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Home | Office Manners | Telephone Etiquette

The telephone is one of the tools used in our daily business activities. The telephone is our link to the outside world. That is why it is critical for our students to understand how much professionalism matters on the phone.  That is why it is so important to train our students on the proper use of this important tool.

Speak directly into the mouthpiece. If this is a problem because you use other equipment while on the telephone (i.e., computer), consider purchasing a headset, which will free your hands.
Do not eat or chew gum while talking on the telephone (your caller may ask what you’re having for lunch!!)
If someone walks into your office while you’re talking on the telephone, ask the caller if you may put him/her on hold briefly). Depress the HOLD button.
Don't place the handset in the cradle until you’ve depressed the HOLD button.
Don’t lay the receiver on the desk, without placing the caller on hold (the caller will hear everything being discussed in your office).
Return to caller and complete the call as soon as possible.

Answer your own telephone whenever possible and answer within 2-3 rings.  Identify yourself and your organization:
"Telecommunications, Mary Smith,” OR “Mary Smith, may I help you?”
Use a greeting that is going to give the caller the impression that you are professional and pleasant.
There has been a lot of discussion of using “good morning” or “good afternoon.” This is unnecessary if you use the right tone. Also, people tend to make mistakes when using these phrases (i.e., saying “good morning” when it’s really afternoon and vice versa).

Remember to ask your caller “Do you mind holding?” or “May I put you on hold?” before doing so.
If you take the time to ask your caller to hold, be sure to listen to the response.
After placing your caller on hold, check back periodically (between 30-45 seconds). Give them the option to continue to hold if it will take longer to find information OR offer to call them back.
When returning to your caller, remember to thank them for waiting.
If your caller cannot hold, offer to take a message; transfer to another party; or arrange for them to return the call at a specific time.
If you are not in a position to ask your caller to hold, tell the caller, “Please Hold” before depressing the hold button. NOTE: When placing multiple calls on hold, remember to return to the first caller you placed on hold first!

Tell the caller the REASON you are transferring the call before you do so.  Then ASK if it is all right to transfer their call.
Call the department or person where you are transferring a call and make sure that they can take the call. If they are able to take the call, give them the person’s name, their request, and any other relevant information.
Then, return to your caller and give them the name of the person they are being transferred to, the department and the telephone number (if possible).
When you're not sure to whom a call should be transferred, take their name and number and find out where the call needs to be directed. Also give them your name and number as a reference in case the appropriate party does not contact them.

There is a lot of controversy over whether or not telephone calls should be screened.  It is not recommended to screen calls for good public relations!! If you must announce calls, “Yes he’s in. May I tell him who’s calling, please?” is an appropriate response.
When it’s necessary to screen calls (i.e., if someone is available ONLY to certain individuals), “She’s away from her office; may I take your name and number?” OR “May I say who’s calling? Thank you. Let me check and see if he’s in.” are suggested responses.  If you are required to ask who is calling or what the nature of the call is, be aware of your tone of voice. Screening calls is always a delicate situation, so it is critical not to offend or put your caller on the defensive with your voice tone.

Whenever possible, use telephone message forms to record accurate and complete information.
A good phone message includes:
Name of person for whom the message was left
Caller’s name (get the correct spelling), company or dept. and number
Date and time
Action to be taken (i.e., “Please Call,” “Will call back,” or “URGENT”)
It is important to deliver the message as soon as possible and maintain confidentiality with all messages. Either turn the message over or fold them in half, so there is no danger that they can be read by other staff or visitors.

Most people find it frustrating when they return phone calls only to learn the other person isn’t in. To avoid playing telephone tag, try the following:
When calling someone, establish specific call-back times. Ask, “When is the best time for me to call again?” or “When is the best time for them to call me back?”
When taking calls for another individual, schedule return calls during specific blocks of time (i.e., “I expect him to return by 2:00 p.m. You can reach him between 2 and 5”).

Whenever you make a telephone call for yourself or your boss, be sure you have the right number before you place the call. Keep a “frequently called numbers” list within your reach and follow these suggestions:
Get ready. Visualize your caller as a friendly, positive person
Plan ahead of time the objectives you want to accomplish by jotting them down
Make sure you identify yourself when you initially make contact.  It is very awkward if the person on the other line does not know who you are or what you are about.  If you do not identify yourself most will come to the conclusion that you are not a person they want to talk to.
Identify the information you need to obtain from the conversation by stating your concerns up front
Anticipate questions or objections you may encounter to avoid making additional calls
Take notes during the call
Spell out any follow-up action to the caller (such as when you plan to get back to him)

If you reach an answering device (i.e., answering machine or voice mail), leave the
following information:
Your name, including the correct spelling, if necessary
Your department and telephone number
Date and time
Message, including a good time to reach you

Many times people find it difficult to end a telephone conversation. There are some specific things that you can say to close you conversation professionally:
Talk in the past tense and use “closing” phrases (i.e., “I’m really glad you called” or “I’m glad we resolved this concern”).
State the action you will take
Spell out follow-up action, including time frames/deadlines.
Thank them for calling and say “Good-bye” not “bye-bye,” “Okie-dokie,” “Alrighty,” or any other slang phrase

Although we tell our callers a lot through our voice tone, the words and phrases we use convey a message. Unfortunately, sometimes we send a negative message to our caller. Be aware of the language you are using.
Instead of saying “You have to…You need to…Why didn’t you?” try “Will you
please…Would you please?”
“Your problem” or “Your complaint,” would sound better phrased as “Your
question,” “Your concern,” or “this situation.”
Many people use phrases like “I can’t do that” or “it’s not my job.” Instead, tell the caller what you can do (i.e., “While I’m not able to establish policy on this matter, I will speak to my manager about your concern.”)
At all costs, avoid sounding abrupt. The following are examples:
--“Hang on.”
--“Hold on.”
--“Who’s calling?”
--“I can’t hear you, speak up!”
--“I can’t help you. You’ll have to speak to someone else.”
The following would be more appropriate:
--"May I put you on hold?”
--“May I say who is calling please?”
--“I am having a little difficulty hearing you. Can you please speak up?”
--"I need to transfer your call to (dept.) so that they can answer your question. May I do so?"

Telephone techniques are built from a few basic rules and principles. In fact, telephone etiquette can be summarized in one word: COURTESY. Unfortunately, courtesy is not something people are used to being shown routinely in the business world.  If the caller is a potential customer and you are courteous to him, you have an excellent chance of gaining a new customer. If he is an existing customer, you’ll keep him for life!

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