Office phone etiquette rules

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Comedian Lily Tomlin's Geraldine, the whacky telephone operator
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Office phone etiquette rules keep customers happy and help you be professional

Have you ever called a business and the person answering the phone is (A) rude; (B) annoyed by your call and unhelpful or (C) impossible to understand?

Sure you have! A phone call is the first contact you make with a business. if the person answering the phone leaves a lot to be desired, odds are you take your business elsewhere. What are office phone etiquette rules and why are they so important?

Good phone etiquette is considered a money-maker. When a receptionist conveys a lousy attitude over the phone this is certainly not good for business and is the opposite of a money-maker.

    • Phone calls should be answered quickly. The faster the phone is answered, the more efficient the staff appears.
    • Greet callers in a responsive and professional manner. "Good morning! Cindi's Dance Studio. This is Jenny. How many I help you?"
    • When making a business call, address the person by his proper name, such as Mr. Hemmings. Do not call him by his first name.

    • At times callers are upset or get upset over the course of the conversation. Don't get upset in response. Stay calm, patient, listen to the caller's gripes and respond in a helpful and pleasant manner, as hard as this might be to do. In other words, bite the bullet and rise to the occasion. After the phone call concludes, go to the privacy of the bathroom and vent, if need be.
    • Courtesy is mandatory. Avoid making business or professional calls before 7 a.m. or after 9:30 p.m. Avoid calling at meal time.
    • When you've mis-dialed, apologize before hanging up. Don't hang up without saying something. That is the height rudeness.
    • When making a call, identify yourself immediately before asking, "Hi, is Mr. Jones in?" In this scenario, the person on the other end of the line is likely to ask, "Who is calling, please?" If you had ID'ed yourself in the first place it wouldn't be necessary for the person to ask. This saves time and is courteous.
    • A phone greeting must be welcoming and genuine and it must include vital information. That way the called knows immediately that he has reached the correct address.
    • Do not inadvertently discuss confidential information over the phone in the presence of other employees, who can overhear what you are saying.
    • When leaving a message, be concise. Get to the point. Do not drone on and on. Remember to leave a call-back number. It is aggravating when the message does not include the phone number.
    • Your attitude comes across in your voice. The person on the other end of the line can't see your face but he can certainly 'hear' your attitude in your voice so be nice and try to be enthusiastic.Smiling while talking makes the voice sound lively and friendly. Try it.
    • Refrain from speaking too fast or too quietly. If it appears the caller is hearing impaired, raise the level of your voice to accommodate his limited hearing.
    • It you must put a caller on 'hold,' ask his permission before doing so. This is polite and the caller appreciates it. If on 'hold' for a long time, keep checking in with the caller, assuring him he hasn't been forgotten.
    • Really listen to what the caller says so you can respond appropriately and/or report the conversation accurately. Take notes if this helps you remember.
    • Avoid distractions when talking to callers. If someone tries to interrupt you, quickly inform them you are on a business call. Their needs must wait.
    • When concluding the call, do so in a friendly way. Impart that you will pass along the message or will return the call later. Do as you said you would do. Do not forget to return calls. This is a big mistake in the business world.
    • Do not chew gum or eat food while talking on the phone.
    • Do not slam down the receiver, ever!
    • If you don't have a good 'phone voice' to begin with, and some people just don't, a job as a receptionist may not be your calling. People have been hired for jobs based on their voices alone. A good, strong, compelling and appealing voice conveys confidence, professionalism and oomph. When a voice is void of energy, this sends the wrong message to the caller.

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