Have you ever been on the receiving end of an unprofessional conversation when calling a business? It’s just the worst. Not only does it ruin your mood, it also makes you question the competence of the business you called.

More often than not, receptionists are responsible for providing your customers with their first impressions of your business. Make sure your receptionist knows how to answer a phone and can succeed in holding a professional telephone conversation.

What to avoid during a professional telephone conversation:


1.) “Hello?”

You’re not answering your home or personal line; you’re answering your business line. Answering the telephone with a casual hello is not acceptable in a professional environment. Greet your caller with a cheerful good morning/afternoon/evening. Saying the business name will familiarize your callers with your brand. Finalize your greeting with a custom phrase of your choosing.

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Have fun making your own answer phrase but make sure that it’s brief, inviting and professional.

2.) “I don’t know.”

When a caller presents you with a question, never respond with, “I don’t know.” We’re not asking you to know all the answers, but never let your callers hear that you don’t know. Your business should always display a professional and expert image when interacting with callers.

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Train anyone who answers your business calls to use positive alternatives to just plain, “I don’t know.”You can opt to say:

“Hmm, let me confirm that information. Can I place you on a brief hold?”

“Sara is our expert when it comes to _______. Can I transfer you to her extension?”

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“Actually, our pricing scheduling has recently changed. Can I place you on hold while I

quickly grab our updated rates?”

3.) “He’s not here.”

All employees responsible for answering your business lines should never disclose that someone is not in the office. If someone isn’t available to take a call, for whatever reason, your standard answer should be, “He’s not available.”

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4.) “I can (chew) take a (chew) message.”

“Back in 2013, Dutch scientists examined 42 sufferers [of misophonia] and found… 81% of [them] were most affected by chewing sounds, 64% to breathing and 69% to repetitive sounds like pen-clicking.”

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The last thing you want to do is turn your callers off by chewing gum, eating food, taking a sip or breathing heavily into the phone. Whenever that phone rings, make sure you’re not snacking and are prepared to answer the call.

5.) “Why don’t you call back?”

You spend so much energy networking to spread brand awareness and so much money to market your business, don’t send callers away. If your caller wants to speak with a person that is unavailable, take a message.

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If you ask the caller to call back, they may refuse and call your competitor as soon as they hang up with you. Don’t let that happen. Take down their information or patch the caller to the person they want to speak with right away.

** How to answer a phone 101 includes having a competent and organized person answering your business lines.

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6.) “What do you mean you don’t understand?”

Always remain polite and helpful throughout your entire phone conversation. You don’t ever want to make your caller feel like you’re belittling them or talking down to them. Hang on to all of your customers by speaking professionally with them and handling their call with compassion.

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Reframe the conversation to reflect your willingness to help answer their questions.

7.) “That’s not my problem.”

If you have an angry or disgruntled caller on the line, never lose your temper on them. A professional customer service representative is able to actively listen to the caller’s main complaints.

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Some callers just want a person to listen to their grievance; others would trade their trust and loyalty if you resolved their issue quickly. Make your customers’ problems your problem and earn their business.

8.) “I can’t help you.”

Instead of hearing, “I can’t help you,” a customer hears, “I don’t want your business.” It’s highly insulting to tell your caller that you can’t help them. Instead, try referring someone who can help them. Or, let the caller know what your business specializes in and see if you can help them with any of the services you currently offer.

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9.) “Sure, she has your number.”

Never assume another employee has the caller’s contact information. With every call you receive, take down a brief message that provides the name of the caller, telephone number and the reason for their call.

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Always be on the safe side and confirm the caller’s telephone number, digit by digit. It’s a terrible feeling when a salesperson goes to call a hot lead back only to find out they have the wrong number.

10.) “Why don’t you just read our website?”

Have you ever spoken with a receptionist that clearly doesn’t want to be working that day? Anyone who is handling your business lines needs to portray and represent your brand in the best light possible. Someone who is calling in for more information shouldn’t be told, “Just read our website.”

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In order to provide exceptional customer service, you need to give all callers your undivided attention. Your receptionist needs to treat every conversation with professionalism and friendliness. Take the time to answer the caller’s questions and by the end of the conversation, you may find yourself earning a new customer.


Let our award winning virtual receptionists answer your phones for you!

If you don’t have the time or desire to learn how to answer a phone in your office, leave it to the professionals. A Courteous Communications has been providing award winning answering services since first opening in 1986.