It may not seem difficult to take a message to most, but there is a significant difference between subpar and efficient message taking. If you ever worked in a busy office, you likely saw your fair share of memos and messages pass across your desk. Some of these were clean, informative, and succinct, but others were more than a little difficult to follow. Your secretary is there to field your calls and take down messages so you can focus on your job. If the messages taken are less than helpful, you cannot help your clients or fulfil your responsibilities.
In many situations, what might appear to be a great message can fall short of being helpful or conveying what the caller said. No amount of detail can help if the most crucial piece of information failed to make it into the memo. Some of the most frustrating messages are long-winded, rambling, and completely outside of the main point. Whether it is your job to take these messages, or you simply wish to gain another skill, it is important to follow a few important guidelines.
Give Yourself Enough Paper
Unfortunately, not every message can be taken down accurately in just a few simple words. Often you grab whatever paper is at hand to write down the information, but you can find out too late that you do not have room with this method. With that in mind, it is important to ensure you have plenty of space to write when you take down a message. If you feel rushed or panicked, you will not write as clearly and you’ll miss details. To keep this feeling to a minimum, it is in your best interest to keep a large notepad on hand just in case.
Messages can be long, difficult to follow, and filled with information that absolutely cannot be left out. Therefore, you must have all the room you could possibly need to get the job done properly.
There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Information
Even if the key details of your message are long on their own, you never know what might be crucial later on. As a species, humans have a bad habit of assuming certain information is common knowledge or implied, but not everyone will read between the lines. To ensure no miscommunications happen, it is a good idea to write down more information than you think is really necessary. You never know how much the reader actually knows about the situation.
If you took the message down for your future self to review, you might surprise yourself with how much you can forget in just a short amount of time. Studies have shown that information can be lost overnight after sleeping. Therefore, it is important to add more information for the sake of what information might be lost later on. For businesspeople with extremely busy schedules, even more key details can get lost in the hustle of everyday life.
Never Leave out the Minimum
At the very least, each and every message taken should include the caller’s name, company name, and contact information. A name and number alone will not do much to prepare you or the person you took the message for, but it will at least ensure the call is returned. No matter how busy you might be or how many callers are on the line, you must never end a call without getting these three pieces of information.
Organisation Is Key
Even if you get the minimum information, if you do not note what day and time a call came in, there is no way to know whom to call back first. In fact, some messages already taken care of might slip through and mix with new messages. To avoid confusion and help you keep organised, a date and time is key to every message. On some occasions, just the date and time is enough to help you or the reader remember certain details of a conversation or call.
With a date and time attached, context can be given to a message, and it can be organised with others by the order in which they were taken. For legal reasons especially, this is a key piece of information to add to any message. With these tips for taking messages correctly, you can do your job better and faster.
Keep Pens and Pencils Handy
Anyone working in an office would agree that there is never such a thing as too many writing utensils. Keep a box of black pens in your drawer, or keep a small jar of them on the corner of your desk. The more you write, the greater the chance your pen might stop working or suddenly disappear. Co-workers could borrow pens and never return them, or you might simply place one behind your ear and ‘lose’ it for several hours.
To avoid a crisis, it is in your best interest to keep several pens or pencils on hand. If you must place a caller on hold to find a replacement, you risk losing the call or upsetting your client. In a job with a focus on phone etiquette, efficiency is one of the top requirements. You risk a reprimand if you cannot take calls and messages quickly and effectively as they come.
Confirm the Information
Even callers in a hurry will appreciate having their messages read back to them. Even if you know you wrote down every word perfectly, you should never skip this step. After all, you are human and can make mistakes. The only way to catch these mistakes is to read the information back to the caller. If the caller feels you did not make their point clearly enough, they might suggest you better emphasise a specific portion or even rewrite some of the message. It is your job to do so with a calm and gracious attitude.
Finally, place the message somewhere it cannot be missed. If you have managers with a bad habit of missing memos directly in front of them, place it over their computer screens. It is important that messages be seen quickly so they can be responded to promptly. It is your job to get your message seen, so do not be afraid to get creative to make that happen.