Phone Home Survey Results

The results from the three question survey about telephone etiquette policy earlier this week produced some fascinating data…


Although I fully expected that most organizations approached the matter lightly, I wasn’t expecting to see such lopsided results. For instance, out of more than 35 respondents the chart to your left (click to enlarge) illustrates that only 27 percent indicated their organization had an official telephone etiquette policy they were aware of. This indicates that quite a few organizations have no official greeting and employees who may not realize that you shouldn’t chew gum while on the phone (you laugh, but I encountered one this week who was doing exactly that).

To make things worse, the vast majority of respondents indicated that no one in the organization has ever taken the time to review a telephone etiquette policy with them, as illustrated in the chart to your left (click to enlarge). If anything, the data indicates that there is sufficient evidence to investigate what measures constitute “other” with regard to review procedures. I would presume that this may likely include a written policy that is available in an employee handbook which the incoming employee is left on their own to review.

Fortunately, the survey results improved a bit with regard to quality control measures although the majority of respondents still indicated that their organization conducts no telephone etiquette quality control measures, as illustrated in the chart to your left (click to enlarge). Although it is good to see some sort of quality control going on, it is curious that the first step -initial training – is being skipped by so many ensembles.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve called more than three dozen orchestras, all of which has been related to some work I’m conducting for a client. The variety of telephone etiquette has been remarkable; it has ranged from superlative to downright abysmal. Some organizations tossed aside an automated call answer system in favor of having a live human being answer the phone. In every one of those cases, I was able to reach the person I needed to speak to in less than 30 seconds from the time I dialed the institution. However, some of the automated systems were so frustrating to work with that I simply hung up after a few minutes and called someone at the organization I already knew on their cell phone or direct line and asked them to transfer me to the person I needed.

Curiously enough, budget size had little impact on how well an organization performed. The most helpful, charming, and pleasant employees I spoke with were from organizations which covered the gamut in budget size. Nevertheless, in the end orchestras need to consider the image they project when developing a telephone policy. Do they want to seem inviting to potential donors, advertisers, and patrons or do they want to come across as a virtual fortress with a convoluted call system that all but screams go away and never call here again? Worse yet, do they want to reinforce the stereotype that nonprofit management is populated by a bunch of hacks who couldn’t cut it in the for profit world?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Phone Home Survey Results

  1. Drew, a little late coming but I am consistently 4-5 days behind in all reading. It is called festival time! Anyway, you hit the head right on the nail with this one. Bingo!

  2. Even more frustrating than calling an organization and getting stuck in voice-mail hell is receiving calls. It is then that their complete lack of etiquette makes me a) hang up and b) vow never to donate another dollar. Here are three very simple rules of making calls:
    1) identify yourself;
    2) identify the organization on whose behalf you are calling and the purpose of the call; and
    3) ask to speak with me by name.

    Your chances of speaking with me — and getting a contribution — improve greatly just by following these 3 rules. When unsolicited calls come in like this, I ask the caller’s name, organization and purpose of the call; when that’s been settled I invariably say “No thank you” and hang up.

    Great points Paula and I think the straightforward attitude of your comment helps underscore some significant problems. The good news is that they are all easily solved by instituting an equally straightforward telephone etiquette policy. ~ Drew McManus

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