Telephone Etiquette at Work
The telephone is often the first point of contact a customer or client will have with a company so it is very important that you make a good impression when you’re answering the phone. Obviously in specific telephone-related jobs such as sales, customer service and marketing, you’re going to need to adopt different styles and techniques in order to be successful, such as being able to handle difficult complaint calls or being persuasive enough to encourage people to buy a product or service from your company but in general terms, even if you only answer the phone as a routine matter of course as part of your overall duties, there are guidelines and etiquette to be followed.
Be Prompt Whenever PossibleUnless you are working in a busy call centre or on a switchboard, be as prompt as possible in answering the phone. Potential clients and many customers lead busy lives and if you let the phone ring too long before answering, they might have already hung up and taken their business elsewhere.
Greetings and MoodFirstly, we all have off days when we feel the world is against us or we’re simply too busy or do not feel in the mood for work or we might even feel a little under the weather. Whilst all these things can happen to us from time to time, the last thing a caller needs to hear on the other end of the phone is a sullen voice which gives off the impression that you can’t be bothered talking. So, it’s important to be upbeat and positive when answering the phone. Smiling before you pick up the phone often helps in this regard. Always greet the caller according to the time of day and identify yourself with either a first name or first name and surname, unless your company has a strict ‘no name’ policy, and the company name followed by establishing the reason for the call. An example might be, “Good morning, Washington Tyres, Paul speaking. How can I help you?”
Be PreparedYou never know how simple or complex the nature of call might be so it’s important that you’re prepared and know to handle the call. If you’re working on a busy switchboard, you’ll need to understand how to transfer calls internally and you should also keep a pen and pad handy so you can jot down details of the call as the caller may need you to take certain action on their behalf so it’s important that this is conveyed accurately. Information you could be looking to gather might include the caller’s name, company name (if applicable), time and date of call, reason for call and their contact details.
Putting Callers on HoldPeople hate being put on hold although most of them do understand that it is sometimes inevitable. If you need to place a caller on hold for any reason, firstly tell them why and ask them if they object to being placed on hold. If they agree it is OK, and you find that you’re still going to be delayed in getting them the information they need or being put through to the right person because they’re busy, you should go back to the caller every minute or so, explain that you’re still trying to put them through to ‘X’ or get the information they need and ask them if they would still like to be put back on hold. And, you should repeat this every minute until either you can resolve the situation or they decide to try again another time.
Ending the CallBefore ending the call, you should always try to recap what you’ve discussed, if appropriate, and ask the caller if there is anything else you can help them with before saying ‘goodbye’ and hanging up. It’s also good practice to let the caller hang up before you do.
Passing on Messages to ColleaguesIf you’ve been asked to pass a message on to a work colleague, always do so as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the more likely you will either forget to do so or you’ll pass on incorrect details of the call.
Other Useful Tips
- Never chew gum or be eating when you’re answering the phone. It sounds extremely unprofessional to the person at the other end of the line
- Speak slightly more slowly on the phone than you would if you were having a general face-to-face conversation. Important details can get overlooked if you speak too quickly and it also saves you from having to repeat yourself. This is especially true if you have a very pronounced regional accent
- Keep an eye on the time – If you’re the one calling others, remember that at lunchtimes and after 5pm, it is often difficult to get hold of people and you may either find you hit voicemail or the recipient may not be best pleased to take your calls at certain times of day
- Never make outgoing calls of a personal nature unless your employer has given you explicit permission to do so and make sure you dissuade relatives and friends from calling you at work.
In general, however, if you’re friendly, courteous and helpful, answering the phone should not present you with too many problems.