email and instant messaging are quickly becoming standard forms
of office communication, the telephone still plays an important
role in business. Just like a face-to-face meeting, telephone conversations
are expected to and should follow certain rules of etiquette to
help make the experience pleasant and productive for all those involved.
easy to forgo manners when talking over the phone. Distractions
abound, from impromptu meetings or email notifications blinking
on your computer screen. Remember that a conversation over the phone
carries just as much weight as a face-to-face meeting, as it is
a great opportunity to communicate in real time.
up your pipes
If your job requires being on the phone most of the day, remember
it usually takes a few hours for the human vocal cords to fully
warm up after a night's sleep. Eight hours of rest usually leaves
them a little rusty. Practice enunciation in the bathroom mirror
while you get ready for work, or do some vocal exercises in the
shower. Singing in the shower does wonders for a day of cold calling
- but make sure you're not disturbing someone else's slumber with
your warbling. Deep breathing exercises help condition your stomach
and throat for a day's worth of talking, as well as gently clearing
your throat and blowing your nose. If you drive to work, you can
also sing along with the radio in the car.
When making a business call, be sure to first identify yourself
and your company. If you're routed to a receptionist or operator,
also include the name of the person you're trying to reach. A simple,
"Hello, this is Mary Robert from Off the Wall Productions. May I
please speak with Mark Grand?" will do.
prepared with a one or two sentence explanation of the purpose for
your call. When you are connected with the person, state the purpose
of your call and then be sure to ask if you are calling at a convenient
time. This is one of the most overlooked areas of phone etiquette,
and allows the person you're calling the opportunity to better address
your needs at a later time. Don't fib about how long your call will
take - if you know it will take longer than five minutes, don't
say, "It'll be quick." Let the person know what they are getting
into at the start of the conversation.
you get shunted to a receptionist and he or she asks why you are
calling, give a concise but informative statement that can be easily
relayed. Do not, however, assume that your message will be communicated;
when you speak directly with the person you are trying to call,
repeat your message in your own words. Don't be insulted if you're
asked to leave a message or call back later - previous engagements
do take priority.
People make business phone calls for specific reasons. Very rarely
do vendors or clients call just to catch up. Telephone calls usually
lead to some action to be taken, so make sure your first vocal impression
is a good one by trying to answer the phone as pleasantly and professionally
yourself and your company when receiving an incoming call. While
it's not impolite to say, "Off the Wall Productions, Mary Robert
speaking," it might be easier on the listener to say, "Thank you
for calling Off the Wall Productions. This is Mary Robert. How may
I help you?" Variations on this theme can convey your greeting quite
effectively. If you work at a large corporation with many departments,
it may also help to include your department or section name, "This
is Mary Robert, accounts receivable. How may I help you?"
The hold feature is generally considered a double-edged sword in
telephone etiquette. No one is usually available at the exact moment
of a phone call, and being on hold simply must be tolerated. However,
there are many things the caller and the person taking the call
can do to make the experience a pleasant one.
you must put someone on hold, ask first and - most importantly -
wait for their answer. If someone expresses reservation about being
put on hold, calmly explain why it is necessary. Perhaps the person
they are calling for stepped out of the office and needs to be tracked
down, or is on another call. Callers like an explanation for their
inconveniences, but don't give away too much information. If Bill
from distributing is in the restroom, just tell the caller he is
away from his desk.
to keep the person on hold updated on the status of his or her call
every 30 seconds. A simple "She's on another call" or "His meeting
is running a little late" is sufficient. It's okay to hang up after
three minutes on hold. Call back and ask to leave a message instead.
mail and messages
If you have to leave a message or voice mail for someone, make it
short and to the point. Speak clearly and slowly and leave your
name, phone number, and a brief message. Say your name and number
at the beginning and again at the end of the message, especially
if you don't know the person you're calling. If the voice mail system
allows you to play back your message, consider taking advantage
of that feature to make sure your message is clear and communicates
messages promptly is always appreciated. It's customary to return
telephone calls within 24 hours. If you cannot attend to the caller's
needs within that time, briefly phone the person to say when you
will be available.
own voice mail
The message you leave as your outgoing message is an important business
tool. Information is critical. The best messages communicate several
key things to the person calling you: your name, the organization
and/or group you're in, the current date (this tells them you are
checking your messages), whether you are in the office or not that
day, when to expect a call back, whom to contact if the call is
urgent, and how to get to that person.
seems like an enormous burden, but it just requires a little discipline
first thing every morning or last thing every night. If you've ever
called someone and gotten a generic voicemail, you know how disconcerting
it can be. Is the person on vacation? Will I get a call back? When?
So it's especially important for people who travel frequently to
attend to outgoing messages.
course, you can simplify the approach and perhaps change your message
once a week providing an update of the days you'll be out of the
office that week. Any useful information in your outgoing message
will make your caller feel more comfortable that the message is
important and you will respond. Be sure to respond.
Regina M. Robo, News Editor
and related reading
Letitia Baldridge - Amy
Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette
Judith Martin - Miss
Manners Guide for the Turn of the Millennium
Peggy Post - Emily
Peggy Post and Peter Post - The
Etiquette Advantage in Business