Distractions can be very common in an office environment. Since employees are not alone or isolated, we learn to adapt to the sounds of other people in the room, telephones or fax machines ringing or even the occasional visitor to our work station. However, if we let these distractions hinder our telephone etiquette, it will cause us to sound unprepared and unprofessional.
It is a common practice to have something at our desk to sip on or snack on during the day. However, this food and drink should not get in the way of your telephone calls. When someone calls in, be sure to finish chewing/drinking before picking up the phone so your voice is clear and residue free. When you are making a call, do not snack or drink while waiting for the other person to pick up. It never fails that the other party will pick up the line in the middle of your chewing/gulping.
Eating and drinking while on the phone not only distorts our telephone etiquette, but it can also distract us from the task at hand. It’s difficult to focus on the caller when we are trying to find the lid to our drink or attempting to wipe our hands of sticky residue from our snack. If possible, keep any food and drinks in a drawer or cabinet until ready to consume them, such as between making calls or when you have a few minutes between incoming calls. But once a call is made/comes to your line, remove the food to somewhere out of sight until you have finished.
Multi-tasking can be a great tool to have in any office. After all, it’s helpful to be able to fill out a form while researching new meeting topics on the internet. However, when speaking on the telephone, less multi-tasking is actually better. Although we are capable of multi-tasking in many different areas while on the phone, it is better to minimize these tasks in order to better provide the caller with our attention and courtesy. When we multi-task, we are dividing our attention among several different areas, which, in reality, doesn’t allow us to focus on any area of importance. The customer on the other end of the telephone line requires a great deal of devotion and needs to know that they have our attention, and not only parts of it. It is acceptable to have tools available to you while speaking on the telephone, such as looking for the caller’s information in a computer database or completing a hand-written form for them while they speak. But if it does not pertain to the present call or the current caller, put it aside until later.
Sometimes distractions are all around us and we may not even be aware of it. Office distractions are a common source of our attention stealers and can include simple items such as personal photos, piles of paperwork on our desk, the nearby copy machine or even a recent memo/email hanging on our wall. While some of these items may be helpful to us, such as printed memos or recent paperwork, they can become a distraction when trying to have a conversation over the phone. When speaking on the phone, our attention should be focused on the caller, but seeing random paperwork or hearing the copy machine react can cause a knee-jerk reaction to remember a task we haven’t completed or a project we still need to work on, thus taking attention away from the caller. Before you begin taking or making phone calls, take an inventory of your desk and the area around you. Remove any items that can distract you until you are ready to handle them so that they do not grab your attention before then.
Common office distractions include:
When we work in an office environment, it’s not uncommon to have coworkers around our workstation. Sometimes our coworker is in the same cubicle as we are! This in itself can be a distraction. But the problem with coworkers is that there are always those that want to stop at your cubicle to ask lots of questions or want to chat on their way to the printer, which can distract you. Making and taking telephone calls requires our full attention, and allowing other people to distract us from this not only causes us to lose our focus, but it can make the customer feel less important or even ignored. When a coworker comes by your desk for any reason, do not give them your attention. If you must interact, look them in the eyes, smile, and return to your phone call. This gives them the message that you are busy with a caller and cannot talk at the moment. If they come by again later or if you see them in the office, tell them you’re sorry you weren’t available but had an important call to tend to and catch up on what they needed.
Jeremy and Doug shared a cubicle in a busy office. One day, Jeremy found Doug very frustrated and was having trouble making his regular sales telephone calls. Jeremy asked Doug what kind of problem he was having today. Doug confided in Jeremy that he was having trouble concentrating on his sales calls and would often lose the customer during the call. Doug said he felt something kept distracting him, but wasn’t sure what. Jeremy reviewed Doug’s scripting and pitches, but didn’t find a problem. However, when he looked at Doug’s work area, he could see where he could get distracted. Jeremy advised Doug to move his family photos to a higher shelf and condense the amount of sticky notes he had posted on the walls. Lastly, Jeremy suggested for Doug to reduce the amount of tasks he tries to accomplish on a call. “Give the caller your full attention and focus on completing their task”, Jeremy said. With these helpful tips and suggestions, Doug felt as though he was ready to try his calls again and work toward being less distracted from the customer.