• May 27, 2022

The art of screening calls without disturbing your customers

I recently called a colleague who works for a large recruiting firm to tell him about an opportunity that would have earned him around $30,000. He would normally have his mobile number, but that day I had problems with my electronic organizer and had to call his office directly.

The receptionist who answered the call launched into the second coming of the Spanish inquisition. She wanted to know why she was calling and what she wanted to talk to this person about. Not wanting to get into the complexities of the opportunity, I told him that she knew him personally and that she had an opportunity that would interest him. She sighed loudly and put me on hold. When she came back, she told me that he was too busy to talk to me and would take a message.

After his response, I called another colleague and gave him a $40,000 opportunity.

How much money are you losing with call screening?

It’s amazing how much time and money we can spend on attracting people to our business, but when they call us on the phone, instead of giving them a warm welcome, we annoy them by “screening” the calls and making them feel uncomfortable.

So my question to you is… how many people are calling you and not giving you opportunities because of your screening policy.

Every person I’ve ever asked why they have a detection policy always says the same thing… which is to save time so they can focus on what they need to do. Or, they are trying to get rid of all the time-consuming calls that could easily be handled by someone else.

So, let’s look at ways you can filter, without filtering!

Introduce a no detection policy in your business
I have always had a “no detection” policy on all of my dealings. This means not asking for their name, not asking for the purpose of the call or any other information. But even so, I still know exactly who is on the phone when I am connected.

So how do I do that? Let me share the 8 things your receptionist can implement right away so you can filter without filtering:

  1. Have your receptionist ALWAYS answer the phone using your first and last name This is often one of the hardest things to deal with for both business owners and receptionists. Than! My receptionist answering the phone using her first and last name!! So why do I insist on answering the phone this way? Because it’s human nature that when you hear someone use their first and last name, we automatically respond the same way. 99% of callers will respond with something like “Hi Jane, this is Frank Butler from XYZ Company. Is Bob there?” It also establishes your receptionist as a person of authority within your business. Suddenly, the person who is calling you, but can’t talk to you, will always feel more comfortable asking the person on the phone how they can help you.
  2. Always use the phrase “He/she is WITH SOMEONE right now” How many times does a receptionist take your call, put you on hold, and then return to your call saying… “I’m sorry, but Bob is in a meeting right now. Can I take a message?” And what do you think automatically? Usually one of two things: that she’s in an internal meeting or that she can’t be bothered to take her call. Ask your receptionist to update their terminology with… “I’m sorry, but Bob’s with someone right now. I can interrupt if it’s urgent, or you’d rather have him call you back whenever I’m free.” Interestingly, I have never been interrupted yet! When callers know you’re “with someone,” then all of a sudden you’re with a real person. Your clients will usually honor this. And if they don’t, you can guarantee it’s urgent.
  3. Always set aside time each day when you return all your phone calls When they can’t reach you, most people will ask the receptionist what time you’ll be free. Having a set time each day to return calls allows your receptionist to let you know without having to constantly monitor and interrupt you. “John, Bob will definitely be free between 2 and 3 pm, which is when he returns all his phone calls. Did you need to reach him before then, or is there a better time to call you back?” If it’s urgent, you’ll find that most people will reach out and respond at a time that works for them.
  4. Update the terminology of your receptionists When taking a message, ask your receptionist to use the following terminology: “Jane, I can pass a message to Bob, or I can certainly try to help you if you prefer.” That gives the person she calls a choice. And usually, if it’s something trivial, they’ll ask the receptionist. Your receptionist can determine if it would be better for you to answer it yourself or someone else. If it’s someone else, she can forward the call immediately.
  5. Train your callers on who to best contact If after all this, you still get calls that would be better directed to someone else, then the best way to deal with this is by offering exceptional customer service and empowering your customers to ask for the right person. For example, if you get a call that is best answered by one of your salespeople, simply respond with… “Frank, thanks for your call. I’m so glad you contacted me about it. The best person to help you with this This is our Customer Relations Manager, Trevor. He always gets a great turn out from these types of inquiries, so let me introduce him to him and he can take care of you. Is that okay with you?” And then pass them on. If you’d like, follow up with a quick follow-up phone call a day later to make sure they’ve been taken care of. But don’t try to solve their problem for them. Otherwise, you will always be solving them!
  6. Describe what you are doing every step of the way Make sure your receptionist describes what you’re doing every step of the way. By this I mean that if she is about to put someone on hold, then let her caller know. For example: “John, I think Bob is with someone right now, but let me put you on hold for a moment and I’ll check her availability.”
  7. Use the caller’s name as much as possible Everyone loves the sound of their own name… so use it! Encourage your receptionist to use the caller’s name when possible. For example: “Sure John, let me write down your contact information.”
  8. Train your receptionist Interestingly, the art of detection is easy to implement, but it often goes awry when you don’t train your Director of First Impressions (ie your receptionist) properly.

So here are 3 things you need to do to help you capture every opportunity that comes your way:

  1. Provide your receptionist with a phone script that incorporates the key points above. And explain why you want it used.
  2. Schedule a time each day that you can allocate for answering phone calls, so your receptionist can set the caller’s expectations for when you will call them back.
  3. Ask your receptionist to test the concept, and then ask for their feedback to see if it works.

Now for the full phone script

So, in short, here’s the phone script you can implement in your business today and improve your customer response.


“Good morning/afternoon, welcome to Innova Business Momentum. This is NAME/SURNAME”.

[Hi, this is John Smith, can I speak to Bob Brown please]

“Sure Bob, I’ll put you on hold for a bit and check to see if he’s there.”
[Put caller on hold to enable call to be transferred]

If you are out of the office or unable to take the call

“Sorry John, Bob is with someone right now. Do you want me to ask him to call you as soon as he’s available?”

[When will he call me back?]

“John, Bob will definitely be free between 2 and 3 pm, which is when he returns all his phone calls. Did you need to reach him before then, or is there a better time to call you back?”

[Can you ask him to call me?]

“Sure, John, what would be the best number to reach you?”

“Thanks for your call John, Bob will be in touch with you shortly”

Key considerations for your receptionist:

  • Make sure your receptionist smiles when they answer the phone – the caller can hear it in your voice!
  • Ask your receptionist to speak clearly and confidently, don’t mutter
  • Use the caller’s name when possible
  • Let them know what you are doing, eg putting it on hold, etc.

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