Taking messages is a key component of a typical medical answering service. Ditto for answering services designed for contractors, property management companies, HVAC companies, and so forth. But messages are only as effective as the information they contain.
The information reception personnel asked for and pass on is important. When clients contact us for their messages, they don’t want just a basic list of names and phone numbers. They want to know why their customers called them. They want to know the urgency of each call. In other words, they want to know the details.
With that in mind, here are five key things every phone message should contain:
1. Date and Time
What receptionists used to call date and time 20 years ago is now referred to as a timestamp. Regardless of what you call it, every phone message should include it. Whoever takes the message should record the date of the call and the exact time it was received. It doesn’t hurt to also record the time the call ended.
Timestamps are critical for keeping track of messages so that they are not forgotten or ignored. They might also act as evidence when two parties dispute whether a call was actually made.
2. Detailed Caller Information
Next, every telephone message should include detailed caller information. The more detail, the better the message. It goes without saying that you start with the name and phone number of the caller. Do not stop there.
Reception personnel should also get additional contact information, including email address. If the person is representing a company, the company’s name, address, and telephone number are all appropriate.
3. The Reason for the Call
The third piece of information messages should include is the reason for the call. This is especially important for medical answering services or one that takes calls for a property management company. Reasons for calling often determine the urgency of the response.
In a property management situation, there is an enormous difference between an overflowing toilet and an interior door that won’t shut tightly. One is an emergency while the other is not. Without writing down the reason for a call, it is difficult to express how urgently the call needs to be returned.
4. Any Action Requested by the Caller
In many cases, a caller cannot wait for their call to be returned. Maybe the caller has someplace else to be. Perhaps they are in a position of not being able to accept a return call. Instead, the caller requests a certain plan of action.
Any additional action requested by a caller should be recorded in the message. Additional actions could include everything from looking up past service records to booking a future appointment. Action requests should be as detailed as possible.
5. Best Time and Method to Respond
Finally, every telephone message should include the best time and method for the recipient to respond. Without such information, the risk of beginning a game of telephone tag goes up. We have all played the game, and it is not fun.
Reception personnel should not be afraid to ask a caller’s preferences for response. Does the caller prefer an email, a text, or an actual call? Giving callers a choice increases the chances that a return contact will be successful.
Whether you contract with an answering service or handle calls in-house, be sure that the messages your people are taking provide enough detail for recipients to respond accordingly. A thorough and detailed message is much better than only a name and phone number. More detail equals better responses.