alone will help you control a call. In short, be clear on your intentions and the caller will fall into this quite naturally.
5 Educating Your Colleagues
Many businesses don’t have a dedicated reception desk where it is one person’s job to filter calls and collect messages. Calls are generally answered by whoever is available or if you’re working alone by you. All of the above is still relevant, because even if you’re not collecting a message for someone else, you should always think in these terms when on the phone particularly to a prospective new client. You’re ensuring that you are collecting all the details you’ll need to keep in touch with them.
If there is a group of people taking calls within your business, it’s worth having a message taking policy – Highlight what information you need those answering the phones to collect and how they should distribute this information. This needs to be as foolproof as possible to eliminate as many errors as possible, because you don’t want to miss opportunities.
A Natural Message Taking Process
Processes for message taking can be difficult to implement across the board, because businesses can be particularly busy with staff multi-tasking and under pressure to reach goals, deadlines and targets. We’ve given some suggestions above that may guide you to standardise message taking processes, but if you are without a reception and struggling to get the process correct with minimal errors, there is an option to hand this over to us here at Message Takers.
Call today to find out how we can standardise the process of message taking, manage your flow of inbound calls and so much more on 01858 439000 or email Sharon@messagetakers.co.uk