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BAD PHONE HABITS CAN HURT A FIRM'S IMAGE

Eighty-two percent of the respondents in a national survey said the way a telephone is answered influences their opinion of the company they are calling.

Of 564 business executives surveyed by Communication Briefings, a monthly newsletter, 42 percent said the most bothersome company practice was the use of automated menus rather than a live person to answer the phone.

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One-fourth of the respondents said that it annoyed them when the phone wasn't answered by the third or fourth ring, while 21 percent said busy toll-free numbers bothered them.

Putting a caller on "hold" without asking permission was cited by 34 percent as the most annoying employee phone habit.