Call handling: a comprehensive guide.

What is call handling?

Call handling is the a-to-z, start-to-finish, process of managing phone calls. It’s every step your organization takes when a call comes in, or when placing an outgoing call.

We’re talking about…

  • Whether or not a call gets answered
  • How it gets answered
  • The way a company representative communicates to the person on the other end
  • How the company deals with call traffic
  • How calls are routed
  • What calls are blocked
  • How issues get resolved
  • What happens when callers are transferred or put on hold
  • What information gets logged during and after a call
  • And more

Good call handling can be the difference between a positive, and decidedly negative, customer experience. Unfortunately, many businesses lack the resources to ensure high-quality call handling every time. Others aren’t familiar with call handling do’s and don’ts, and don’t even recognize a problem until it’s too late.

Here’s everything you need to know about call handling, from business benefits to best practices and industry solutions.

How does call handling work?

Call handling takes numerous forms. It varies across every business based on factors such as the organization’s size, location, customer base, operating hours, technological capabilities, and sales and support strategies. In fact, strategies for call answering and handling can range in complexity from an in-house receptionist to a live virtual receptionist service (like Ruby!), to a large call center operation with conversational scripts.

Inbound vs. outbound call handling: what’s the difference?

Inbound calls are calls made to a business. Despite inbound calls accounting for a majority of customer conversations, many organizations still let them ring to voicemail. In fact, many of these calls are from potential customers with questions about products, quote requests, appointment or consultation scheduling, etc.

The advantages of excellent inbound call handling include:

  • More calls answered
  • More leads generated
  • Faster resolution of issues
  • Fewer customer service mixups and delays
  • Less pressure on the customer service team
  • Happier customers

Outbound calls are the calls agents and other business representatives place. I.e the calls placed out from your business. These include sales pitches (e.g. “cold calls”), customer verifications, reminders about upcoming appointments, telemarketing, subscription renewals, surveys, and so forth.

The advantages of excellent outbound call handling include:

  • More outbound calls made
  • Increased sales
  • More information collected about customers
  • Less time spent on each outbound call

Should your business consider call handling?

If you’re wondering whether your business—and customers—would benefit from better call handling, the answer is almost certainly “yes.” While phone calls may seem like an old-school customer service channel, they’re as important today as ever. Actually, more people are calling businesses than any other time in history.

Consider the facts:

  • 65% of potential customers want to reach brands by phone
  • 29% of calls lead to a purchase
  • 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as valuable as the company’s products and services
  • 67% of customers are willing to pay more for better service and support experiences.

The promise of great, or even good, call handling is speed, scale, and professionalism. A robust call handling solution empowers a business of any size to respond to as many inquiries as possible, minimize wait times, maximize efficiency, capture critical data, and ultimately provide excellent customer service.

Top 3 benefits of call handling.

  1. Never miss a customer service opportunity
  2. Save time—your team’s and your customer’s
  3. Provide extraordinary customer experiences

However, depending on what solution an organization uses, the costs can outweigh the potential benefits. Call answering and handling technology can be complex and difficult to set up. Providers may saddle the business with inequitable contracts and expensive fees.

A worst-case scenario would be sending your potential customers to people who aren’t familiar with your business, or even dead air! And, if the solution hasn’t been properly vetted, the business risks sending the wrong message—literally—to the people who matter most.

3 risks of a lackluster or poorly integrated call handling solution.

  1. Sunk costs
  2. Unhappy customers
  3. Damage to your brand and reputation

The key to effective call handling is connection with customers. Businesses that do call handling right prioritize their customers’ needs at every stage throughout the process and focus their efforts on building and strengthening customer relationships.

The do’s and dont’s of call handling.

Do you know what it takes to connect with customers and deliver stellar experiences?

If customer sentiment is any indication, most businesses fall short. From one-person teams to advanced call centers and answering networks, there’s always opportunity to improve. Check out a few of Ruby’s call handling best practices.

Call handling best practices: How to connect with callers


  • Answer the phone as quickly as possible. Step one to successful call answering is speed. The faster a caller can resolve their issue or inquiry—usually, by connecting with a real human who’s ready to help—the better.
  • Greet your caller graciously. “Hello” doesn’t cut it. Begin with something nice like “Thank you for calling,” end with a “How may I help you?” and be sure to slip your company name in the middle. Above all, you want to leave your callers with a positive impression.
  • Personalize the interaction. This is where access to good data, and knowing how to use it, comes in. With data you not only know a callers name, but you also their background, experiences with your company, and—ideally—the reason why they may be calling. This information empowers you to tailor conversations to every caller.
  • Mind your manners. Kindness and an ear for etiquette both go a long way. Ask for information rather than demanding it, as in “May I say who is calling?” and “May I have your name?” Use “please” and “thank you” as much as possible. Remember: everyone wants to be treated with respect.
  • Keep calm. Emotions can run high during a phone call. Whenever possible, avoid taking a customer’s anger or disappointment personally. Be kind to the other person—and yourself—and you can overcome unpleasant experiences while minimizing any additional frustration.


  • Add unnecessary obstacles for your customers. Nobody likes talking to a robot. Unless your business absolutely needs it, ditch the multiple-choice routing system (e.g. “Press 1 for technical support, 2 for sales…”) and the phone tree. A worthwhile call handling system can address the complexities of routing and forwarding behind the scenes, without entangling your customers.
  • Try to resolve every issue alone. Great customer service agents know that it’s not about having the answer to every question, but about knowing what to say when you don’t know. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” accentuate what you can do. “Let me find out for you” and “Let me connect you with the best person to help you” are excellent responses!
  • Create dead ends. When you’re not able to reach the person your caller is seeking, always offer to take a message or transfer the caller to voicemail. Similarly, never make your caller ask to leave a message—it’s awkward and off-putting. It’s as easy as this: “Tim’s in a meeting. May I take a message?”
    Get caught up in a mistake. Everyone, at some point, has said the wrong thing on the phone. Agents have overpromised, overshared, used an incorrect name or form of address—the list goes on. Nearly any flub can be remedied with friendliness. Remember: you’re a person communicating with another person, so be prepared to be a human being and forgive yourself.

3 keys to customer conversations

  1. Keep it positive
  2. Keep it personal
  3. Keep it fast

Here are a few practical ways to forge connections while responding to potentially challenging customer requests:

When it’s a basic question, but you need a moment to find the answer:

    • Great question! Let me find the answer for you.
    • I’d be happy to find out. Would you mind holding for a moment?

When you don’t know the answer, but you know who does:

    • Great question! Let me put you in touch with Susan—she’ll be happy to answer it.
    • Tim would be the best person to help you. He’ll be happy to return your call. May I have your telephone number?

When you don’t know the answer, and you’re not sure who does:

    • Great question! Let me find the best person to answer it.
    • Great question! I’ll find the best person to answer it, and have that person return your call. May I have your telephone number?

When the question is about someone’s whereabouts or schedule, such as “When will he be back in the office?” or “When can I meet with her?”:

    • Great question! Let me find the best person to answer it.
    • Great question! I’ll find the best person to answer it, and have that person return your call. May I have your telephone number?

When the question is about someone’s whereabouts or schedule, such as “When will he be back in the office?” or “When can I meet with her?”:

    • He keeps his own schedule, but I’ll be sure to have him return your call as soon as possible. May I have your telephone number?
    • She keeps her own schedule, but she’ll be happy to return your call and set up an appointment. May I have your telephone number?

When your caller presses you for information you don’t have:

    • I would hate to give you any misinformation. Susan is the best person to answer your questions, and she’ll be happy to talk with you. May I have your telephone number, so Susan can return your call?
    • Our attorney will be happy to help you—I would hate to give you any misinformation. Let me try to reach her for you.

Learn more

See how a virtual receptionist combines smart call handling and friendly receptionists in our free guide!


Call handling solutions with Ruby.

Ruby is a call handling industry leader. When you work with us, you not only gain a top-rated virtual receptionist service but a partner for customer satisfaction and business growth. Our team of live, virtual receptionists can communicate with customers on behalf of your company 24/7, 365 days a year. Take control of your day-to-day by answering only the calls you want to answer and outsourcing the rest.

Ruby’s customizable call handling platform includes everything you need to impress your callers and customers:

  • Create a custom greeting
  • Set call-answering instructions
  • Engage customers with 24/7 live answering and website chat
  • Screen and transfer calls automatically
  • Receive real-time updates and notifications
  • Manage calls on the go with the Ruby mobile app

See why we’ve received an average of 5/5 stars in over 400 reviews on Trustpilot. Discover Ruby’s call handling services for yourself.

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