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Receptionist Etiquette Tips: How to Properly Take Phone Messages

Receptionist Etiquette Tips: How to Properly Take Phone Messages

Have you ever called an office and had a receptionist chewing gum in your ear when you’re trying to leave a message? Or have you waited for a call back from the attorney you left a message for, only to find out the receptionist wrote down the wrong phone number? Having an informed and trained receptionist answering your lines should be your company’s priority. After all, you only have one chance to make a great first impression.

We want to help your business become experts when it comes to taking telephone messages. These simple and easy to follow receptionist etiquette tips will save your office from an embarrassing conversation.    

Receptionist Etiquette Tips From Our Expert Virtual Receptionists

Professionalism Speaks Volumes 

First thing’s first, before even taking a caller’s phone message, you need to make sure you start the conversation by showing professionalism from the onset. Make sure your receptionist answers all calls with a uniform phrase. Providing the name of your company gives your callers reassurance that they’ve reached the right business. You also want your receptionist to include their first name to give a more personal touch to the conversation.

You may want to try a standard greeting: 

“Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening, thank you for calling A Courteous Communications. My name is Sara. How may I help you today?”    

By starting off with a friendly and professional greeting, you’re setting the mood and tone for the rest of the conversation.

Confirm the Caller’s Information

This next tip is recommended when answering for consulting, legal or other professional service offices. If you have a caller wanting to know more information to retain your services, it’s a great practice to get their name and telephone number before continuing with a message intake form.

Just in case your line goes dead for whatever reason, you still have a way to contact that calling lead if you get their information upfront. All your receptionist has to do is simply say, “I will be happy to assist you. May I get your name and telephone number just in case our line is disconnected?”

9 times out of 10, the caller will have no issues with providing their contact information at the beginning of the conversation when you explain it in the above format. If your caller is shy or just shopping around, it’s perfectly okay to continue your normal message intake form process without this step.

Listen Closely to the Caller

The next phase of your phone call should involve listening to the caller’s inquiry in full. The caller will either ask for a specific person or go into detail for the reason for calling. It’s the receptionist’s job to pay close attention to the information or inquiry relayed so he or she can properly select the recipient.

For a Particular Person or Department

If the caller knows who they need to speak with, have the receptionist ask permission to place that caller on hold while he or she tries the specific employee’s line. For this article, we are assuming the person or department is unavailable to take the call. 

When returning to the call, your receptionist needs to thank them for their patience and let the caller know the employee is currently unavailable. Have your receptionist offer to take a message for immediate delivery. Unless advised, never tell the caller where the employee is. A simple, “he/she is unavailable at the moment,” will suffice.   

For a General Inquiry

If the caller does not know who they need to speak with, it’s the receptionist’s job to make sure the phone message gets to the right individual or department. There are also times when the caller doesn’t need to leave a message and just has a quick question they need an answer to. A trained and expert phone handler will be able to take control of the conversation and provide answers to a frequently asked question. FAQ’s such as what is your address, website URL or general hourly rates can be handled by the receptionist.

A qualified receptionist will know when to proceed with the message intake form and when they can assist the caller while they have them on the phone.    

Legible Phone Messages 

With complete access to computers, tablets and other electronic devices, it’s recommended that messages be typed using an available device. Unless your assistant has excellent penmanship or you’re confident that a handwritten message can be universally read, your office’s receptionist should type all phone messages.

If your office prefers handwritten phone messages, use a proper telephone message book. These message books contain carbonless copy paper that is extremely helpful for any office. Carbonless copy paper is a special type of coated paper designed to transfer information written onto a sheet underneath the original message form. So once your receptionist completes the message form and tears it off to deliver, your office will have a backup copy of the message in case of an emergency.       

Confirming the Message

After the caller gives their detailed message/reason for calling, your receptionist needs to relay the message back to the caller for confirmation. One of the most important receptionist etiquette tips we can share is to confirm, confirm, confirm, confirm.

  • • Confirm the spelling of the caller’s name (and business name when applicable)
  • • Confirm the caller’s contact telephone number (or email address when applicable)
  • • Confirm the recipient’s name (or department when applicable)
  • • Confirm the detailed phone message

This seems like a time consuming process but a skilled receptionist can complete all four of these confirmations in 1-2 simple sentences.    

Keep Your Caller Informed

Once your receptionist has confirmed the information provided, they must keep the caller informed. Let the caller know what will be done with the message and if possible, when they can expect a return call.

Your receptionist can accomplish this by ending their call with this basic and friendly statement, “Thank you, John for your call and I will be sure to deliver your message to Jennifer the moment she becomes available. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”   

Immediate Delivery of Message

It’s imperative that your receptionist gets in the habit of immediately delivering all phone messages upon concluding the conversation. There are specific VIP situations or phone calls that you or your staff may be waiting on.

If your receptionist sends the message electronically, have them write the message in a phone friendly manner. For example, smart phones allow the recipient to just click a phone number, email address or website URL when it’s written in the proper format. For telephone numbers, have your receptionist use hyphen separators. For emails and website urls, have the receptionist type in the @, www and dotcom so the recipient can simply click the address listed.

Share These Receptionist Etiquette Tips 

Forward this receptionist etiquette tips article to your in-house receptionist today to make sure he or she is fully equipped to handle your phone messages.


If you don’t have an in-house receptionist, we can help. Our team of professional virtual receptionistsanswer your incoming calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And with message taking services as low as $19.95 per month, there’s no reason not to try our services out. 

Give us a call today at 1-800-786-6161 to discuss how we can take care of your calling customers with our award winning answering services.

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