Telephone Operators
Photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives

We all know the impact tone of voice has on communication. The same sentence takes on very distinct meanings when uttered in different tones. Excitement, curiosity, sarcasm, fear, and hundreds of other feelings can be conveyed with a simple fluctuation of voice. The message conveyed by tone of voice is just as important as that conveyed in words, and sometimes more so.

As a receptionist, it’s important to convey both your caller’s message and tone of voice, especially if a caller’s tone seems negative. But it’s best to do so without using terms that could be construed as judgmental. At Ruby, our virtual receptionists are skilled in the art of relaying tone tactfully. Here are three key tips from our telephone answering experts:

Share what you hear. If you perceive that a caller is angry or upset, you’re probably correct. It’s always best to relay a caller’s heightened emotions when you pick up on them. Describe your perception of a caller’s mood when it stands out, but

Skip negative descriptors. We hope you never field calls from unhappy folks, but if you do, describe their tone carefully. Stick with phrases like “he seems frustrated” or “she seems upset.” Sure, your caller may be persnickety, grumpy, or downright rude, but using judgmental terms can get you into trouble. After all, the person on the other end of the line could be your boss’s mother, and we’d hate to call her a grouch, right?

When the going gets tough, quote.  Euphemisms are great when the occasion is right, but if a caller conveys something dire, don’t pare it down. This is especially important when taking messages. If a caller says “I need to hear from him tomorrow,” that information should be relayed. Don’t worry about paraphrasing — instead, quote the caller directly. This message does the job:

     Jim seemed frustrated, and said he “needs to hear from you tomorrow.”

This message misses the mark:

     Jim seemed frustrated.

Do you have any tips for relaying a caller’s tone tactfully? We’d love to hear from you!

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How to answer the phone politely

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” –Emily Post

With the amount of information and number of calls and emails being lobbed at us each day, it’s sometimes easy to forget those little “P’s and Q’s” Emily Post talked about so long ago. Ninety years after publication, her common sense attitude toward manners makes her name synonymous with politeness even today.

Here at Ruby® Receptionists, we incorporate this “sensitive awareness” into every call. Our team of virtual receptionists answer over 40,000 calls a day, and we’ve gotten it down to a science! Here are three easy ways to stay bright and polite while moving a call along:

Inquire rather than insist.

A capable receptionist is able to steer the conversation confidently even while deferring to the caller. Rather than “Please hold” or “What is your name?” try “May I place you on hold for just a moment?” or “May I have your name?”

Say, “please.”

It may be cliché, but there’s a reason they call it “the magic word.” “Please” is one word that, no matter how many times it’s uttered, never loses its meaning or appeal. With one little word, you can express your respect for a caller while asking him or her to do something that needs to be done.

Don’t leave a “thank you” hanging.

When a caller thanks you, follow up with a sincere “You’re welcome” or “It was my pleasure.” Even though it takes just a split-second, acknowledging a caller’s thank you can make a caller feel heard and that you value his or her feedback. If the thank you comes at the end of the call, a kind “You’re welcome” makes for a nice, balanced conclusion to the whole interaction.

Of course, these tips are certainly applicable off the phone as well. Do you remember a time where you felt especially cared for when speaking with someone over the phone or in person? Please share your experience by posting a comment below!

Want someone else to answer your phones politely? Ruby can help!

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At Ruby, our crackerjack staff of virtual receptionists fields hundreds of calls each day— and we’ve learned a lot in the process! 

If you’re new to telephone answering, or just want to brush up on your skills, these five receptionist training tips will help you shine like a Ruby—impressing every caller.

  1. Never say “I don’t know”
  2. Paraphrase the message word-for-word
  3. Confirm your content
  4. Take a breath and…
  5. Smile

That’s right, it’s that easy!

1. Never say “I don’t know”

Chances are very good that you’ll be asked questions that you don’t know how to answer, especially if you’re new to a job.  But saying “I don’t know” is a dead end.  Instead, opt for

“Let me find out for you”

“I’d be happy to look into that”

“Great question!  Let me put you in touch with the best person to answer it.” 

Phrases beginning in “Let me” and “I’d be happy to” are great ways to beat the “I don’t know” blues.

2. Paraphrase the message word-for-word

Callers love to know that their messages will be relayed accurately.  What better way to assure them of this than repeating their messages back to them? If you’re going through receptionist training, it’s also a great way to look out for mistakes.

3. Confirm your content

Always read back telephone numbers, and spell out any tricky names or words to ensure that you’ve taken them down correctly.  Here are some tips for confirming information.

4. Take a breath, and

You’ve got a lot going on — email piling up, documents to be filed, reports to write. Receptionist training is tough, and the job itself is even harder! But when the phone rings, it’s best to put other office hubbub out of your mind and focus on the incoming call.  Take a breath, answer the call, and greet the caller with a calm, friendly tone of voice.  Never let ’em see you sweat!  Oh, and while you’re speaking with your caller, be sure to follow the next step…

5. …smile!

Seems silly, right?  It works.  If you want to sound friendly and inviting, smiling is the easiest way to ensure the perfect tone of voice.  A smile will also help you feel calm and, well, happy.  Who says work can’t be fun?

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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the cancelled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner.