Telephone calls are a very integral part of the communication system for most businesses. Whether its customers calling in and making enquiries or seeking customer support, or the business communicating with other associates and stakeholders; phone calls are a big part of the day-to-day operations in any business.
For business owners, phone calls are an excellent choice for a communication cannel owing to the personal touch attached to it as well as the instant feedback that is too often very crucial when making some business decisions.
It is not enough to have employees who are trained in all things phone etiquette. It is also crucial to ensure that as the owner of the business who will be in constant contact with important stakeholders, you too are thoroughly equipped with the right phone etiquette. This will see you thrive and build a reputation for yourself among the many faceless people you will be on the phone with every day, not to mention that it will do great for your business.
After sifting through numerous tips and tricks to help with phone etiquette, I have compiled a list of 10 pointers that include the dos and don’ts of professional telephone etiquette every business owner should master
1. When To Answer
Over the two decades that I have been in business, I am yet to experience what it means to have my suppliers call my work line just to say hello. May be that my circle is not the overly friendly type to just check in, but I believe that a work line is exactly for just that; work.
Different people will call in for different business and work-related issues. Do not keep them waiting too long as that would definitely do some irreparable damage to their impression of your business. It would come off as though you are too busy to attend to the caller.
Make it a point to promptly respond to any inbound calls. As a general rule, make sure that you answer all calls well before the third ring.
When it comes to making calls, call at exactly when you promise to call. Return calls as soon as possible although I would recommend finding out when the best time is to do so. If there is a change in circumstances that make it impossible for you to do so, ensure that you let the other person know in time so they do not wait around for a call that will not be coming.
2. Always Introduce Yourself
When you call, let the person on the other end of the line know exactly who they are speaking to after a courteous greeting. I recommend using both your names as that has a more professional ring to it, and following that with the name of your company.
”Hello, this is Garvin Clinton from Sunshine Holdings…….” It barely takes up any time and it is great way to start a conversation as the other person feels more at ease because they know exactly who is on the line.
As a business owner, you may also receive plenty of transferred calls from other staff members and the various departmental heads. Follow this rule even for transferred calls.
3. Know the Other Person
Do not hesitate to ask the person on the other line to also identify themselves. However, the best way to go about it is by first identifying yourself. I would personally find it quite rude if someone picked my call only to go with “Hello, who am I speaking with?” for an opener.
You can then use this knowledge to your advantage in that by calling the other person by name, you can give them the confidence that you are closely paying attention to your conversation.
4. Speak Clearly
Speak every word clearly, being careful to watch your tone so that you are neither too loud nor too slow. Speak slow if need be and allow for some pauses throughout the conversation. I can never seem to keep up with people who talk too fast and too often just let the rumble go on, even if my interest died much earlier in the conversation. As a business owner, this is a costly mistake, as is a misinterpretation of information due to not speaking clearly.
The other person may not see your facial expressions or body language but be sure to relax and smile a little. The effect that this will have on your tone is simply astounding as you can maintain a pleasant tone all through the telephone call.
Again , limit your choice of words to that which is universally understood, and avoid slang and unnecessarily using abbreviations and acronyms. It may not seem like much but it goes a long way into ensuring that there is no unintended distortion of the message and that its received with utmost clarity.
5. Background Noises
Ensure that you are in a quiet environment such that you can both clearly hear each other. As an owner, you are probably accustomed to a certain amount of traffic into your office. When on a business call, close the door behind you and politely wave away anyone trying to come in for a consultation.
Unlike your employees, you may also enjoy some liberties, including being able to bring food and drink into your office. When you are on a call is definitely not the time to finish your bag of chips. I would be very offended, to an extent of taking my business elsewhere if I had to stand even a minute of such rude and unprofessional behavior.
6. Listen Keenly Without Interrupting
As mentioned earlier, calls at work are hardly ever social. As a business owner, you should be able to appreciate that communication is a two-way street; you listen and the other person also listens to you. It goes against professional phone etiquette to keep interrupting the person on the other end of the line.
Practice patience and give them time to say what they may want to say. After they are done, you can dig into whatever issue you need clarification on or are satisfied with. Interrupting and trying to speak over the person is downright rude and condescending, and an impression like that will no doubt hurt your business.
Interruptions can also come in the form of having parallel conversations with other people around. This is an absolute no-no and that is why I earlier recommended closing the door behind you and not letting other people in as you handle your phone call. Not too long ago, I imagined myself quite clever when I would hold a hand over the mouthpiece or muff it by pressing it against my chest. I can tell you that its not as effective as you may think, and the other person will more or less hear what you say to that person that walks in to your office. It’s quite irritating to say the least.
If there is no avoiding it and you have to handle something real quick for someone who comes into your office mid-call, excuse yourself properly and be sure to get back to them as soon as possible.
7. The Hold Button
Unfortunately, some interruptions do not fall in the category of “real quick.” Such may compel you to make use of the hold button. Again, as you may very well understand; being the business owner does not make you custodian of all knowledge and information. This means that you may need to consult with other parties in order to best serve the needs of the caller.
Always ask before putting anyone on hold. As unpleasant as it always is to be put on hold, it surely helps much to know why. Make an effort to explain why you have to put the caller on hold. A script for this would be something like” I regret and apologize for the inconvenience but do you mind holding for a moment? I need to check that with my accountant and will be right back.” That does sound courteous, right?
Make all effort so that your caller doesn’t wait for too long, otherwise they may get impatient and decide to just hang up. When you do get back, be sure to thank the person for their patience and their time.
8. A place and Time For Everything
As a business owner, you will sit in many meetings and be on even more calls. You should always appreciate that phone etiquette begins even before you are connected on the line to someone else. It is rude to answer your phone, however important or urgent a call it may be when in the middle of a meeting. To the other people sitting at the meeting, this would be a communication of disinterest on your part and a clear declaration that there are far more important things you would much rather attend to. That will not do anything to boost morale.
gmeeting and will call back. If it’s an absolute must that you take the call, excuse yourself from the meeting and take the call outside so you do not disrupt the whole assembly.
9. Speaker Phone
You may need to put a caller on speaker phone, especially if there are other parties of interest with you as you make or take the call. Be sure to let the person on the hand when you put them on speaker phone as well as identifying the other persons in the room with you who will be privy to your conversation.
A business colleague once received a call from one of his suppliers. He went on to put the supplier on speaker phone for more hands-free conversation. Mid-conversation, his procurement manager walks in with some documents that needed signing. And that is where it started going south. Unknown to him, the supplier and procurement manager had been having some problems of their own and the supplier chose just that exact moment to air out his grievances. You can imagine just how awkward a one-way conversation that turned out to be.
10. Ending the Call
As a business owner, you must appreciate that every phone call is just as important as the next. Take the time to listen to everyone and never leave them with the impression that you are in a hurry to end the conversation. Always inquire if there is anything else they may need help with and invite the person to ask any questions they may have before you can wrap things up.
When it comes to ending the conversation, you can choose to go with one of several ways depending on the situation at hand. Always thank the other person for their time if you are certain there will be no further communication between you. For contacts that you are certain of other encounters in the near future, thank them for their time and promise to stay in touch, even giving mention of when you expect this time to be.
When leaving a voicemail message, observe the same rules as you would if you were actually having a live phone conversation. Start with a formal greeting and introduce yourself properly. Make sure that you speak clearly and keep your tone natural and authentic. The most important thing to remember with voicemail messages is brevity. Say exactly what needs saying within the shortest time possible, and as clearly as you possibly can, so that there is no room for confusion and misinterpretation on the part of the intended recipient. If you are giving back a number on which the person can reach you on, say it slow and clear.
I cringe with dread every time I have to listen to a very long message and would certainly not wish to subject anyone else to the same. Keep it short and straight to the point always.
No telephone exchange should be taken lightly. As a business owner, every exchange is an opportunity to show the best of your business or may pose a serious threat depending on how you handle it. With these pointers and more, you can successfully turn every telephone call into an excellent opportunity for your business.