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9 Tips to Help You Maintain Good Phone Etiquette and Professional Best Practices

Talking to customers can be stressful. Many small business owners may feel awkward, shy, or simply lacking the relevant people-skills.

The good news is that a Virtual PBX already gets you off to a good start—it’s generally recommended not to keep a caller waiting beyond the third ring, and your IVR menu kicks in right from the first! So now, since you've already designed a killer call menu, it’s only a matter of keeping the momentum going into the call.

Here are a few simple tips to help you out:

  1. Be positive and energetic, but don’t overdo it. People naturally respond to genuine enthusiasm, just as they intuitively sniff out a fake (think of your favorite TV host as opposed to that guy with the crooked smile from the used-cars commercial—see the difference?). So before you answer the phone, take a moment to put yourself in a good mind space. Some suggest smiling while you speak, but it might be enough to simply avoid being sullen. The important thing is to be focused and genuine.

  2. Friendliness vs. Familiarity. Business communications is really about keeping a balance between personality and professionalism. You want to have character and set yourself apart from others, but at the same time, you also want to maintain a professional image. The difference between friendliness and familiarity embodies this balance. To be friendly is to be courteous, helpful, and allow a touch of good humor. To be familiar, on the other hand, is to cross that boundary and behave in a way that might be appropriate between friends, but utterly unbecoming amongst strangers.

    An example can be something as simple as addressing a caller by the first name, or as absurd as making a wise crack.

    Even if the person you are talking to sounds like a laid back individual, just remember you’re sitting behind an office desk representing a company, so be sure not to cross that fine line. (You’ll be surprised how some people can allow themselves a lot of liberty, but cringe at the slightest remark when coming from the other end)

  3. Listen. When a person calls, let him speak without interruption and pay attention to what he’s saying. You may think that you’ve heard this story a hundred times before—but this is a new caller, with a new situation, and it’s your job to treat it as such. Don’t let complacency get in the way and take you off on a mental excursion. Silence may be golden, but guess what—once he’s finished talking comes your turn to show that you’ve been paying attention.

  4. Be Positive. I was going to say ‘don’t be negative’—but this didn’t really take any more effort. It goes to show just how easy it can be sometimes. Always have your best foot forward and be prepared to help, even if a matter happens to fall outside the scope of your job-title.

    • Instead of ‘I don’t know’ or ‘that’s not my job’, try ‘let me find out for you’
    • Instead of ‘I/we can’t do that’, try 'let me see what I can do’
    • Instead of ‘No!’, try offering an alternative.
  5. You’ve gathered information, now use it. Whether you’re using a CRM utility or manage things manually, make sure you review all previous notes and enter new ones as you go. You don't want callers repeatedly asked the same questions. Remember that they've been probably waiting on hold for a while before getting connected, and your task is to make their experience as expedient as possible. Value their time, and they’ll value your business.

  6. When transferring a call, don’t just pass it along thinking ‘good riddance!’ Notify the caller and make sure the other person is debriefed. Stay on the line and don’t hang up before you’re sure the call has been connected. Introduce the caller to your colleague and don’t neglect to say goodbye (common courtesy is too easily forgotten). It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve got the caller’s phone number before you start transferring them so that you may call them back in case you get disconnected. The safest way is to ask for it right at the start of the call.

  7. Be upfront. If there’s something you’re not sure about, say so and offer to find out the answer. If it’s going to take a while, consider offering to hang up and call them back (if they’re calling long-distance) or to schedule a call-back.

  8. If you've scheduled a call-backcall back! Even if you haven’t found an answer yet—if only to say “I’m sorry, I’m still working on it. I’m afraid it’s going to take a bit longer than I thought.” A call-back is an appointment. Meeting it shows that you care about helping the customer, that you value their time, and that you're genuinely doing your best to resolve an issue.

  9. Make sure you give the right information. Lastly, nothing is more frustrating than calling about an issue three different times and getting three different answers. Don’t ad-lib. Don’t take a best guess. A customer calls support to get reliable information, not your opinion. Find out whatever you don’t know and make sure you get it right before you pass it on to the customer.


To sum things up, we’re all customers. We all know what aspects of a service we enjoy, what can be done better, and what REALLY irks us. Just use your own experience and common sense to guide you. It all comes down to the oldest lesson in the book, the Golden Rule of common decency:

"Don't do to others what you don't want done to you"

(or whatever iteration you prefer)

Related Articles

  1. 13 Tips To Help You Design IVR Menus Better than the Pros
  2. Tips to Help You Record IVR Voice Prompts Like a Pro
  3. How a Live Answer Service Can Supplement Your Virtual IVR

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 12:17 PM