3 Must-Do's That Will Instantly Improve Your Business's Telephone Etiquette


Right after my dog urinated on the couch, I called the company that I have a furniture-stain-cleaning service agreement with. (The company’s policy says not to clean anything up yourself or you could “nullify” the contract you have with them. In order to get the service from them that you’ve already pre-paid for, you have to take pictures of the stain, fill out a form online, print it, sign it, mail it in, and then it takes a couple of weeks for someone to come out and clean the furniture. A ridiculous process, but that’s beside the point.)

So, anyway, while the urine seeped deeper and deeper into the couch cushion, I waited on hold. After a frustrating few minutes, an extremely distracted and curt man answered the phone. I told him the situation and asked him if there was anything they could do to speed up the process of getting a service man out to clean the couch, since this was a serious(ly gross) problem.

He answered my question with one word. “No.”

Confused, I said, “Okay. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing you can do?”

“No, you have to fill out the form and send it in.” (Spoken like a true robot.)

I pleaded, “Can’t I fill out the form with you over the phone or something so it doesn’t take so long? I can’t have urine sitting on my couch for two weeks!”

“No, we can’t do anything until we get the form in the mail.”

“Okay.” As I was thinking of what to say next, the man on the other end of the line said, “Okay.” Click.

I guess he was done with our conversation.

In an already-frustrating situation, that pushed me over the edge. Not only did I not get the answer I wanted, but he was rude to me. He wasn’t even pretending to be helpful. And, he hung up on me! (I ended up cleaning the urine out of the couch myself, by the way. I decided I was fine with nullifying a contract with a company like that.)

Ever experienced something like that? Of course you have. Everyone knows customer service calls can be a nightmare. Is your business known for that? Let’s hope not. But if so, how do you change that?

Two words: Telephone etiquette. It’s simple, really. Here are three all-encompassing practices to implement that will instantly improve telephone etiquette in your business. It’ll keep your customers happy. Which will keep you happy. Because that means they’ll keep paying you.

#1: Make the phone call your #1 priority.

Even if you or your employees are in the middle of a hundred different things, give the person on the other end of the phone call your undivided attention. The worst thing you can do is act preoccupied or annoyed. You don’t want the customer to think that they may be an inconvenience to you.

For example, when the phone rings, put down everything you’re doing. Minimize your computer screens, or tell the person you’re talking with to hang on for just a minute. Have a notepad right by the phone or an easy-to-pull-up place on your computer to use to take notes. That’s the only thing you should be doing while you’re on the phone.

#2: Mind your manners.

Don’t be rude. Speak to people like your grandmother taught you. Please’s and thank-you’s go a long way. At the very least, your customers and clients-to-be should feel respected after a conversation with someone at your business.

A practical way to implement this? Speak in complete sentences. That may seem like common sense (unless you’re a two-year-old). But, it’s a lesson that the stain-cleaning service guy from my phone call above needs to learn. Whether you’re intentionally being rude or not, answering a question with one word comes off the wrong way. Instead of saying “no,” say, “I’m so sorry, ma’am, but we can’t get the process started until we get the form from you.” Doesn’t that seem a lot nicer? Which brings me to my next point...

#3: Be a yes-person.

The phrase “yes-man” tends to have negative connotations, but when it comes down to telephone calls, that’s exactly who you want answering your phone, someone that’s inclined to say, “Yes!”

Customers don’t call in to hear the word “no.” (I know I sure didn’t when I made the above phone call.) So avoid saying the word altogether. In fact, this fantastic article by Deborah Grayson Riegel gives you seven ways to say no without saying no to your customers. (Which is a great way to keep them from cussing you out.)

Of course there are going to be some things you just can’t do for customers, but the bottom line is this: people just want to know that you’ve exhausted all options possible to help them. “Yes, I’ll try my very hardest,” or “Yes, I’ll do everything I can,” could keep you from losing a very valuable customer.

Don’t know how your team is doing when it comes to answering the phone? Learn how they’re handling calls using TeleCapture’s call recording service.