The skill to portray a good telephone manner is definitely one of the most important to your role in working as a Legal Secretary or PA. How you come across on the telephone affects the professionalism of your firm and, therefore, its reputation.
With this in mind, let’s treat this article as a gentle reminder of how best to develop a good telephone manner. There may well be some aspects here that had never occurred to you, and there may be some other things you do that are bad enough to warrant a visit from the ‘etiquette police’.
First and foremost, we need to look at the applicable salutations you are using. It is always most professional to greet the caller with the relevant time of day (e.g. “Good morning/afternoon”), followed by the name of the company and then your name.
If you are calling someone, once the other person has answered and proffered their greeting, you should make a clear announcement of who you are and the purpose of your call. Do this as politely and succinctly as possible.
When speaking on the telephone, you must always be polite, making sure that you are clear and calm and have a positive tone. It will make all the difference in how the caller reacts to you and listens to what you say.
Plan What You Are Going to Say
Now, it’s important not to tie yourself up in knots here by preparing what you will say down to the very last word, but having a good idea of what you are going to say when the telephone is answered or when you call someone is always wise. This should ensure that you sound more confident and professional in your delivery – which are imperative traits in order to develop a good telephone manner.
Devote Your Sole Attention
How many times have you been trying to have a conversation with a person when they are being interrupted by other people at their end? Or indeed even at your end. It goes without saying that this is a definite no-no. You should always aim to conduct a telephone conversation with one person at a time (unless it’s a conference call). If this is not possible as one or the other person is being interrupted, politely suggest when it may be convenient to call back.
If you are unable to help someone on the telephone or if you are asked something you do not know, never try to pretend that you can help or do know. It is always best to be honest and politely take a message so that you can ask a member of your team to call the enquirer back.
If you adopt a posture that allows you to sit up straight during a telephone conversation, it is a known fact that this will help you sound more assertive and professional. Slouching in your seat and adopting a poor posture will usually realise the worst results.
Telephone Etiquette Crimes
There are a couple of things that you should NEVER do whilst talking on the telephone:
- Eating or drinking: No one can ever justify speaking to someone on the phone with a mouthful of food or drink – no matter how long it might be to their lunch.
- Listen to music or the radio or have TV playing in the background: this is rude, distracting and never acceptable in an office environment.
Ending a Conversation
When you come to the end of a telephone call, make sure that you and the caller are clear on what you have discussed and a solution to any problems or queries has been addressed. Finish the call with something cheery such as “Thank you for your call” or “Have a good day” so that you end on a positive note.
Please contact the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs if you would like any help with your career.