What's the difference between Call Answering and Call Handling?

One of the tweets I sometimes post on Twitter is about having your calls handled and not just answered, one of my Twitter friends suggested that it would make an interesting blog topic. So what is the difference between call answering and call handling?

Answering a call is really just about picking up a ringing phone, taking a message and passing it on in its simplest form. 

Call Handling is about knowing as much as possible about the business or person that the call is intended for, so that the person answering the call can manage it in as informed and effective way as possible.  If it’s a simple enquiry quite often the call handler can supply the information requested, be it an email address, postal address, opening hours or even information on a particular product, without having to pass the call on.

Call handling is not about misrepresenting your business or implying you are bigger than you are, it’s about enhancing the service that you currently offer; call handling can be a very effective addition in terms of customer service.

Busy professionals have many demands on their time; is it really an effective use of time for them to be answering the phone themselves to every enquiry no matter how trivial?  It’s no different to outsourcing other elements of the business such as accounts or admin.

By using efficient call handlers your sales orders can be taken for you, your delegates can be booked onto training courses, appointments can be booked directly into your diary, brochure requests can be taken and posted out direct with no involvement from you, initial sales enquiries can be taken when you run your new sales campaign – the list is endless.

Do you ever find that you cannot finish a project or report because the phone keeps ringing? Divert your calls to a call handler instead.  Do you have the children at home due to teacher training days or unplanned illness? Divert your calls.

Your caller will probably be happier talking to a person rather than an answering machine; a call handler can put your caller at ease because they have knowledge of your company and/or service.  Rather than just taking a name and number your call handler will take a detailed message, ensuring that when you are returning the call you have all the information you need to hand, you are not returning a call blindly, you have had chance to research the answers that your caller needs, making you appear more professional and saving both you and your caller time.

One of my Twitter friends had a great description of call handling, its more information driven, and answers are the voice of your business.

So next time you are thinking of switching on the answerphone to allow you to get some work done, think about using a professional call handling service instead.

So what are your thoughts on the difference between call handling and call answering and your experiences? Please feel free to comment below.


  1. Very good description between the both, its important for businesses to understand the differences more though as it can affect their decision on which service to take.

    Very good Blog :-)

  2. We are so office based at the moment that we only a few feet away from our phone. If our work changes so that we are away from our desks more often then call handling would be the service that we would be looking for. A professional at the other end of the line is what we would be looking for :-)

  3. I use a great call handling agency called Kendlebell Luton. They take great messages and can answer at least basic questions. If I am expecting something specific such as a response to a marketing campaign I will let them know and they are then equipped to give detailed answers. My clients love it as they are talking to a real person not an answerphone and one client said "I spoke to that nice lady in your office".

    Most importantly I can get on with whatever project I am working on secure in the knowledge that the phone will be answered professionally and as you say, when I call back I already know how I am going to handle the call myself.

    Great article Helen. Thanks for reminding me of the difference!

  4. Very good post. I am fortunate to be a call handler. My company values personal service and realises that auto switchboards and answer phones often put people off. We are a medium sized building services firm with a lot of different strands so a new customer would have to go through a lot of hoops to get to the right person!! As it is they have me!!
    But, one day I am sure I will be replaced by a machine :((

  5. Thanks for your comments Jean, I hope you aren't replaced by a machine! One part of my job is to ring various insurance and pension companies for a client and in the majority of cases I am greeted by a very frustrating automated switchboard. Whilst they may feel it saves money it lacks customer service, something that call handling is all about.

  6. Thanks for your comments too Shelley, there are several call handling companies out there including the service we offer ourselves. There are also companies that really just answer calls for you.

    At the end of the day its all about customer service, having the phone answered by a real person that matters. The more the call handler can do in that call the better the service for everyone.

  7. Great post Helen!

    Being a fellow Call Handler of yours on Call Team, I know that intelligent call handling goes a step further. Understanding when to flag something to the business owner that might otherwise get lost in the cloud of messages - an important distinction and is usually the product of years' of experience in the real world.


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