Time Management Tips for Incoming Phone Calls

business woman on the phone
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Inbound phone calls can eat up a lot of time and seriously decrease your productivity by pulling you away from other tasks. But just as there are ways of handling outgoing phone calls that will improve your time management, there are ways of handling inbound phone calls to cut down on the amount of time you burn up speaking on the phone - without being rude to the person who's called you. These phone answering tips will help.

Answer Your Phone With a Proper Business Phone Greeting.

For instance, when answering the phone say something such as, "Cypress Technologies. Susan speaking. How may I help you?" This not only lets the caller know that they've reached a business but puts the onus on him to answer the question, saving time on exploratory questions such as, "Is this Cypress Technologies?", and idle chit-chat.

Think and Prioritize as You Speak.

Is the call best handled right now or later? Many of the phone calls businesses receive are quick inquiries that are easily answered, such as, "How late are you open?" But others involve more complex and time-consuming answers. If that's the case, tell the caller so, and ask when it would be convenient to call her back to discuss it.

Use Paraphrasing and Summarizing to Keep Phone Calls on Track.

If you're speaking to someone on the phone who seems to want to chat or stray from the point, say something such as, "So what I hear you saying is..." or "So the key points are..." or "Is (insert summary) a fair summary of what you were saying?" It's hard to be chatty with someone who refuses to chat.

Close Each Call With a Summary of the Action You and the Caller Have Agreed On

While this will only take seconds in most cases, it can save you a lot of time by avoiding errors and the need to double-check. For instance, after a conversation during which you arranged a meeting with a client, you might say, "Good. I'll meet with you at your office at (insert location) at 10 a.m. tomorrow and we'll go over the samples together."

Keep a Message Pad by the Phones, so You Can Jot Details During the Call.

This is not only good time management at the time, helping to keep you focused on the call, but a help to time management later if you need to find and/or review the details of a particular conversation.

Give Your Clients and Customers the Email Option

Many of them will use email to contact you rather than phoning if they know what your email address is. Ensure that your company's email address is prominent on your business cards and on your website if you have one. If you have their email addresses, send email to your current clients and customers, mentioning the email option and presenting it as a way to improve communications.

Use Technology to Manage the Time You're Spending Answering the Phone

As a minimum, your business should have an answering machine and voice mail. Set these up with appropriate business scripts, and use them to answer the telephone for you when you're out of the office or need to work on something uninterrupted. Then schedule a time to answer these phone messages each day. In terms of time management, you'll gain valuable time by grouping phone calls together.

If You're Running a Home-Based Business, Get a Separate Business Phone or Line

You need to have a second "business-only" telephone with its own "business-only" answering machine and/or voice mail. Not only is this more professional, but it will save you the time it takes to wade through messages and determining which ones are business-related.

It's Always Best to Have a Person Answer the Phone

Having a machine pick up or worse, an automated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system is a real turn off that will cost you business when people don't bother to leave messages or call back. If answering incoming phone calls is taking up too much time during your day, consider hiring a receptionist or a professional answering service to answer the phone for you. The cost of having someone else do it may be more than offset by the increase in your productivity and better sales.

Keep a Written Script of Frequently Asked Questions Posted by Your Phone.

It saves you and your employees time if they don't have to search for answers or think about how to answer a particular request when answering the phone.

Phone Tips Summary

Remember, the phone is supposed to be a business tool, not an intrusive time-waster that rules your working day. Handling your inbound phone calls according to these time management tips will help you better manage your time, improve your productivity, and put your telephone back in its proper place - helping you run your business rather than running you.