10 Business Phone Etiquette Tips
Even with the advent of the Internet, much of business still takes place over the phone. Learn how you can be polite, professional and assertive on business phone calls.
- 1.) Always Identify Yourself and the Company
- 2.) Establish a Friendly, Clear Speaking Tone
- 3.) Avoid Sounding Rehearsed
- 4.) Know When to Redirect the Caller
- 5.) Be Concise/Cut to the Chase
- 6.) Ask Questions, Engage the Caller
- 7.) Insert Active Listening Cues
- 8.) Assure the Caller You're Taking Action
- 9.) Arrange a Follow-Up
- 10.) Thank the Caller for His/Her Time
1.) Always Identify Yourself and the Company
When answering a phone call, or when calling someone yourself, it's important to first establish who you are and who you work for. Though this may seem extremely obvious, so many professionals forget this step - simply answering, 'Hello?' like they would at home.
Depending on the nature of the call, it might also be helpful to remind the caller of how you know him/her. Feel free to say something like, "Hi Jim, it's Andy from K-Town Enterprises. We met the other day at the Cityburg Marketing Conference." By reminding the caller of how you know each other, the conversation will often get off to a better, more relaxed start.
2.) Establish a Friendly, Clear Speaking Tone
Using a clear and friendly tone of voice is always important in any business meeting. However, it is arguably even more important when speaking over the phone, as the person listening does not have access to any non-verbal cues to help him understand you.
To establish a clear speaking tone, take heed of the following tips:
- Vary the pitch of your voice to avoid sounding monotone. Allow your words to float in a slightly more sing-songy manner, perhaps in a slightly higher tone than you would usually use. This will help you sound friendly.
- Talk slower than you think you should, many people have a tendency to speed up.
- Avoid using colloquialisms, particularly when conducting business with someone from another country or region.
3.) Avoid Sounding Rehearsed
Whenever possible, it's important to be prepared for business phone calls. However, canned phrases and over-used business jargon will come across as stiff and impersonal.
Many businesses mistakenly think that all their employees should answer the phone using the same set phrase, such as "Good Afternoon, you've reached ShinyTooth Dental, this is Margaret speaking. How can I direct your call?" Instead of taking this approach, train your employees on how to identify themselves in a friendly manner, but give them the freedom to use their own words.
This piece of advice extends beyond the first sentence through the entirety of the conversation. Reading from a script will make you sound robotic and doesn't leave room for you to adequately respond to the caller. It's OK to write down a few bullet points of what you want to say, but avoid reading block chunks of text during a phone call.
If going 'off script' has you nervous that you'll say something wrong, it may be worth reading about what not to say in a business phone conversation.
4.) Know When to Redirect the Caller
It's important to recognize when a caller should be redirected to another department, another employee or perhaps even another company altogether. For example, if someone calls your company asking for a service that you do not provide, it's a nice gesture to direct them to a company that does offer such a service.
Also, if a caller becomes increasingly frustrated or is acting difficult, it's important for employees to know when to pass the call along to someone in a higher position. For example, it may be more appropriate to pass the person along to a manager who has been trained in how to deal with angry customers.
5.) Be Concise/Cut to the Chase
Even though you can't see the person on the other end of the line, it's important to remember that a phone call is still a 2-sided conversation. Pausing and allowing the other person to speak is the only way the conversation will make any progress.
Unlike with a large speech or presentation, a phone call requires two participants. Thus, avoid talking for long stretches of time without letting the other person get a word in. Remember to make your point early-on in the conversation. In business, time is money, and you don't want to make people feel like you're wasting their time.
6.) Ask Questions, Engage the Caller
A successful business phone conversation is actually very similar to a successful conversation that occurs face-to-face. Just as you would in any conversation, make sure to engage the caller by asking him/her questions.
If the caller is a client, make sure to ask them about what they want to get out of their business relationship with your company. If you propose an idea or make a suggestion, ask them what they think. Most people enjoy sharing their opinions and want to feel heard - indulge them.
7.) Insert Active Listening Cues
When speaking to someone over the phone, it's important to let them know you are listening. In a face-to-face conversation, this can be as simply as nodding your head at them, making eye contact and smiling when they say something funny. However, these are all non-verbal cues that will be of no use in a phone conversation.
Instead, insert verbal cues such as 'Uh huh', 'Yep' or 'I see' to show the person you are following the conversation.
8.) Assure the Caller You're Taking Action
Whether you're dealing with a frustrated customer, a new client or a fellow coworker, it's good practice to let them know that you're taking some sort of action. As the conversation starts to come to an end, reiterate to them how you plan to proceed following the discussion. For example, you might say: "Great. This afternoon I will create a spreadsheet of those figures we discussed and I'll email it to you by tomorrow morning."
This will assure the caller that the conversation was indeed productive.
9.) Arrange a Follow-Up
If necessary, arrange a follow-up call or meeting before ending the conversation. This also helps ensure the discussion was productive and can reassure the caller that his/her requests will not be forgotten.
A follow-up call holds both people accountable to whatever they've promised to accomplish during the conversation.
10.) Thank the Caller for His/Her Time
Just as it's important to establish a friendly dialogue from the get-go, it's equally necessary to end the conversation on a positive, up-beat note. Make sure to thank the person on the other end of the line for his/her time.
Also, if you are somewhat friendly with the individual, feel free to go off-topic briefly. For example, you might say: "Anyway, how have things been in London?" or "Have you been watching the football?" After all, business relationships don't have to be stuffy and cold. If you have established friendly banter with the individual in the past, or have developed a familiar working relationship with them, use the end of your conversation as an opportunity to discuss non-work-related topics for a bit.