Is Your Call Screening Style Impressing or Annoying Customers?

Call Handling

How many questions are your customers asked when they call your company? Does your receptionist have a checklist of queries for each caller? The first few moments of a phone call can create an impression for a first-time callers, and make a longtime client feel appreciated…or slighted. Your receptionist’s call screening style is an important customer touchpoint. Here are a few things to consider about different screening options:

Ask several questions of every caller.

Although it can be tempting to have your receptionist collect specific information from every caller before offering calls to you, this screening style is likely to backfire. Your receptionist might not recognize all of your frequent callers by name, but those callers know you well, and if they’re asked the same three questions each time they try to reach you, the forecast calls for annoyance: “I’ve given you my email address seven times; why do you need it again? Can’t I just talk to Kevin?”

Ask specific questions for specific types of callers.

With this option, your receptionist may, for example, gather certain information from current clients and other information from potential new customers. But when a call is ultimately going to be transferred to an expert — salespeople, teach team members for support concerns, etc. — it might be worth it to have the pros ask the bulk of the questions rather than your receptionist. Consider this: Do you need all of the information up front in order to best serve your callers? If not, ask your receptionist to skip screening questions. Getting callers to the right place pronto lets them know how important they are to your company:

Caller: Hello! I’m fighting a traffic ticket and am looking for representation.

Receptionist: I would be happy to see if the attorney is available to speak with you about your ticket. May I have your name?

Caller: My name is Tim Calhoun.

Receptionist: Thank you, Tim! One moment, please.

If the other party isn’t available, you can always have your receptionist ask additional screening questions in the message. That way, your potential client will still feel invested in your business.

Keep it simple.

The beauty of using one simple screening question like “May I ask who is calling?” is that callers will typically give your receptionist all the information you’ll need. First-time callers or folks who don’t call often will generally volunteer a bit more info (“This is Jane with XYZ Company. I met him last week at the seminar.”), while frequent callers or family members might identify themselves succinctly to your receptionist, knowing you’ll recognize them (“This is his brother,” “This is Kelly,” etc.). If you find the info a caller volunteers isn’t sufficient, your receptionist can always bounce back and gather a bit more information before connecting a call to you: “Thank you for your patience, Kelly! May I ask what this is regarding?”

Bottom line: less is usually more when it comes to screening questions. When possible, keep your screening style simple and familiar, and this touchpoint is sure to be a pleasant one for your callers!