How Receptionists Should Answer the Phone: Scripts, Skills and Tools for Success

Receptionists are the gatekeepers to most interactions between potential customers and your business.

In fact, 92% of all business interactions happen over the phone. 

And that single interaction could radically affect a prospect’s or vendor’s decision to do business with you. 

With so much on the line, training receptionists to accurately represent your brand and delight callers is critical.

So where do you start? 

Read on to get the receptionist phone scripts, skills and tools needed to create a consistent caller experience.

12 Must-Have Receptionist Skills

Hiring is the best time to develop your receptionist wish list and evaluate candidates against those criteria. 

But what are the most invaluable traits a receptionist should possess? 

  • Confidence: A hesitant or unsure receptionist reflects on your business. Your receptionist should speak with conviction and evoke confidence in both written and verbal communication. 
  • Basic industry knowledge: Confidence stems from knowledge. Your receptionist should know the ins and outs of your industry and be able to understand the lingo of your callers. For example, if you work for a law firm, and your receptionists don’t understand the distinction between estate planning and litigation, they won’t be very helpful to callers.

  • Organization: Receptionists wear a dozen hats throughout the day. Without exceptional organizational skills, they could lose critical messages or forget to call a customer back, resulting in lost revenue for your business. 

  • Positivity: Receptionists are the face of your company. Their tone should excite callers to work with your business — not turn them away.

  • Tech-savviness: Receptionists work with multiple communication channels — including phone, text, email and even chatbots. They’re also responsible for scheduling appointments and managing client documents online. A receptionist who’s comfortable and experienced with technology will make fewer mistakes and handle more tasks in a day.

  • Exceptional written and verbal communication: Interactions with your receptionists speak volumes about your business. Receptionists should be able to communicate ideas clearly and accurately in both writing and oral communication. Ensure potential receptionists use precise language, and evaluate their communication skills during the interview and followup process.

  • Professionalism: This one goes without saying — a disheveled or unprofessional receptionist reflects poorly on your business and can detract potential callers.

  • Time management: A receptionist’s job is shifty and unpredictable in nature. But jumping from task to task can waste time. When evaluating receptionists, test their ability to manage their own time and schedules. They should use project management software or have an internal system for managing tasks, timelines and priority levels. 

How Should Receptionists Answer the Phone? 6 Essential Etiquette Rules

When greeting clients, receptionists must exude confidence, professionalism and positivity. An offputting interaction could sour a client relationship or jeopardize a business opportunity. 

To create a consistent and positive caller experience, put these 6 phone etiquette rules in place: 

  • Answer promptly and merrily: Answer in an upbeat tone and avoid leaving callers waiting. 
  • Thank the caller for contacting the business: Express gratitude and remind the caller who they’re ringing to start the call on a positive note.  
  • State your name and role: Callers want to know who they’re speaking to and whether you can help. Don’t make them ask.  
  • Talk loudly and clearly: People grow frustrated when they can’t hear or understand the person on the other line. Receptionists should speak audibly to avoid any confusion and quickly get callers the information they need.   
  • Take detailed notes: Missing key details in a message can mean the difference between landing and losing a client. Require receptionists to take detailed records of all incoming calls that require a callback so your team has a full download on the conversation. 
  • Ask permission before transferring or placing a call on hold: Always let callers know what they can expect before you pass on or pause the conversation. Putting callers on a long hold without their knowledge is frustrating, and they’ll be more likely to hang up.  

5 Receptionist Scripts to Handle Any Call Like a Pro

1. Greeting the Caller

A receptionist’s greeting sets the tone for the call. 

Answering with an upbeat message can calm an angry caller. And the opposite is also true. Greeting a lukewarm or skeptical caller with a cold, impersonal tone can prompt them to turn to a competitor.

Here are the essential components of a warm, welcoming phone greeting: 

  • Greet the caller with “Hi” or “Hello”
  • Thank the caller
  • Recite the name of the business
  • State your name
  • Ask how you can help

Example greeting:

Hi, thank you for calling [INSERT BUSINESS NAME.] My name is [INSERT NAME]. How can I help you today?

Encourage your receptionists to put their own spin on the greeting — as long as they cover the points above. 

Remember: Callers dialed you to get specific information, so your greeting should be short and sweet and centered on answering their questions quickly and efficiently.

2. Transferring Calls 

Nothing is more frustrating to callers than being transferred across multiple departments before they get help. 

Avoid a poor user experience by taking the time to fully understand their needs and identifying the best person to assist. Let the caller know where you’re transferring them and why to confirm you’ve correctly identified their issue. 

Here’s an example: 

Thank you for your call today. Based on what I’ve heard, [INSERT NAME] from [INSERT DEPARTMENT] would be the best person to help you with [INSERT ISSUE]. I can transfer you now if you’d like. 

3. Putting Callers on Hold

Consumers call to get quick answers or solutions. They expect interactions to be fast, and few will wait on hold.

In fact, 32% of customer service callers aren’t willing to wait on hold, and 27% of callers will wait up to 1 minute. 

The best phone etiquette is to avoid putting callers on hold, but that’s not always possible. 

When you can’t avoid the hold button, follow these rules of engagement:

  • Be upfront. Tell callers why you’re putting them on hold. 
  • Always ask permission. Answering the phone with “hold please” is a terrible experience. If you have to put the caller on hold, be sure to ask if they mind being placed on a brief hold. 
  • Estimate their hold time. Will it be 1 minute or 10? Provide an estimate so callers aren’t thrown off guard. 

4. Taking Messages

When receptionists leave out critical details in a message, the caller has to repeat information they’ve already relayed to your business. 

Gathering enough information will also help your team members prioritize follow-ups and assist callers faster.

Here are some essential details to capture on the call:

  • First and last name
  • Customer status (existing or potential)
  • Reason for calling
  • Who they need to speak with
  • Urgency level 
  • When they prefer to be reached

5. Answering a Question You Don’t Know

Receptionists should be problem solvers, even when they don’t have the answers. Simply saying, “I don’t know,” won’t cut it with a caller. 

Here’s a more delicate way to approach answering questions you don’t know: 

I’m not sure about [RELAY QUESTION] and wouldn’t want to give you inaccurate information. [INSERT NAME] would be the best person to answer that for you. Would you mind briefly holding while I transfer you?

The Best Receptionist Tools

You have an endlessly ringing phone and in-store customers to help. But your receptionists can’t answer everyone at once. 

Implementing the right receptionist software allows you to assist more callers and in-store visitors with fewer resources. 

Numa is the best receptionist tool to help you answer every caller with a professional response. The AI-enhanced answering service texts callers when you can’t answer, responds to FAQs and automates tasks, saving your receptionist time and headaches.

Here's how it works:

  1. When customers call your business, Numa gives them the option to receive a text message when you don't answer the phone. 
  2. Once the caller engages, Numa texts the customer and can answer questions about your business or assist with completing orders.
  3. Over time, Numa learns about your business and recommends new answers to commonly asked questions. 

Have a complicated text request? Numa can easily route messages to the correct person or department, giving your receptionist the time to communicate with urgent customers and answer more complicated questions. 

Plus, you gain complete visibility into text conversations and voicemail transcriptions to ensure consistent communication. 

Best of all, you can set up Numa in 15 minutes or less and give customers the option to reach you how they prefer — text. 

Better Answers

Because we all want answers

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