An Essential Guide to Proper Phone Etiquette (With Tips)

Updated February 3, 2023

A person wearing a red shirt and white apron talks on the phone. Pottery bowls and plats are shown in the background.

Communicating on the phone remains an important task for many professionals. Despite digital customer service communication advancements including email, texting and automated answering services, customers and coworkers continue to use the telephone as their initial point of contact. Learning about how best to talk with others through this medium in the workplace can help you improve your communication skills.

In this article, we provide a definition for phone etiquette to improve the quality of your phone calls and describe why phone etiquette is important.

What is phone etiquette?

Phone etiquette is the way you represent yourself and your business to customers and coworkers through telephone communication. This includes the way you greet a customer, your body language, tone of voice, word choice and how you close a call. Etiquette also involves how you listen to others when discussing professional topics. You might use this form of etiquette when interacting with customers or working with others within your organization.

Related: How To Answer the Phone Professionally (With Examples)

Why is phone etiquette important?

Here are some of the key reasons why phone etiquette is important:

  • Show professionalism: Showing professionalism entails how you represent your company with a positive attitude and knowledge. Communicating your working knowledge to your callers using telephone manners should establish you as a professional worthy of repeat business dealings.

  • Create a good first impression: The initial phone call with a customer is your opportunity to show the customer how pleasant it is to conduct business with you. Creating a memorable experience can influence them to recommend you to others or purchase more products.

  • Increase customer trust and loyalty: If you have a positive interaction with customers on the phone, customers may feel more comfortable having more meetings or discussions in person or through other channels. This can help build your reputation and increase customer loyalty.

  • Achieve high customer satisfaction ratings: When you meet customers' needs over the phone, they can accurately assume that you can continue to meet their needs in person, creating a consistent experience.

Related: Phone Skills: Definitions and Examples for Your Resume

Tips to improve your phone etiquette

Here are tips you can consider to improve your phone etiquette:

Answer the call within the first two or three rings

Providing a quick answer to customers' phone calls should let them know that their business is important to you. When customers feel valued, they could be more likely to use your business. If you can't answer the phone because you have clients in front of you, check the voicemail box frequently and call back as soon as you're able.

Related: 15 Phone Skills To Use When Communicating With Customers

Identify yourself and your business at the beginning of calls

Identifying yourself and your business at the beginning of a call lets the customer know that they called the correct place. When you identify yourself, the customer can explain the reason for their call quickly rather than asking additional questions. This can apply if you're calling customers or coworkers, too, so they know immediately with whom their speaker.

Related: 28 Tips To Improve Your Conference Call Etiquette

Be positive

Offering a positive tone of voice builds rapport, as the receiver becomes more open to sharing details about how you can best assist them with their needs. If possible, practice by recording your phone calls. Listen to the call recording, notice your tone and make corrections as necessary. Positivity can also help you turn negative calls into better situations, showing that you want to help customers and coworkers.

Related: 14 Do's and Don'ts of Phone Interviews

Minimize interruptions

Minimizing interruptions is possible, even in offices with ample foot traffic. Take a moment before answering a call to put aside items you were working on and prepare to give your full attention to your caller. For instance, try turning your back away from your crowded office when you answer phone calls, this way other individuals in the room know you're unavailable to assist them while you're on the telephone.

Actively listen and take notes

When listening actively, it can be beneficial to give periodic affirmations that you understand the customer. For example, you could say, “I understand that you would like to return your product” or “Thank you for sharing your concerns.” Keeping a record of the conversation by taking notes can ensure that you remember and respond to all the customer's concerns effectively. Active listening can also mean asking clarifying questions to help better assist others.

Remain honest

Honesty is more important than trying to make your customer happy. If there's something you know you can't do for them, make them aware that you cannot perform the task they request. Deliver the honest message in a polite and sympathetic way and your customer may still have a positive experience with your business after the call is over, even though you could not meet all of their needs.

For instance, you could say, "I understand your concerns, but unfortunately, we cannot approve your request.” If you know of additional resources that the caller can use to meet their needs, you can provide them before closing the call.

Ask the caller before placing them on hold

You may need to place a caller on hold to get more information for them. For instance, you could say, “Would you mind if I placed you on a brief hold to better assist you?” Asking the caller before placing them on hold allows them to know you're working on assisting them to the best of your ability and it displays professional courtesy. This can help you to handle other requests or situations that might be higher priority.

Minimize emotional reactions

Try to keep your tone of voice positive, even when conducting difficult conversations. Find a break in the conversation and ask the caller politely if you may place them on hold. While a customer or coworker is on hold, take two deep breaths and remember to be objective and empathetic when faced with a challenging caller. If possible, you can refer callers to other employees or a manager if you feel yourself being emotional.

Ensure you meet the caller's needs before closing the call

Making sure you meet the customer's needs is usually your goal when answering a phone call. The customer may often forget about other questions they have during the conversation. Asking if you met their needs or if they have questions is a great opportunity to be proactive and provide further clarification.

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