Even with numerous alternative ways to communicate these days, the telephone remains the primary mode of communication among professionals. Good telephone manners and etiquette will always be a vital element to winning customers and establishing lasting business relationships.

As with good behaviour in face-to-face meetings, professional telephone etiquette can give your business a positive first impression that influences the caller’s actions towards your company, so it is essential that you and your workforce are aware of proper telephone manners.

Some useful tips for answering professional phone calls include:

1. Use formal greetings

When receiving calls in the office, you should use a formal greeting, which is more or less like a standard script. A good business-like greeting starts with a “hello”, “good morning” or “good afternoon”, followed by the name of the company, the department, and the name of the speaker. For instance, you can answer a call by saying “Good Morning (Hello), Ligo Communications, Julia Selch speaking’.

When placing a call, it is important that you state your name and that of the person you want to talk to. For instance, “Hello, my name is Julia Selch from Ligo. May I please speak with Mr. John Doe?”

Trained and experienced secretaries and receptionists are accustomed to answering and making business calls, and are capable of scripting a greeting that is both professional and pleasant.

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2. Answer the phone promptly

People seldom make business calls to catch up; there is always a specific, business related objective, and waiting too long before answering may give the impression that you are too busy to tend to the caller’s needs, or perhaps the company is closed for the day. If your company uses an automated call system, put the caller on hold. Otherwise, always pick up your calls within three rings.

3. Avoid unpleasant noise

It is not courteous to answer telephone calls when you are chewing, and no caller should have to listen to you eating or drinking while talking to them. Using a straw to draw the last ounce is the most annoying sound, whether in person or on the phone. You should demonstrate the same graciousness on the phone that you would in person in order to establish a proper tone for handling professional calls.

4. Avoid interruptions during conversations

Smart receptionist taking a phone callYou should not carry on side conversations with your colleagues or other people around you, or engage in other things that might distract you, like working on the PC or driving. If someone passes by or walks in your office while you are on the phone, it is important that your phone conversation takes precedence. But if you must interrupt your conversation, be polite by using words like “please excuse me for …. I’ll be right back” and “thank you for holding” when you return.

5. Watch the tone of your voice

Your voice should be calm, clear, and even, so your tone conveys confidence and authority. The best way to achieve this is by standing or sitting upright in a chair during conversations, and to speak directly into the telephone receiver. If you have to leave a message, speak slowly and clearly, and always leave your return phone number, including the area code.

As a business owner or leader, you should train everyone who answers calls to follow these rules. If you run a home business, train your family members on proper phone etiquette, and monitor your business calls to ensure that the good behaviour is consistent.