Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tonight I’m not takin’ no calls

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might think that all I do is shop, take care of my wee beasts, watch TV, and lurk on my favorite blogs. (That's kind of true, actually.) I do, however, have a day job—I am an administrative assistant in a government office, where I am responsible (along with a couple of other admins) for answering the main phone line for the division. Calls. Lots of calls. Lots of calls from citizens, who are often a little unsure about how things work in local government—which I understand completely. The reason people call in is to get information. Somewhere along the way, though, it seems like some folks missed the instructions on how to make a good phone call. Clearly, these people need some help. In the spirit of being helpful, I thought I might include a few hints here on how to get the most out of your phone call.

1. Know why you are calling
You might think that this is a no-brainer, but there have been times when I was 10 minutes into a call and still had no idea what the person was asking. While playing a rousing game of “20 Questions” might be fun in my spare time, I don’t really enjoy it when both of the other lines are ringing, the copier just went toes-up, I can’t get a crucial document to print, and I have a meeting in seven minutes.

2. Be able to articulate said reason
I try to be patient here; I know that not everyone talks on the phone all day long as part of their jobs. I don't need a flowery oration. Just basic, moderately coherent human communication, that’s all I ask. If you are a young person (we get a fair number of calls from students working on research projects), please keep in mind that we are not all young people, and we might not be familiar with the current slang.

3. Do not be on fire
Our office gets lots of calls from people who are up against deadlines. They’ve often waited until the last minute to do all of the research on some kind of massive project. Therefore, they act as if their shorts are on fire, and they’re calling someone to come put them out. When someone says “emergency” to me, I think life-or-death, severed-limb, contractions-10-seconds-apart situations. Not “I forgot that my paperwork is due in 20 minutes and I lost the instructions and if I can’t get this done the world will end” kinds of situations. Not an emergency in my book. Please calm down.

4. Leave a message
Want to drive a receptionist (or other phone-answering person) crazy? Call for someone; note that it’s really important that you talk to them ASAP; refuse the opportunity to leave a message; and continue to call, every 15 minutes, for the rest of the day. I can’t stress this enough: leave a message. I know it’s hard to trust again when you’ve been burned before. But you need to understand: I want you to reach the person you’re trying to call! So you will stop calling me every few minutes. The people I work with are an incredibly passionate bunch of professionals who are very dedicated to serving the public. They return calls religiously. LEAVE A FREAKIN’ MESSAGE. (ahem)

Hopefully someone out there will find my helpful hints, and save some poor soul a bit of misery at work. Anyone else out there ever worked reception? Did I leave anything out?


Junk Drawer Kathy said...

I feel your pain. Unless your computer is on fire, you don't have a true emergency. Plain and simple. I've found that 9 out of 10 people can avoid fires if they plan a little.

My main phone call peeve is when people leave a message and either say their phone number too fast and I have to listen to it again three times to get it all, or they say "Call me" and don't even leave a number. I mean, isn't that what you learn to do in Telephoning 101?

absepa said...

Kathy: At my first office job, we actually had to take a telephone class. It was all about being professional, using proper phone etiquette, etc. Pity those aren't offered to the general public. :)

cardiogirl said...

I swear I left a comment on this already, but I hate it when someone calls and shoots the breeze for a while asking how I'm doing, commenting on the ringing phones in the background, etc.

State your business and get out!