Proper telephone etiquette when calling an organization, a business, or an individual
For most types of organizations, the telephone plays a major part in daily operations. It is for this reason I am becoming agitated with customer service phone representatives, call center callers, salespeople, suppliers, employees, and cold call solicitors and their lack of proper phone etiquette. It seems like no one is training staffers in the proper etiquette of phone use today. It has become so burdensome, I have decided to write this blog post about it.
The phone call done properly, opens a door of communication with customers by allowing them to contact the business at any time during its hours of operation. As important as the phone is, it is just as important that organizations know the difference between what is good and what is bad phone etiquette.
How individual callers interact with prospects, clients and business associates over the phone will either portray them in a positive light or a negative one. In the hands of a poorly trained employee, manager, or business owner, telephone use can have an extreme negative effect on the business. For this reason, it is important that companies properly train their employees on good and bad phone practices. It is important to understand that phone etiquette is important, and essential, on both sides of all calls, and in this day, is also a security hole that must be plugged or at least monitored. Good call etiquette builds brand, and strengthens organizational culture. Poor call etiquette harms public reputations, creates questions, and quickly deteriorates into a bad call and experience that affects long-term branding and reputations.
So, what should you do?
On the receiving end, a call should always be answered within four rings. If you’ve set up an automated call system, it should be set to four rings and (human) personnel that are supposed to be personally answering the phone should be instructed to always pick it up on the third ring. For small organizations that need to convey a more solid reputation, a manager should be the one answering the phone as this suggests better customer-driven values, and urgency.
All phone calls should be answered as follows: organizations — “Hello. (or “Good morning.” or “Good afternoon.”) This is [name of organization], how may I direct your call?”; businesses — “Hello. This is [name of business] – optional tagline – how may I direct your call?” individuals — “Hello.” (NOTE: Because of social phone phishing for identity theft and cyber attacks police authorities have recommended not to provide names at the onset of the call.)
On the calling side of the call: All callers should call as follows: “Hello. This is [personal first name] of [name of company, organization] may I please speak with [ name of person?” … you are trying to contact, or title of area to which call is intended]? ONE SHOULD NEVER BEGIN ANY CALLS WITH: “Hello, or worse “Hey” is “first name of person trying to be reached” — NEVER: Hello is John there? (Yet 96% of calls our business receive begin exactly this way — SAD.) ONE SHOULD NEVER HAVE IN ANY SEGMENT OF THE CALL MESSAGE: “How are you today?” … but if you actually know the person on the other end as a ‘regular’ acquaintance you may have some flexibility — BUT, NEVER ON A FIRST CALL OR COLD CALL.
Providing your first name AND the specific company from which you are calling or representing — is essential in this marketplace. Phishers for social identity theft, or shady solicitors (including credit and collection agencies) have a record of trying to provide as little information on themselves as possible.
Phone call security
On the receiving side, police authorities explain that you should never answer “yes” to anything (as in, “Is John there?”) until you’ve found out who is calling, from where, and what is the intention of the call. It turns out that an affirmative response is now being used heavily to illegally access financial, health, and personal records for scamming and identity theft purposes. It is for this reason that callers must always provide name, name of company, and reason for call to create a transactional and successful call.
For those companies who for whatever reason are afraid to provide their company name because they can be hung up on — shortened names can suffice — as long as the caller is also ready to describe in detail, if questioned, what is the real purpose of the call.
Once the essential information has been provided (and if necessary, confirmed on the receiving end) — then the conversation can begin. Try to smile when you talk as that emotion does project through your verbal words. For clarity, the phone receiver should be at a distance of two fingers from the mouth, and one should always speak in a clear voice with full enunciation.
If during the conversation, someone must be placed on hold, be polite and always ask permission first and take time to hear their answer. If someone they are trying to reach is not there, or the incoming call is a priority, ask the caller if they can leave a message in voicemail and ensue them that the intended party WILL receive that message, and get back to them. When taking them off of hold, ALWAYS thank the caller — to show that their time is respected.
Always return phone calls if a return call has been promised. If a time frame was given the caller must make every attempt to return the phone call as quickly as possible within that frame. If it is necessary to transfer a call, inform the person on the other end before doing so. It is also important to explain the need for the transfer. Before transferring a call, confirm that the person to whom the call is being transferred is available. This person’s name should be given to the party who is being transferred.
When ending a phone call, do not hang up the phone without a positive closure such as “Thank you for calling,” or “Have a Good Day.”
The method that you choose to communicate within a call should be appropriate to the audience, situation and nature of the message that needs to be communicated. It should also be concise and to the point — a minimalist approach — recognizing that if the other side asks for additional information, and you provide it, it adds to the call. Always begin the meat of the phone conversation as a caller by asking the person you are discussing things with, “Is this the best time we should go over this? … and suggest that to make it brief, you can follow-up with instant messaging or email. (Sometime the person in receipt of the call may actually prefer that method of contact.)