Proper Phone Etiquette

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Proper business telephone etiquette is very important because you are representing your company. Remembering to use proper phone etiquette enhances your overall customer experience and leaves callers with a favorable impression of you and your company.

The following are ways to make your communications more effective.

A few key things to remember:

  • Utilize your business phone system features – such as auto attendant, group mailboxes, voicemail, hold/park, unified messaging, mobile apps and more.
  • Using phrases such as “thank you” and “please” are essential in conducting a professional conversation.
  • Actively listen without interrupting.
  • Don’t make people dread having to answer their phone or call your company.

Answering Calls

  • Answer the phone within three rings. Answering a phone too quickly can catch the caller off guard and waiting too long can make the caller angry.
  • Answer with a friendly greeting. (Example – “Good Afternoon! Thank you for calling CommWest, Nathan speaking. How may I help you?”).
  • Smile – it shows, even over the phone. Speak in a pleasant tone of voice – the caller will appreciate it.
  • Ask the caller for their name, even if is not necessary for the call. This shows you have taken an interest in them.
  • If the caller has reached a wrong number, be courteous. If possible, take the time to find out where they should be calling/to whom they should be speaking.
  • When you are out of the office or away from your desk for a period of time, utilize your auto attendant and voicemail features so that callers know what to expect on return calls.

Making Calls

  • When you make a call and it is answered, identify yourself. (Example – “This is Nathan from CommWest. To whom am I speaking?”)
  • Always know and state the purpose of the communication.
  • When you reach a wrong number, don’t argue with the person who answered the call or keep them on the line. Say: “I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number. Please excuse the interruption.”
  • If you told a person you would call at a certain time, call them as you promised. If you need to delay the conversation, contact the person to postpone it, but do not make the other person wait for your call.

Handling Rude or Impatient Callers

Follow LEARN to remain diplomatic and polite when addressing difficult callers. Getting angry will only make them angrier.

L – Listen actively

E – Empathize with their problem and concerns

A – Apologize for the disruption, delay, or cause of their problem

R – Respond with action steps to solve their problem or concern

N – Notify when action steps have been taken

  • Always show willingness to resolve the problem or conflict.
  • Take ownership of the issue.
  • Think like the caller. Remember, their problems and concerns are important.
  • If you are in a non-supervisory position: Offer to have your supervisor talk to the caller. If you are supervisor: Be willing to handle irate callers. Speak slowly and calmly. Be firm with your answers but understanding. Sometimes the irate caller just wants someone in a supervisory capacity to listen to their story even if you are unable to help them.

Transferring Calls

  • When transferring a caller, tell them to whom you are transferring them and announce the caller to whom you are transferring them.
  • If the called party does not wish to take the call, return to the caller and redirect the call. (Example – “He/she is out of the office. May I take a message, or would you like his/her voicemail?”)
  • When returning to the caller, after taking them off hold, be respectful to the situation. Do not ask “are you still there?”; instead say “thank you for holding”.

Taking Messages

  • Be prepared with pen and paper when you answer the phone.
  • When taking messages be sure to ask for the caller’s name, caller’s phone number and/or extension, who they are calling with (company).
  • Repeat the message to the caller.
  • Deliver the message in a visible place in their office, such as the recipient’s chair or keyboard.
  • Don’t forget that you can transfer them to voicemail instead of taking a paper message, but always ask, “Would you like me to transfer you to his/her voicemail?” Do not assume that the caller would rather go to voicemail.

Ending Conversations

There are several ways that you can end a long phone conversation without making up a story or sounding rude:

  • Leave the conversation open and on an up-side.
  • Before hanging up, be sure that you have answered all the caller’s questions.
  • Always end with a pleasantry such as: “Have a nice day” or “It was nice speaking with you”.

As long as you are honest and polite with the other person, you shouldn’t have any problems getting off the phone and onto your next task.


Voicemail has many benefits and advantages when used properly. However, you should not hide behind voicemail. If callers constantly reach your voicemail instead of you, they will suspect that you are avoiding calls.

Voicemail Greetings

  • Record your own personal greeting; try to avoid using the standard default greeting or having another person record your greeting. People tend to feel that they have already lost the personal touch because of voicemail.
  • In your greeting, include your name, and department so that people know they have reached the correct person.
  • If you know that you will be on vacation for a few days, record an extended absence greeting to let callers know this. Callers will know not to expect a callback for a few hours or a few days. Include an option to be redirected to another extension who can assist in your absence.
  • If your company will be closed or changing business hours temporarily, update your auto-attendant and system hours. Callers will know what to expect as a callback time frame.

Checking Messages/Returning Calls

  • Check your messages daily and return messages within 24 hours. If it will take longer than 24 hours, contact the person and advise him/her. Callers should feel comfortable that you are checking your voice mail daily.
  • Reply, forward, or delete messages immediately. Keep your mailbox clean.

Leaving Voicemail Messages

  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Be sure to leave your name, date, phone number including extension. It’s best to say it at the beginning and end of your message.
  • Leave the date and time you called in the message. Let the person know the best time to call you back.
  • Keep messages short and to the point.
  • Cover one topic in one message; specify what you want the recipient to do.
  • Remember that you want to leave the person you are calling with a good impression of you.

Communications are the backbone of your business – networking, service, face-to-face, emails, phone calls. Proper phone etiquette is one communication method that is imperative for your customer experience and your company’s reputation.

We encourage you to develop a telephone etiquette policy and implement it throughout your company. Your customers will thank you for it.

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