7 Bad Habits Every Receptionist Should Break When Answering Calls

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Receptionists play such an important role for any business, and how they interact with callers on the phone can either build or break customer loyalty. Receptionists are often, figuratively and literally, the voice of a business, and any bad habits in how they handle calls reflect poorly on the company. Here are the top 7 bad habits that make callers cringe:

Talking too fast

Everyone understands that receptionists are busy, especially when more than one call comes in at a time. But speeding through greetings and questions usually results in having to repeat information so that the caller can clearly understand what’s being said. Slow down, and take the time to speak clearly in a cheerful, professional voice.

Telling, not asking to put on hold

No caller enjoys being put on hold, but sometimes it’s inevitable. If you must put a caller on hold, explain why and ask their permission. Saying “I’ll connect you to Mr. Smith, may I put you on hold while I do so?” or “May I put you on hold while I find out the answer to your question” is received much more favorably than “Hold please.” Never leave the person on hold for more than a minute or they may become upset and hang up.

Saying “I don’t know”

While it may very well be true that you don’t know the answer to a caller’s question, simply saying “I don’t know” erodes the caller’s confidence that they will be taken care of. If you don’t know the answer, simply say, “That’s a great question and I want to be sure I get you an accurate answer. May I put you on hold while I find out, or may I call you back with that information?”


The callers have no idea that your phones have been ringing off the hook, or that the caller before them was rude, or any other aspect about your day—and honestly, they shouldn’t know because it’s not something they need to care about. All that matters is why they are calling and how you are going to help them in the most efficient and effective way possible. Communicating anything beyond that is unprofessional.

Allowing caller to set the tone

Receptionists must establish the tone of the call with a friendly greeting and then are responsible for keeping the conversation calm and productive. Even if a caller is upset or angry, responding with impatience or even retorts only escalates the situation. Instead, offer empathy and a solution. For example, say “I can imagine that was very frustrating for you,” and then offer to connect the caller to the staff member who can fix the problem or take down the information and tell them who they should expect to hear back from and, if possible, when.

Not repeating and verifying information

It is always a good habit to repeat the information back to the client when you are taking a message, and write down key components of the call such as the caller’s name, the reason for calling, and actions that need to be taken. Callers rarely get irritated if a receptionist kindly asks, “Your information is important to us and I want to make sure I have it right, so may I repeat it back to you?”

Not using positive phrases

Goodwill phrases such as “my pleasure”, “have a great day”, and “thank you” may seem basic but they contribute a great deal to overall customer satisfaction. We’re all human, and wishing one another well with these common phrases is appreciated.

If your receptionists are overwhelmed and not able to consistently manage the best phone habits, it may be time to consider outsourcing your calls to a live answering service.

If you’d like to learn more about how live call answering receptionists can handle your calls with the most professional etiquette, contact Voice Link of Columbus, Inc. Customized communication solutions, secure HIPAA/HiTech messaging, and appointment scheduling can save you time and money while optimizing customer care.

We offer month-to-month service agreements to meet the needs of any business regardless of size. Our excellent reputation, expert staff, and state-of-the-art technology will exceed your expectations. Request information online or call us at (800) 262-2799 for a free consultation.