Proper and professional business telephone etiquette tips

THE truth of running almost all business is being on the phone continuously. Whether you are talking to clients or partners, the knowledge of how to behave correctly is the key to leaving a positive impression on everyone you interact with in organisations.

Guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

Reception, front office staff and those who frequently answer telephone calls must understand that how they interact with clients and business associates over the phone will either portray them positively or negatively. For this reason, it is important that companies properly train their employees on good and bad phone practices.

Speaking professionally on the phone is an essential skill. One of the most common ways our customers interface with employees is through the telephone. Therefore, understanding telephone etiquette makes a large difference to customers and service depends on how well your staff handle incoming and outgoing calls. The person taking and making the call must not only have good communication skills, but must also know the proper phone manners and etiquette.

Companies rely so much on phone interactions that in fact the success of a business depends on it. Telephone use can have an extremely negative effect on the business if calls are not done or answered properly.

Employees who are making and taking calls must be sufficiently trained to observe proper phone manners and etiquette. The persons assigned to take and make the phone calls must always be courteous, well-mannered and knowledgeable, so that they show professionalism. The reason is that they are considered the front liners, which means they are the first persons whom clients deal with. Since the first impression has a lasting impact, same is the first impression or dialogue over the phone, hence they must take extreme care in answering the telephone calls.

Before answering

It is important to remove any background noise before taking or making a call. Lower down the volume of the radio or any sounds as this can be distracting. This is very important before you answer any telephone as you will be trying to avoid any destructions to the one whom you are communicating with.

Avoid communicating over the phone while you are eating something or answering the phone call while you are busy doing other things that can be distractive. Please note that we are not saying you should not answer the phone, but rather you should leave whatever you are doing to attend the telephone call.

Apart from that, you should be prepared to take a call. You have to have a pen and a paper on hand, so that you take note of the information that might be communicated. On the other hand, the information which is usually requested should also be readily available and these can be price-lists, specifications, manager’s phone numbers, Emails or any information with regards to your products or services among others. Being prepared adds confidence when taking a call and also saves a lot as you would not take much time on the telephone trying to look for information.

How long should a call ring before it’s answered? The answer is in not more than three rings. When answering make the caller feel that his or her call is important, and do not let the caller wait longer before you start the conversation, as he or she might drop the call. Avoid the tendency of not picking up the calls, it can be very rude to the callers which might be clients, customers or even workmates.

When taking a telephone call

Identify yourself and your company. The caller should know who has taken the call. The phone should be answered with a positive greeting such as “Hello” “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon”.

Following the greeting the person who answers the phone should give his or her name and the name of the business or organisation that is being contacted. It is important to put on a smile before placing or answering a phone call. The reason of smiling is that when a person smiles, it affects the sound of his or her voice, giving it a more pleasant and friendly tone.

It is also important to be patient with the caller, you are not supposed to rush a call. Let the caller fully express his or her ideas, thoughts. Never interrupt a complaining customer. It can be really hard not to do this, but make sure that your team is trained to listen to the whole problem, no matter how long it takes, listening to the whole story is important so the customer feels taken care of.

When transferring calls, know the right person who can handle the call, and tell that person the caller’s concerns. You are also supposed to 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. If someone must be put on hold, ask for permission first and give him or her the option to leave a message, also when taking them off of hold, thank the caller to show that their time is respected as well.

Ending a telephone call

Always end the call with pleasantries. Say “Thank you for calling,” or “It was nice talking with you.” Let the caller hang up first as this shows the caller that you are not in a hurry to get off the phone with him or her. If you have to be the first to hang up, gently put the phone down and avoid banging it, as this is rather rude. Always return phone calls as 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.

Providing customer service over the phone can be very challenging, but applying best practices can help you provide better service that will benefit the organisation. It is a terrible waste to see potential and present buyers or clients avoiding your company and going to your competitors due to deficient phone manners. Investing time to train your staff proper phone skills is one of the best decisions you can make.

Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity

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