“I’m sorry, but he’s in a meeting.”

Do you ever hear this over the phone? It’s like being told: I’m sorry, but right now he’s doing something more important. (It’s even more dismaying when the statement is followed by a pause, as if to say, it’s your move. Whereupon I must ask to leave a message.)

There are warmer ways to answer when the person requested can’t take a call.
Here are a few:

“He’s on the other line; may I take a message or put you into voice mail?”
This is similar to being told he’s in a meeting—but it doesn’t carry the same negative vibe. Why? Everyone respects the etiquette of taking turns. Someone called before me and is first in line. I understand.

“He has stepped out; may I take a message or connect you to voice mail?”
He can’t take my call if he’s not there, can he? I get it, with no hard feelings.

“He’s unable to take calls at the moment; may I take a message or connect you to voice mail?”
When I hear someone is unable to take calls, I imagine their hands are full. However, when I’m told “he’s unable to take your call,” it feels discriminatory. I wonder: Is he able to take someone else’s call?

The most successful organizations bring service to every interaction. Each phone call is an opportunity to strengthen—or weaken—a relationship. Does the person who answers the phone for you make your callers feel appreciated?