The average manager today spends as much as 25% of their time on the phone. But whether mobile or land line the phone is an important communication tool in today’s business world, so how can you cut down the amount of time you spend on the telephone?
Below are 15 strategies you may like to consider, add your own strategies in the comments box.
- A lot of calls get put through to the wrong people because the receptionist does not know who is responsible for what. Make sure that anyone responsible for taking calls always has an up-to-date directory of people within your department and their functions or responsibilities. When there is a change of personnel within your department, remember to brief receptionists and secretaries in other departments.
- Be choosy about the calls you take. Don’t take calls which someone else in the department can handle just as well as you can. Give the receptionist clear instructions as to which calls are to be put through to you.
- Set aside a specific time of day when you will take or make telephone calls. For example, you could arrange to take telephone queries from your own staff between 11 and 12 o’clock and to make all your outgoing calls between 2 and 4 pm.
- If you have the luxury of a secretary, give them a list of names of people, which you have divided into three categories: (a) people who are to be put through to you at all times; (b) people who are to be put through to you, except when you have indicated that you are not to be disturbed; and (c) people who should be referred to colleagues or other staff in your department.
- If the caller is important, the receptionist should take the name and number of the caller, and either check when you should call back or (if the call is not so urgent); advise the caller when you will call back. If the caller is less important, the caller should be asked to phone you back during the time you have set aside to take calls.
- Train receptionists to ask callers for the subject of the conversation, so that if papers need to be discussed, you can study them before making your return call. This saves time and ensures a better discussion.
- Arrange to talk to your staff at specific times on specific days. For example, one manager I know sets aside Friday afternoons to have a catch up with their staff, who phone in at predetermined times during the afternoon.
- Plan your own calls and prepare for them just as carefully as if you were holding a face-to-face conversation. Before you make the call, write down the key points, and the order in which you want to raise them. Make sure that you have all the papers you need ready at hand.
- Telephone calls last longer when the person receiving the call is concentrating on other work. If you are making the call, check that the person you are calling is free to take the call. If you are receiving the call, check the subject matter and arrange to call back later when you can give it your full attention.
- If you are calling an overseas agent or customer and know that the call will take some time, send an email in advance asking if the person you want to contact will be free at a specific time, and indicate the subject you want to discuss. This will save you time in trying to contact the person and make a more productive conversation.
- Don’t let calls last too long. Use your watch (particularly if your watch has a stopwatch function) to check how long the conversation has lasted. Alternatively, invest in a telephone which shows the duration of the call. Having an egg-timer on your desk will get the message across to your staff that you do not like long telephone conversations! Remember that if you initiate the call, you are in control, and can end the call when it suits you.
- If the person you are speaking to does not get to the point quickly, help him or her along with direct questions such as “What can I do for you?”, or “What is it you would like to tell me?”, or “Is there anything else that you wanted to talk to me about?”
- Think before you pick up the telephone. Is it really urgent? Will it need to be confirmed in writing? Be clear about what you want to achieve by making the phone call. If you want something done internally, consider sending an email instead.
- Remember that telephone calls can last longer than you plan because the person at the other end of the line discovers points which he or she wants to discuss with you and which would otherwise have been put into writing.
- Be honest with yourself about your calls – are they just a way of putting off other jobs? Do your priority tasks first, and you will find that the phone calls take less time than you might have imagined.
Till Next Time
Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor