While speaking on the phone in a work setting comes naturally to some, for others it can feel like a daily struggle. It might be that you’re new to your job or are simply unsure of exactly what constitutes good telephone etiquette – whatever your reason, feeling nervous about call handling can soon become a serious source of stress.

But don’t worry, once you have the right tricks up your sleeve you’ll soon find you’re able to deal with calls without breaking a sweat. Whether your job involves dealing with the odd client query or answering tens of sales calls a day, read on for our top tips on mastering those troublesome telephone chats, once and for all. 

What do you say when you answer the phone at work? 

First things first, it’s important to nail down your phone greeting so you get off to a good start on each call. If you’re unsure of what to say, it may be useful to ask your line manager for clarification, as there could be an official company greeting you should be using. This may be something like: “Hello, you’re speaking to [insert your name] at [insert company name], how may I help you?” Or it could be a more condensed version of this, such as simply saying hello followed by the company name, for example: “Hello, Smith’s & Co”.  

When in doubt, always state the name of the company you work for so the caller knows they’ve got through to the right place and, of course, speak in a polite, professional tone in asking how you can help.

How can I improve my call handling skills in general?

Improving your call handling skills is all about growing your confidence, and the first step towards this is to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for a variety of situations. Asides from receiving the usual company training, it can help to practice dealing with certain call scenarios at home. You could do this with a friend or family member, or simply alone. 

If you have an assigned work script for calls, try running through this a number of times, reading your answers out loud to familiarise yourself with your side of the conversation. If you don’t have a script, even just practising your greeting and certain key phrases such as “how may I help you today?” and “if you don’t mind holding the line for one moment, I’ll check for you” can help ease the pressure when it comes to the real thing. 

Another key area for concern when it comes to handling work calls is the prospect of some sort of conflict arising. Dealing with angry or disgruntled customers can be daunting, especially if they become aggressive or simply won’t back down. In these situations, try to follow a few simple rules to stop things from escalating:

  1. Listen carefully to the customer and let them know you understand their frustration.
  2. Remain calm and never retaliate with angry or aggressive language.
  3. Strive to get to the root of the problem by asking questions such as ‘when did this start?’ or ‘have you spoken to any of my colleagues about this previously?’.
  4. While it can be easier said than done, don’t take anything the customer says in the heat of the moment personally. 
  5. If you’re struggling to resolve the issue, politely arrange a time to call the customer back so you can arm yourself with the right information or speak to your manager for advice.
  6. If the customer is inappropriate or uses abusive language, calmly let them know you’ll be ending the call as the company you work for does not tolerate any kind of threatening or abusive behaviour. 

So, what exactly are examples of telephone etiquette?

Whether you’re dealing with a polite customer or a disgruntled one, it pays to know your telephone etiquette. Scrub up on your call dos and don’ts with these simple tips…

  1. Answer the call within 3-4 rings if possible.
  2. Immediately introduce yourself and the company you work for.
  3. Speak clearly at a volume that’s loud enough to be understood but not overbearing.
  4. Be aware of your tone of voice – even if you’re busy, it’s important not to sound rushed or agitated. 
  5. Always ask before putting someone on hold.
  6. Always let someone know if you’re going to transfer them through to someone else, and tell them why.
  7. Remain cheerful and positive throughout the call.
  8. Always listen to voicemails and respond promptly. 
  9. Always be honest – if you’re unable to help someone, explain to them why. 
  10. Always thank the customer for their call and say goodbye politely before hanging up.

How do you talk on the phone professionally?

Finally, when speaking on the phone in a business or work capacity, it’s important to understand the difference between professional language and the language we’d use if simply chatting to a friend. To ensure you’re coming across as professional as possible on a work call, follow these simple tips: 

  1. Pronounce words clearly and politely, and use proper language – for example, say ‘yes’ instead of ‘yeah’, and ‘I’m not sure’ instead of ‘I dunno’. 
  2. Don’t express overly personal views or opinions as your caller may have opposing ones. 
  3. Always say please and thank you where appropriate. 
  4. Don’t speak over the caller or cut them off mid-sentence.
  5. Avoid making jokes as they may be perceived as inappropriate.

Handling work or business calls can be daunting if you’ve never done it before, but by remaining calm and professional – even when things go wrong – you’ll be making sure that both you and the company you work for come across in the best light possible. As long as you’re doing that, the rest will naturally follow.

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