When legendary Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg served as chairman of Disney, he said that he made at least 150 calls a day. Today, in the fast-paced business landscape of text and email, phone etiquette is becoming a rare and valuable skill in the workplace.
Whether running a Hollywood studio, being an entrepreneur, or assisting clients from an inbound call center, insiders know that much of the actual work of business is still conducted over the phone. These effective telephone etiquette tips offer a useful guide for mastering the art of telephone business communication.
1. Answer promptly
One of the best telephone etiquette tips is to answer all calls within three rings. Having to wait can make the person on the other side of the line anxious, impatient, or even angry. Avoid unnecessary these problems by answering promptly.
2. Say “Hello”
A polite greeting sets the tone for the conversation and builds a connection with the person to whom you are speaking. Don’t race right into business. Say “hello,” “good morning” or “good afternoon” first. Use the later greetings in more formal contexts.
When dealing with professionals, strangers or making cold calls, avoid using informal greetings like “hi!” Informal greetings presume an intimacy that can feel inappropriate, off-putting or even disrespectful to the person on the other line.
3. Introduce yourself
Briefly introduce yourself. A good rule of thumb is to provide your name, position (if applicable), your company, and the purpose of the call right up front. The same applies for leaving succinct voice mail messages. Many companies have a protocol for how they want telephone calls answered, so be sure to know and follow the guidelines set out by your company.
4. Speak clearly
This may seem to go without saying, but clarity is a critical part of any kind of communication. To be understood you must first be heard. Use a normal tone of voice and speak loud and clear enough to be heard. Keep the phone receiver or headset steady near your mouth, and try not to mumble or move around while talking.
5. Be professional
Setting a respectful and professional tone builds confidence and trust. Think of yourself and your conduct on the telephone as a reflection of the business that you represent. Use appropriate language and avoid slang, inappropriate or unpleasant subject matter. For example, if your dog is sick, while that is sad, it is not a great topic for a business conversation. Do not let the conversation stray too far from the purpose of the call.
6. Be polite
Politeness means showing people respect and consideration. On the phone, this has some specific applications. Let a person know before you have to put them on hold or transfer a call. Do not interrupt and wait to let a person respond. Being courteous makes the experience as pleasant as possible, and this should be one of the telephone etiquette tips to remember at all times.
7. Be pleasant
People are naturally much more likely to respond to a pleasant tone of voice that an unpleasant one. Use your voice to create a welcoming atmosphere for the conversation. Being pleasant sometimes means remaining cheerful in the face of challenges. Avoid controversial or off-color subjects. In dealing with people on the telephone you may encounter a few heated tempers or disagreeable callers who shout and use abusive language. Set the tone and stick to it. Remaining calm and pleasant at all times can even defuse heated situations.
8. Be direct
Succinctly outline the purpose of your call up front. Do not be evasive, lackadaisical or stall for time. Getting to the point quickly shows that you value a person’s time. The same applies for calls you are answering. Also, should you have to apologize for something like putting someone on hold, do so directly and move along.
9. Pay attention
Active listening is a valuable skill. People generally don’t like to be made to repeat themselves. When important details come up, take little notes. Even if you don’t need to refer to them, the act of writing helps your brain’s ability to recall it.
10. Remember: the phone can hear you
The telephone receiver is likely to pick up all of the sounds on your end of the line. If you eat, drink, sneeze, cough, or speak to a nearby person, assume that the person on the other end is going to hear it. You must never eat or drink while you are on the phone. Speaking to someone else while you are on the line is rude, so don’t do it. If possible, mute the call when sneezing or coughing, or politely excuse yourself.
11. Avoid speakerphone
The microphone in a telephone receiver is unidirectional, which means that it is calibrated to best pick up sounds directly in front of it. The microphone in speakerphones has a much broader range, picking up a wider spectrum of sound. This is great if you are trying to hear everything that goes on it a boardroom on a conference call, but terrible for one-on-one conversations. With a speakerphone, the ambient noise from a room and other sounds make for unpleasant listening. Unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid speakerphones. For hands-free solutions, consider a microphone or headset instead.
12. Good posture helps
For the best results when speaking on the telephone, lean back with your neck arched up to relax your diaphragm and vocal chords. If your working conditions allow for it, stand up straight for better breathing. It is much easier to express yourself and sound enthusiastic from these positions. Standing also gives you more energy, which really comes across on the phone.
A smile is contagious. Believe it or not, people can hear a smile in your voice. When you smile, your brain actually releases neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin that spread positive energy. Researchers have also linked smiling to a number of health benefits.