Taking messages for colleagues

January 25th, 2010

I was discussing business calls with my 18 year old son recently – rare though it might be to have a sensible discussion with a teenager. He had answered my office phone while I was on another call and taken a message – name, number, business 🙂

The discussion was around what he might have said if I hadn’t been there and he suggested “I’ll get her to phone you when she’s back”, which is something many receptionists, secretaries and well-meaning colleagues say. Except that he

  • wouldn’t necessarily know when I would be back
  • what I would be doing on my return which would take priority
  • what other reasons I may have for not calling straight back

I suggested he said that he would pass the message on when she returns and, if he knows, when he expects that to be – with a little leeway. So, it’s fine to say that he’s unsure if I’d be back before the end of the day or to ask when the caller would prefer a return call. I want to ensure that he does not (over)promise on my behalf. I reminded him that the line does have an answerphone which I check regularly and he does not have to answer the call.

On an obvious level, are your staff and colleagues skilled at taking messages? On a less obvious level, do they work as a team to support and help each other in such a way that this is just not an issue? Or does poor message-taking hide something else? Call Sue if you’d like to discuss ways of finding out what is really going on and what you can do to encourage the behaviours you want.

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