Yeah, I don’t know

Years ago, I used to be a receptionist for a large, busy law firm.  I couldn’t just leave the phones unmanned for breaks or lunch.  Therefore, we had to train a couple of individuals how to answer phones so they could cover in my absence.  Of course, they didn’t know how to handle every call, but the majority of them, they knew how to answer or could find someone (quickly) to assist.

What’s the point of this post?  Well, I have a data entry part-time job that I’m helping a friend collect Principal/PTA names and e-mails and whether or not their school holds a pledge-based fundraiser like  jog-a-thon, read-a-thon, fun-run event.  Unfortunately, not all this data is on their website and in those instances, a call must be made to the school.  (growl, groan)

Schools are like the busy law firm, you must have someone manning the phones at all times.  (can’t have any nervous parents having their minds roam as to the reason why no one is picking up the line.)  You would think anyone covering their phones would be trained, qualified to perform that task, right?

                    um. Yeah, I don’t know.

Here are a few things I’ve encountered that all start with “I’m just…”

“I’m just the receptionist.  I have no idea if we have a jog-a-thon.”

(period.  End of statement.  Dead air.)

First, this is my favorite, because the receptionists job is to know everything.  Seriously.  They are the people who train others to answer their phone in their absence. If they don’t know the answer, they are supposed to say something like “I’m not sure, but let me get you to Joann, she can assist you with that,”  or “If you hang on a minute, let me see if I can get that answer for you…or I can’t seem to pull up our fundraisers scheduled, let me return your phone call as soon as I can collect the data.”  (not dead air.)

“I’m just a substitute teacher.  I don’t know anything about this school.  It’s my 2nd time here.”

Please tell me…why are YOU the person answering the phone?  Seriously, a sub?  Grab a parent walking by that is constantly at the school to cover the phones.  They know more than anyone…seriously, maybe even more than the principal’s secretary.  They have their hands on the pulse of the school.  Coincidentally, they are probably involved in PTA or even on the board.  (which is really who I want to talk to anyway)

“I’m just the nurse.  I really don’t know how to answer your question.”

Again, why are YOU the person answering the phone?  But, more importantly, I’ve got this ailment, can you help me?  By the way, shouldn’t you be busy taking someone’s temperature or getting a hold of the dentist for that kid’s broken tooth?

(true story, my 9-year-old daughter said a friend of hers broke his tooth in half, and they had to go to the office after him because they found the other half of the tooth on the playground.  Because, you know, the nurse can magically fix it with some Elmer’s glue.)

The schools should really have about 3-5 people trained on their phones.  Not only ample for covering breaks and lunch, but can cover if secretary out ill that day that another is on vacation, etc.  Not the nurse that should be attending to our children’s wounds.  (blood dripping down their leg as the nurse answers calls about fundraisers.)


9 thoughts on “Yeah, I don’t know

  1. I can sympathize with the frustration. I used to be the front-desk person for a real-estate office. The problem, though, is that if you’re not a licensed agent, you’re not allowed to convey certain information — such as the price of a house for sale. Even if the flyer is right in front of you, you’re not permitted to say anything.

    So if someone called and asked me any pertinent questions, I’d have to transfer them to an agent’s cell phone and hope the agent would answer.

    Only the call would always go to voice mail, because the agent invariably would be with another client. So then people would call me back, ballistic, thinking I’d dumped the call on purpose.

    So basically, my job was to infuriate people by saying, “I’m sorry; I can’t answer that because I’m not a licensed agent.”

    I should have just said, “I’m sorry, but my job is to stand between you and the information you want to know. Thanks.”


    1. Hahaha! Yes, but this is a school. And that was your job. You knew who they need to speak to… like calling a medical office, you don’t expect the reception desk to answer medical questions. They legally can’t. But, basic companies/schools- the receptionist should have this general data at their fingertips and not have nurses/subs answering the phones. That’s lame. They aren’t going to know anything… get a parent, if that’s the case.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s true — at least I knew how to answer general questions. When a client wanted to know what time it was, or if they needed directions to the office restroom, I was the knowledgable resource they sought out. My astute, insightful responses no doubt kept the company profitable. (Well, at least I’d like to think so.) 🙂

      You’re right that the people answering the phone should have a general idea. I’ve actually gotten that response a lot, too: “I’m don’t know what you’re talking about; I’m just answering the phone.”

      The whole point of answering the phone is to provide information. People aren’t calling to hear your comforting voice. If you don’t know anything, don’t answer the phone!

      Liked by 1 person

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