There is a need, a desperate need in America for training in basic phone skills, both in answering and leaving messages.
This should not be left to an employer to train you. These should be fundamental skills. Skills you can develop yourself by taking five minutes and applying some critical thinking.
And yet, day after day, I am presented with people that can’t answer a phone or leave a message to save their ass.
For those that might get a link to read some twit rant about phone messages, I was in the US Marines, and I like to tell old sea stories.
I’ll never forget the first time I drew guard mount duty where there was a phone involved.
I was provided phone training. A 5 minute, high speed low drag “what you will and will not do on the phone while representing the unit” training session.
Because I was a rock, a pebble, what we call a noob today, and I could not be trusted to just automatically know how to answer a phone in a proper military manner, or know how to leave a message.
I was now going to have the weighty responsibility of answering that phone, representing the unit to anyone, anyone at all from the outside world, that may want to call in.
The President of the United States or the Commandant of the Marine Corps may take it into their head to call the guard desk at MACS-5 just to screw with a Lance Corporal, and you’d damn well better not answer the official phone, “Yeah?”.
It was incumbent upon me to perform my duties in a professional manner.
Thus, my Sergeant instructed me for 5 minutes on how to answer a damn phone.
I have never forgotten my surprise at the forethought involved. I’d already gotten so used to everyone in the civilian world assuming everyone else knows everything and leaving you floundering, that I never expected something as simple as answering a phone to have a procedure… or that someone gave some thought to the fact that a new employee/person would be uncertain what to do exactly or how to do it, want to have that task done in a certai way, and addressed it.
It was just another of a thousand things in the Marines that reinforced the concept that prior proper planning and thinking about the smallest details when you have the luxury of time help to avoid stupid mistakes.
I was taught that even somethign as simple as answering the phone could be approached in a professional manner.
“Identify professional location you have reached, identify yourself with rank and last name, identify your current duty role, ask how you can be of service.”
For example, answering the phone with “Marine Air Control Squadron 5 Guard Mount, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, Sgt Patricelli speaking, how may I help you today sir or ma’am?”
Or, closer to home, “Humpty Dumpty Crane and Hoist, this is John Patricelli, how can I help you?”
You tell the caller what company they have reached and who they are speaking with. You’re polite. And you’re as brief as humanly possible. It’s called being professional, and it’s about as basic as you can get.
If I call someone, before I start talking to them, I need to know I’ve reached the right person, the person I hope can help me or is the right person to hear my spiel. If I get the receptionist, and I need to order a part, then I can ask for someone in parts ordering.
If I call the police department to report a theft, what I don’t expect to hear is someone answering the phone with “Yeah? Wassup dude?”
“Umm…is this the police department?”
“Yeah, whattaya got bud?”
Just, no. Really? No.
If you ever call a company looking for goods or services, and you have to ask them if you reached such-and-so company because the person who answered sounds like a stoner that answered his home phone, then they answered the phone wrong or half-assed.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve called a sales or services number, and gotten “Yeah?” as the whole and total reply.
Yeah? Shit, I don’t even answer internal calls from extensions in the company with “Yeah”, let alone outside lines. And if you can’t tell if a call is coming in from an outside line or from some schmuck that works in your shipping department, play it safe by being professional every time you answer the phone instead of never.
But this, this is not even close to being as bad as how people leave messages.
There is a reason Elune cries. Bad phone messages cause the tears of Elune to flow.
Here is a message I had left on my phone this morning, and I’m not even making this shit up;
“Hey, this is Doug, the parts don’t fit, they’re not the right size. Give me a call after seven.”
Part of what I do is handle repair parts sales and field service for cranes and hoists all over Minnesota. Literally thousands of customers.
I can think of nine Dougs right off the top of my head who are frequent customers for crane and hoist parts, most of whom I’ve already talked to this week, and I sell of customer specified parts, and even more people go through the city desk for parts orders.
Doug? Who the fuck is Doug? What company are you with? What’s your phone number to call you back? When were they ordered? Who makes the part? What was your PO#? What was the part number you ordered?
ANY ONE of those things would have given me a corner to peel back to get at the rest of this, let me identify the most likely customer, and return his call. Any one of them.
You’d almost think he put effort into giving me as little information as possible just to fuck with me.
But I know he didn’t… because I get this shit ALL THE TIME. Most of those Dougs are all liable to leave the same kind of message, I can’t even narrow it down by “the Doug that leaves bad messages.”
“Hey, this is Joe, our shop crane got hit by a forklift last night, I need you to send a service guy out first thing in the morning, has to be here by 5 AM.”
Joe? Joe WHO, motherfucker? Are you shitting me? What company are you with? What is your number? What address? Are you even a customer with us?
I’m not kidding. That’s another message I had waiting for me this morning.
I mean, how hard is it, even without training, to spend a few seconds of your time thinking over what information might just be needed so someone can get in touch with you?
“Hi, this is Joe Guyabara, Lord of the Shirts. I’m the Head Shirt Guy at Totally Awesome Shirts, Ltd in Towering Manhood, Minnesota. We have a hoist what just blew up and is raining fiery debris all over our sewing machines. I need you to send a service tech asap to our west Towering Manhood address, and give me a call when he’s expected to be here. my number is 555-1369.”
Who are you, who are you representing (if anyone), where are you, what do you need, and how can I reach your sorry ass so you know that I got your message and am responding?
Is that really so difficult?
And yet… yes. Yes it is.
Please, if you are a young gamer still in school, if you have yet to enter the professional workplace, PLEASE, I beg of you, spend just three minutes to think about how you’d answer a phone or leave a message when you are representing a company, or yourself as a business professional.
You don’t have to be a coldly corporate as a DirecTV or Comcast service rep on the phone, boredly reading responses off a cue card. You can liven it up a teeny bit, inject your personality into it, you just need to be able to clearly identify yourself or what you need, with some consideration given to providing the basic info someone on the other end needs to help you.
Think about it. If you’ve got your resume out there, and you’re hoping to get a phone call from some Human Resources person, are you really going to impress anyone by answering your phone, “Mario’s Plumbing and Repairs, head mushroom bouncer speaking, hey dude, whats up?”
That I even feel like I have to say something about this just depresses the shit out of me.