The telephone serves as an essential tool for most businesses. It’s the primary means of communication with prospects, customers, vendors, and employees. The telephone provides the potential for immediate, direct communication with these important groups. As far as effectiveness and making personal connections, we cannot overstate its value. When it comes to urgent and emergency communication, nothing beats the supremacy of the telephone. After all, who would ever send an email to 911? And some industries require that all critical messages, such as a buy or sell order to your financial services representative, occur via a phone call, explicitly disallowing email or text. Yes, the phone call rules. Yet the telephone is also a source of unwanted communication. This includes people trying to sell you something you don’t want or need. While telephone sales have a useful place, they are sometimes misused, too. Between the time-critical phone calls and the unwanted interruptions, resides an array of important but not urgent calls. What’s an overworked manager or business owner to do? How can you receive the urgent calls fast, eliminate the fluff, and rank the rest? The solution comes from your telephone answering service. They can screen your calls, which generally results in three types of action: Escalate the Urgent: As we mentioned, the telephone is ideal for time-sensitive calls and emergencies. Yet without proper attention, these high priority calls can be seriously delayed or even lost in the morass of routine calls. You simply tell your answering service what constitutes an emergency or urgent call. Then specify how you want it handled. They will look for these types of calls. Possible actions might include transferring these calls to your office phone or mobile device, reaching an on-call person, or providing specific instructions to the caller. Exclude the Distractions: There are some calls you never want to receive. Your answering service is a great resource for keeping these calls from interrupting you and work that is more important. Sometimes callers merely seek information and the answering service can provide it so that you don’t need to become involved or even return a call. Other times they can inform the caller you have no interest, hopefully ending future calls. Order the Relevant: Most phone calls, however, are important but not immediately essential. For these, the answering service can take a message for you or your company to respond to later. Batching these calls for action is an effective use of time. Some leaders and managers block out certain times of the day to return calls or process information left by callers. This frees up the remaining time to focus on projects and work that demands concentrated, uninterrupted effort. Your telephone answering service can make this happen when they screen your calls. In doing so you can reclaim the telephone as an indispensable business tool and protect your valuable time in the process. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry – and who helps businesses and organizations find the perfect answering service. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706.Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.