Phone Etiquette

Practicing proper telephone etiquette is the key to improving and maintaining a high level of sales and customer service. Knowing how to effectively and courteously answer the phone, initiate a controlled conversation, and resolve the issue with the costumer at the other end of the line saves time and increases the level of customer satisfaction.  Every business receives customer complaints over the telephone. Those that handle the complaints in a courteous and empathetic manner retain their customer base and gain new business by word of mouth referrals. There are many consultants, seminars, and training courses available to improve phone etiquette.

Related: Call Center Training Online Course


The basic, informal “hello” does give a clear invitation to begin a conversation. It acknowledges that someone is responding on the other end of the phone in a polite and direct way. A more formal greeting could do more to orient the caller into the conversation. By saying the company name first, “Fat Cat’s Bar & Grill, Hillcrest branch, this is Juan, the manager speaking” gives the caller a better idea of whom they are speaking to. They can confirm that they are calling the correct place and speaking to the person who can deal effectively with their problem. If the caller requests to speak with someone else within the organization, the person answering the phone can reply courteously, “I can get them on the line in just a minute if you are willing to hold”.  He then waits for a response.  If the seller agrees to hold, then he sets the phone down with the speaker directed away from any noise and quietly goes to get the person for whom the caller is waiting.  If the business has phone extensions he can easily transfer the call to the correct person and thank the caller for waiting.

Building Rapport

Communicating compassion is the process of building a bridge to the customer and crossing it to join them in their pain. The stress, anxiety, and depression the customer may be feeling about their experience must be acknowledged.  By joining them in lamenting the situation and acknowledging that they have a right to feel upset, the customer service agent can then suggest some possible remedies to the situation. This might be a voucher, coupon, discount card, or just an apology, depending on the situation.

When communicating with the customer, the compassionate communicator uses the customer’s name frequently in the conversation, names the problem specifically, and prescribes a solution or remedy to resolve the conflict.

Speaking Clearly- Tone of Voice

Use a clear, crisp, professional sounding voice that communicates warmly with the caller.

  • Enunciate your words: Do not mumble or slur your speech.
  • Control your volume: Speak loudly enough to be heard without shouting or sounding hostile.
  • Change your intonation: Express your ideas with a change of emphasis on key words and avoid using a monotone. Sound excited about what you are saying.

Effective Listening

Businesses often fail to leave customers satisfied due to poor listening when a complaint arises.  The root problem must be identified. There might be several sources of discontent being voiced at once.  The customer service representative or other person handling the complaint should list the issues being presented.  After confirming they have heard all the concerns effectively, they can propose an adequate solution to one, two or possibly all the areas mentioned. With a sincere apology for the areas where no action can remedy the situation, most customers are content and their confidence in the relationship is restored.

Examples of Effective Listening

  • Taking mental or physical notes.
  • Allowing the speaker to express themselves without interruptions.
  • Using signs of agreement in the conversation without interrupting the flow.
  • Avoiding multi-tasking while the conversation is in progress.
  • Restating the issues to assure you comprehend what was said.