Conquer the Telephone & Its Interruptions

By: Sergeant Carpenter

First, I hope you understand that my job is to help you learn to re-arrange your work systems to enable you to get more done in less time. For that reason, you will find my articles to be short, to the point and without frills. You don't have time to waste reading a bunch of excess just need to learn what to do to get more done in less time. If you do not fully understand, or just need more information, just go to my web site and fill out the contact form and ask your question in the comments section.

The telephone can be a tremendous time saver as well as a time waster. The important point is to make it your servant, not your must take control, or suffer the loss of wasteful consequences.

You need to schedule time to deal effectively with phone calls, not take them on a chance basis, at the caller's convenience. Step one is avoiding the knowledge of an incoming call. Choose a method that suits your personality and your work situation.

Ask your secretary to hold all your calls, then ask for a review or message slips at a time of your choosing, once or twice per day, allowing yourself time to return those which are important, or to give instructions for your secretary to handle the response.

It is best if your secretary should be located far enough from you that you never hear the phone ring, or hear him/her the conversations.

3. Use voicemail or an answering machine. It should be located where you cannot hear it and phones should be turned off. Your machine can offer a courteous voicemail message that simply explains that in order to work better and serve each person with undivided attention, you return phone calls between 10:00 and 11:00 A.M. And 3:00 to 4:00 P.M., for example. It's also a good idea to encourage the caller to contact you using email. Of course, you check email no more often than twice daily, just before or after you handle your phone calls would be a good time.

Obviously, customer service and order taking lines should be very responsive. A good plan for this is to farm this work out to a company that charges per minute and specializes in these tasks, such as:

1. Direct Connect at 402-758-1200 follow the voice mail instructions to speak to Jim Buck

2. Live Ops at works through home based reps for lower cost

3.West Teleservices big player

4. InPulse All the services to put together a big direct marketing campaign and handle response.

You may want to establish a second phone number (I use a pre-paid cell phone) whose number you share with only certain special people whom you can trust to call only for business; those who will not call for personal reasons. This allows the few truly important calls to get to you . Most of my friends, associates and customers do not have the number for my cell phone. For those important calls that do get through at times other than your scheduled phone time, your only reasonable option is to be courteous, efficient and businesslike.

Avoid answering in a social manner like "Hi, John, how are you?" Get right to the point: "Hi, John, it's good to hear from you; what can I do for you?

If John gets chatty you might say: "John, it's a really busy day and I have an appointment/meeting/phone call to make in three/five minutes. How can I help you?"

If John is really, really chatty, you might say: "John, it was great to hear from you, but I am late for a meeting/appointment/phone call, I've really got to go."

To summarize:

1. Turn off the phone's ringer to and keep your distance, avoiding its distractions.

2. Give your secretary clear instructions and let her handle the phone work. Ask for a report at your predesignated time

3.Establish an "urgent" line. Give this number only to people you can trust to respect your need to work effectively.

4. When you cannot avoid the phone, or if a call slips through your defensive perimeter, be businesslike, and to the point. Be familiar with the purpose and scope of a call before you answer or return a call, then stick to the program, take care of business and move to your next scheduled event.

5. Encourage callers to use email instead of calling. Then you can better prepare responses , etc. and email allows more effective use of your communication time.

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