5 minute read |

Simple guidelines of phone etiquette for business calls

VoIP phone service background
Business VoIP Solutions

Even in an age of social media and email, many customers prefer a phone conversation when communicating with your business. In fact, 2020 has emphasized the importance of phone conversations – with or without video. 

Before we dive into basic phone etiquette for business calls, why is etiquette so important? After all, we don’t need rules to talk on the phone! Unfortunately, this attitude can cost you in terms of lost prospects and sales. While you don’t need rules for personal calls, basic phone etiquette is a must for business calls.

Consider the impression your staff makes when a customer call is answered with a casual hello or a disinterested tone of voice. A rude or even bored employee can make the difference between retaining a customer and losing a promising prospect.  

Why you should train your staff in phone etiquette?

Reasons to consider training your staff in phone etiquette

  • Create a good first impression

Quite often, this is the first time a customer is interacting with your business. Whether they’re calling about buying something from you or to resolve an issue, they expect a good experience. Every customer deserves to be treated with respect and the attitude extends to phone conversations as well. 

  • Increase customer trust 

Some customers may come to your office and interact with staff face to face. Others may only interact with you over the phone. Creating a good first impression on the phone gives you a chance to reinforce customer trust when they walk into the office. Quite a few businesses have a loyal customer base built solely on their experience over the phone!

  • Improve customer satisfaction

Many customers will evaluate your service based on a single conversation or a series of phone calls. Polite and helpful employees can improve customer satisfaction manyfold. The reverse holds true as well. Poorly trained staff can drive away even the most loyal customer, so better be prepared.

Basics of phone etiquette for business calls

As has been said before, there are a few rules to follow when it comes to business calls. These elements apply regardless of whether you contact the customer or they reach out to you. Your staff should follow them when talking to a customer, supplies, partner, or even with an internal colleague. Anyone who answers or makes calls on behalf of the company needs to be trained in phone etiquette. 

  • Professional language

Always use professional language. It sounds simple enough but it’s amazing how many businesses do not follow it. Train your employees to avoid casual language such as hang on, what’s up, etc. Always use professional equivalents like ‘May I put you on hold?’ and ‘How may I help you?’

  • Tone of voice

Your tone is just as important as the words you use. In a normal face to face conversation, customers can see your facial cues, body language, and gestures to interpret your words. All of this is missing in a phone conversation, except for the tone of your voice. An upbeat voice tells customers you are paying attention while a bored inflection can just as easily offend.

  • Speed of talking

You’ve heard the customer service reps or salespeople who rush their introductions so they can get to the actual conversation. No customer likes to feel as if their call is a burden to your business. You should train your staff to speak slowly and enunciate properly. Don’t rush your introduction or interrupt the customer in the middle of the sentence, even if you already know the solution to their problems!

  • Body language

While body language cues are often missing in a phone call, it can still impact your voice and how you sound to the customer. You can hear the difference yourself. Try having a conversation with a colleague while you’re sitting in your chair and while you’re lying on a couch. Your voice subtly changes according to your posture and attitude.

  • Politeness goes a long way

Your employees should always be polite when talking on the phone. Yes, it can be hard if the customer is upset or being too loud. But politeness will calm the customer down faster than if your staff simply shouts back at them. You may have to raise your voice to be heard above the customer’s words but always be polite.

  • Wear a smile

Similar to body language, people can actually ‘hear’ your smile on the phone. Your voice automatically becomes lighter when you smile. In fact, it can be quite difficult to sound upbeat and positive when you don’t smile!

  • Be prepared

Being prepared before answering a call means knowing how the phone system works. Do your staff know how to put a caller on hold or transfer them to a different department? Has everyone setup their voicemail correctly? Ensure everyone is familiar with commonly used buttons and functions of the company phone system.

  • Be an active listener

There’s nothing worse for a customer than having the service rep say the wrong name or repeatedly asking for the same information during the call. It shows you are not listening to them. Stop multi-tasking when on a call and keep a notepad handy so you can jot down crucial information.

  • Consistency is key

Make sure your employees answer phone calls consistently across the company. This way the customer knows what to expect. You don’t want the accounting team to answer calls one way and the service team another. Regardless of department, a customer should know they will be greeted politely and professionally. 

Additional rules for specific situations

Apart from the basic etiquette listed above, you may also need rules addressing how specific situations should be handled. For instance, how should staff take messages or leave voicemails for customers? A few pointers on several common business situations may come in handy:

When answering the phone

Make sure employees answer calls by the third ring. Any longer and customers often hang up. Staff should introduce themselves by their name and company name and not just a simple hello. A good example is – ‘Thank you for calling XYZ office, this is Susan. How may I help you today?’ You don’t need to say good morning or similar as people often make mistakes about the time of day.

When putting a call on hold

Always ask a customer if it’s ok to put them on hold. Give a reason if appropriate such as ‘I need to pull up some information’ or ‘I need to talk to Jane before moving forward.’ Check back with the customer if the wait time is going to be longer than a minute or so. Remember to thank the customer for waiting. Offer to call them back or ask if they mind waiting a bit longer. 

When transferring a call

Similar to putting a caller on hold, tell the customer why you’re transferring them and ask if they’re ok with it. Did they reach the wrong person or does their issue need someone with more authority to resolve? When transferring a call, make sure that the other person knows the customer’s name and other information. Do not make the customer repeat the same things over and over again! 

Give the customer the name and number of the person you’re transferring them to so they can call back if the call drops for any reason. Also, give them your name and number so they can reach out if the contact person is not available. 

When taking messages

Make sure employees get all pertinent data when taking a message. At the very least it should include the customer name, contact information, and a brief reason for the call. You may also need additional information like date and time. Also, include the action to be taken by the recipient such as customer needs a callback or if they’re expecting an email response.

When leaving a voicemail

Voicemail is a crucial way of reaching someone when they don’t answer the phone. But most voicemails go unanswered because the caller did not leave sufficient information. When leaving a voicemail, include the following information:

  • Your name and department
  • Your contact number and when you’re available to answer calls
  • Why you are calling
  • Any action the customer needs to take before returning the call

When returning a customer call

Playing phone tag is not fun for any busy person, so avoid it by asking when is a good time to call or when they can call you back. Sometimes it is appropriate to give them a block of time such as between 3 to 5 pm. If you are responding to a voicemail from the customer, be sure to note any information they included in the message. As always, do not make the customer repeat themselves!

When ending a call

Many people don’t like to end calls as they don’t know what to say. A simple ‘thank you for contacting ABC company’ or a phrase like ‘I’m glad we could resolve the issue’ is often sufficient. If further calls are needed, then state the action you are going to take and if/when you will contact them again. Always end with a goodbye and avoid slang or idiomatic phrases.

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