Business Telephone Etiquette

Mary Gormandy White

Practicing proper business telephone etiquette is a must for anyone who wants to be successful.

Basics of Business Telephone Etiquette

No matter what field you are in, it is very likely that your job requires a significant amount of telephone communication. The first point of contact for many business transactions is a telephone call. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so initial telephone contact can make or break a business relationship. Every time anyone who represents your organization picks up the company's telephones, there is a possibility of gaining or losing business.

Listening Skills

In order to communicate effectively via telephone, it's important to have strong listening and speaking skills. Saying everything right can't make up for listening skills that are lacking. To practice proper telephone etiquette, you must truly listen to and comprehend what the other person is saying. Effective listening requires a high degree of concentration, because it involves understanding in addition to hearing.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Proper business communication etiquette also requires you to pay attention to what you say and how you say it. Both the words that you choose and the manner in which they are delivered can have a significant impact. People with whom you communicate via telephone form an impression of your attitude based on language choices and tone.

It's important to consider both verbal and nonverbal aspects of communication when discussing telephone etiquette. Choose words carefully, making sure there is as little room for misinterpretation as possible. The manner in which words are delivered has a huge impact on telephone communication. In many cases, the way something is said sends much more of a message than the choice of words.

Tips for Improving Telephone Communication

  • Answer Calls Promptly: Proper business etiquette dictates that phone calls should be answered by the third ring if at all possible. Some companies have policies in place stating that employees are not allowed to answer until the second ring.
  • Focus: Before you answer or make a telephone call, stop what you are doing and focus your attention on the person on the other end of the phone.
  • Master the Telephone Equipment: Learning how to properly operate your company's telephone equipment can help prevent transfer errors, dropped calls, speakerphone mix-ups, and other problems.
  • Practice Your Greeting: Make sure that the way you answer the phone is appropriate. Your greeting should be warm, professional, and not too lengthy. Identify yourself by name and let the caller know that you are ready to help with his or her needs.
  • Practice Your Closing: Many people overlook the importance of practicing how to conclude business telephone calls. However, the manner in which a call is concluded can form a lasting impression. It's a good idea to get in the habit of ending professional telephone calls by saying "thank you".
  • Smile: The best way to keep your tone positive and upbeat is to smile when you are talking on the phone. It's a good idea to keep a mirror on your desk as a reminder to smile when you pick up the telephone. Even though the person on the other end of the line can't see the smile on your face, they'll "hear" it in the tone of your voice.
  • Visualize: Try to picture the person on the other end of the line while you are having a conversation with them. This helps keep you focused on the task at hand, and serves as a reminder that you are dealing with a human being rather than just a voice on the other end of an electronic gadget.

Breaking Bad Phone Habits

Even the most effective communicators tend to have some bad habits when it comes to telephone communication. The following list features common bad habits that have a negative impact on telephone communication. If you're guilty of these bad habits, it's a good idea to start working on breaking them.

  • Allowing yourself to become emotional during the conversation.
  • Becoming distracted by noises around you.
  • Interrupting with questions before the speaker has finished.
  • Making faces at the telephone while speaking.
  • Participating in other activities, such as typing or filing, while on the telephone.
  • Tuning out because you think you know what the speaker is going to say.

Feedback Leads to Improvement

Before you can fix problems with your communication style, you first have to become aware of them. It's a good idea to ask people you work with, or other trustworthy people, to critique how you come across on the telephone. Better yet, get a tape recorder so that you can critique your own telephone communication style.

Taking the time to brush up on your communication skills can have a positive impact on your professional life. There are many things that you can do to improve your business telephone etiquette. Getting constructive criticism about your telephone etiquette can be the first step toward becoming a more powerful and effective communicator.

Business Telephone Etiquette