In the age of email, it can be easy to forget that customers and clients might still use the phone. So it’s important that your staff have good business phone etiquette.
A good phone call can replace a lengthy email exchange. And that can boost a customer’s perception of your business.
Many people view business emails as spam. But phone calls still have that personal touch.
One study even showed that using telephone calls for outreach converted 8.21% more prospects than email.
Do you have customers or clients calling you? It’s even more important that you deal with their queries quickly and efficiently.
Read on to discover 9 ways to improve your business phone etiquette!
1) The phone manner is the cornerstone of business phone etiquette.
It goes without saying that anyone using the phone should speak clearly.
But it’s also important to smile as you answer the phone. Scientists discover the smile improves the sound of our language.
Incidentally, smiling also improves your mood. So smiling when you answer the phone will make you feel better.
That will make you more likely to deal with difficult calls well.
Staff should also identify themselves when answering the phone.
Callers like to know they’ve reached the correct number. But they also like to know that they’re talking to a real human being.
But no amount of smiling or using positive greetings can help call clarity if the phone is too close.
A general rule of thumb recommends holding the receiver two fingers width away from the mouth.
You may also need to train staff to speak more slowly. This makes it as easy as possible for the caller to communicate.
2) If you can’t take a call, learn to use ‘hold’ properly.
It’s inevitable that you’ll receive a call that just can’t be put through. And that’s okay from time to time.
After all, employees may need to use the bathroom. Or a caller might come through during their lunch break.
But your front desk may not know where these employees are. So if they need to put a caller on hold, they should ask the caller’s permission first. The caller might prefer to call back later.
And staff should never leave a caller on hold for too long. It’s better to return a call instead of keeping a caller waiting. Just make sure the call does get returned.
If callers ask a question and staff don’t know the answer, it is better that they check. Saying “I don’t know” is not good business phone etiquette.
Staff should never leave the line open while they check. If they need to ask someone else, they should put the call on hold first.
If a staff member doesn’t have time for a call, they should never let the caller know that. Staff should call back when they can devote real time to the caller and their problem.
Hurrying a caller won’t improve their view of your company.
If it’s possible, staff should get the best number and the best time to return a call.
After all, the caller has been inconvenienced if the person they wanted was unavailable. So don’t put them out further by calling them when it doesn’t suit them.
It’s also a good idea to get an alternate number, just in case the best number is in use at the time.
3) Prioritize incoming calls.
Staff should never let the phone ring more than three times. Letting it ring twice lets callers know your staff aren’t just sitting waiting for the phone to ring.
But it also shows that they’re available to answer.
Of course, sometimes there may be extenuating circumstances to take staff away from the phone (such as a fire alarm). Or callers might call your office outside of business hours.
So if a caller leaves a voicemail or a message, then return those calls first. If the caller took the time to leave a message, then you should take the time to respond.
If staff really do need time away from the phone, consider our voicemail-to-email features. It’ll help to capture information to make returning calls much easier.
Your staff may need to transfer a call within the business. They need to let the caller know why they’re transferring the call.
It’s also a good idea to tell them the name of the person who will take over the call. And make sure they’re free to talk before the call is transferred.
And it sounds obvious but make sure staff have something to write both on and with beside every phone in your office.
It’ll save them time looking for something to write on if messages need to be taken. And it can train staff to take notes during calls. That’s helpful if they need to pass the case onto another member of staff.
You might also keep a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. This can save staff time when answering the phone.
Members of staff should be able to handle a call quickly. And it’ll help your callers see you as an efficient business.
4) Treat even angry callers with respect.
It’s not just good business phone etiquette not to interrupt someone. It’s just good manners.
So if a caller has a complaint, don’t interrupt them while they are talking. Staff should take the time to listen to concerns. They can ask questions for further information when the caller has finished speaking.
Staff should also never engage in an argument with callers, no matter how irate. Naturally, staff should avoid slang and swearing while speaking to callers.
Repeating a summary of what the caller has said can calm angry callers. Showing that you’re listening and you care about the problem diffuses difficult conversations.
And if a caller has a genuine concern, front desk staff should try to speak to them in private. It’s not good practice to continue a heated discussion in front of other clients of customers.
Train staff to allow the caller to hang up first. You can avoid it seeming like you’ve slammed the phone down.
5) Remember etiquette for outgoing calls.
So far we’ve talked about handling incoming calls. But staff need to use the right business phone etiquette for placing or returning calls.
Staff should state their name before they ask for the person they need to speak to.
If staff need to leave a message, they should leave the return call number twice. Repeat the numbers clearly and slowly so the intended caller can write them down easily.
This applies for incoming calls and taking messages. Get callers to repeat or spell names, and check numbers before staff pass on messages.
It can even help to get staff to frame an objective for every call they make. It’ll help them to collect or pass on all of the information they need.
That’ll help reduce return calls, or customer complaints about misinformation.
6) Keep the phone as a business tool.
It’s just good business phone etiquette not to receive personal calls at work.
There will be circumstances where it can’t be helped. But with any luck they will be few and far between.
If staff see the phone as a business tool, they’re more likely to behave in a professional manner.
And under no circumstances should anyone answer the phone while eating or drinking.
7) Learn to multitask.
If your business has more than one telephone line, train your staff in managing calls. They should master the art of handling several calls at once.
They need to be able to know which caller is on which line. And they also need to know who each caller wishes to speak to.
If your staff are harassed, they will not concentrate on each call as they get to it.
Staff should also learn to prioritize calls. Simple inquiries that require short answers can be dealt with quickly.
More complex calls that need more attention could be handled better at a later time. If so, always call them back at a time that suits them.
8) Provide a telephone for visitors to use.
Don’t presume that everyone has a cell phone. Batteries can run out and customers can run out of minutes on their call plans.
It might seem like unusual business phone etiquette to provide a customer telephone.
But providing the means for customers to make calls can ease tricky encounters. If you can make it a nice area to use, all the better.
Consider screening it from a waiting area. Or have a small booth installed. Add somewhere to sit and some plants to cheer up the space.
9) Don’t let returning calls inconvenience your customers.
When returning calls, avoid calling before 8am, or after 9pm. Naturally you can do it if a customer has given you permission.
But think about how a customer’s life might look at their end.
A partner might work shifts and be sleeping when you call. Or they may have small children and bedtimes to work around.
Nothing will irritate a customer more than being disturbed during a bad time.
Keep time zones in mind, too. You may be based in Sarasota. But your customer is based in San Diego.
Those three hours could make all the difference.
So now you know the best business phone etiquette. And you’re ready to start using the phone to better connect with your customers.
If you’re ready to team up with a dedicated phone systems partner, check out our business phone plans. Choose the pricing that’s right for you – and let’s connect.