Your reputation hinges on telephone etiquette

A telephone is one of the most vital office tools in managing your business reputation. Besides, a telephone is just as much a part of business as, say, a computer. Apart from face-to-face meetings, the telephone provides the only other real, personal touch in business, much more so than a computer-delivered email.

While everyone relies on the telephone, not everyone remembers the etiquette basics involved in properly using a telephone in business. To be sure your business reputation is above reproach, here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

Answer promptly. Some say two rings; others say three. Regardless, make it a point to get to the phone quickly. This tells callers that you’re already paying attention to them. If you must interrupt the caller, ask if he or she minds being put on hold. Then, return as quickly as possible to continue the call.

Don’t make them guess. Identify yourself right away, and what’s more, offer your company or department. Again, common courtesy rules here.

Can you hear me now? Speak loud enough and directly into the receiver in order to be heard. If you’re using a headset, ask the caller if he or she can clearly understand you.

Give me your attention. Give your full attention to the caller by being an attentive listener. Stop all tasks and avoid other annoying distractions, such as rustling papers or eating.

May I put you on speakerphone? Be considerate about using the speakerphone at work. Always obtain consent before putting a person on speakerphone. A caller has the right to know that his or her call is a private conversation. A caller might talk less freely if he or she knew that a third party could hear both sides of the conversation. Also, remember that the caller often can tell if you’re trying to perform other tasks during the conversation.

Tone it down. Tone of voice reveals a lot about you. Guard against coming across as aggressive, pushy or annoyed. To help project confidence and authority, practice taking your calls while standing.

May I interrupt? No, don’t interrupt while the other person is speaking. It’s rude.

Transfer efficiently. If the caller is better served by speaking to someone else, know how to transfer the call quickly and efficiently. Tell the caller to whom he or she is being transferred. Dropped calls reflect badly on you and your company.

Plan your call. Before placing a call, think through what you plan to say and discuss. If you must leave a message, state the purpose of your call so the caller won’t be left wondering.

Leave messages properly. When leaving a message, speak slowly and clearly. Avoid jargon and slang and state the purpose of your call. Always leave your name, phone number and time and date of your call. Another good idea is to repeat your phone number at the end of your message.

Returning calls is not optional. Business people can become quite annoyed when their calls aren’t promptly returned. Promptness here reflects positively on your business reputation. Think of an unreturned call as a missed opportunity…an opportunity to make a new contact, strengthen a client relationship or even close a sale.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.