Every manager should answer the phone

“How can I help you?”

I think that every employee, every manager, every director of a business or nonprofit should regularly take the time to answer the company phone and greet customers.

Answering the phone may be considered an entry-level job, but it’s more important than that. It’s often the first contact between an organization and its customers – the people who are deciding whether to trust you with their business, or who already took a risk by choosing your product or service.

Because most customers don’t call you when you do something right.

The person who answers the phone is “safe” to complain to. You’ll hear honest comments and criticisms, such as no one called them back, or something didn’t work the way that it was supposed to, or someone wasn’t helpful enough.

One of my first jobs was at a small company, and there were times when we all helped to answer the phone. By taking messages and sales orders, transferring customers to sales or technical support, and answering general questions, I learned how to listen when customers complained.

Beneath the frustration and irritation, I heard them say that they cared enough to call us to work through the problems. Some of my co-workers even started transferring irate customers to me, instead of technical support.

Managers and directors need to keep in touch with the people who use their products or services – who they are, the challenges they face, and what they need in order to trust you to solve their problems. And the best way to do that is by talking with them personally.

In fact, the customers who call to complain are a treasure to any organization, because they are giving you the chance to get it right.

No matter what organization I work for or volunteer with, I hope that I always have the opportunity to answer the phone.

Have you worked at a job where you interacted directly with customers and prospective customers? How did what you learned from your conversations help you improve your product or service?

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