Hello? Hello? How to Answer the Phone in a Few Easy Steps: Secretarial Training of the 1960s

Today’s post is the second in a series marking Administrative Professionals Week and written by Ketina Taylor (Archivist) and Jenny Sweeney (Education Specialist) of the National Archives at Fort Worth. If you haven’t already seen it, don’t miss yesterday’s post!

Two pages from a 50-page New York Telephone Company booklet entitled “What’s Cooking?” The booklet contains recipes on the Five Daily Speech Habits (online catalog identifier 7280716).

In the life of the modern secretary, communication is an important part of our daily lives and the phone is an integral tool of the trade. This has not changed much over the decades… except for the size of telephones.  According to the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) (RG 300), BAT offered great training opportunities in the 1960s on using the telephone.

For years training has been offered on how to use the telephone (enjoy our two favorite examples on Youtube here and here).  Don’t you just hate it when people answer their phones with a “yeah?” or “what?” They obviously did not take any training on proper telephone etiquette!

To make a positive impression to the person on the other line, BAT provided secretarial training that outlined proper telephone procedures for conducting business.  Instructions started with the basics.

How to hold the phone properly: the secretary should hold it close to her ear and have her lips one-half to one inch away from the mouthpiece.

The training also provided suggestions for the tone secretaries should use for business calls to help the customer understand any and all introductions or instructions. Diction is vital. The manuals trained her on how to speak into the phone so the caller could clearly hear her.  The manner in which secretaries speak to people is extremely important for the business’s image. Her speech should be at a moderate rate so the listener could easily understand what she is saying; she should always be polite and courteous.

After mastering the receiver, the instructions continued with details on how to answer (answer promptly), transfer a call (do so only when necessary), and ultimately how to end the phone conversation (they should always let the customer hang up first).

So do you use any of the techniques advocated when you use the phone?

Two pages of a 19-page Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company publication “The Voice with a Smile” (online catalog identifier 7280664).