Without customers, you don't need professional call answering, or have a business.
One of the great things about a virtual receptionist or professional call answering services is that you, as the client, gets to decide how this person answers the phone and responds to customers. A good company has someone answering the phone all the time, or is at least getting back to calls and messages in a timely manner. However, a great company does both of those things and makes every single phone call about the customer, instead of a polite conversation that's just another part of the day. Just how do you do that and go the extra mile? It's all in how you speak to the customer and the words that you use.
Phrases to Think About
OUT: “I need your name.” - This sounds demanding, even condescending, as if the customer was supposed to know to give you his/her name. A crucial element about making your phone calls about the customer is to think about providing value to the customer, instead of thinking about the value you want from them or the time wasted dealing with a customer who was unprepared.
IN: “May I have your name?” - Note that this isn't "May I have your name, please?" Although it's not bad to include 'please' and 'thank you' every once in a while, words like these can become trite if they are overused. This may not the magic courtesy word, but it sounds realistic and it sounds like the virtual receptionist actually cares about helping the customer, instead of just going through the motions.
OUT: “You need to talk to Jim about that.” Okay, but who is this Jim fellow, and how do I reach him? This phrase is a double-whammy of negativity — it’s demanding and a dead end. Remember, you want to help your customer get from point A to point B. When it’s time to guide a customer in a particular direction, always do so without being bossy. Politely introduce the best destination, and then show how eager you are to help your customer get there.
IN: “Jim would be the best person to help you with that. Would you like me to try his line for you!” - You could also use, "Would you like Jim's number/extension?". You don't necessarily want to right ahead and dial Jim, in the off chance that the customer doesn't want to be transferred (and would like to contact Jim on their own later), or may want to ask you a different question.
OUT: “You’ll have to set up an appointment.” - By telling the customer they have to do something, it doesn't necessarily show that you are helping them, but only making them follow a procedure. Even if a customer does have to set an appointment, you want it to sound like the best option for the customer, not the only one.
IN: “I’d be happy to set up an appointment for you!”- Fortunately for you, most professional call answering services include appointment setting as part of their services or packages deals. If appointments are an important part of what you do, please consider it so that your virtual receptionist can handle these as well. Phrasing the appointment this way also shows that you are helping the customer, instead of making the customer do something that makes your life easier.
OUT: “Hold, please.” - Customers hate this one, especially if it's said in the middle of them speaking. Not only is it demanding, but it tells the customer that your time as the receptionist is more valuable than the customers.
IN: “May I place you on hold for a moment?”- Don't mention why you need to hold, such as an incoming call. The customer doesn't care why he or she needs to be on hold, and taking another incoming call only says that someone else is more important than the customers. No one is more important than the customer.