Tips for Effective Telephone Use
By June Campbell
The lowly telephone is an indispensable item of business equipment. Still,
if improperly used, this necessary item can cause client dissatisfaction or
loss of customers. Keep these tips in mind to use your telephone to the best
- Telephone technology can create the illusion that you are running a much bigger
operation than you actually are. BUT if you don't know how to use the
technology properly, you will create instead the illusion of incompetence.
Spend some time practicing and do this as often as necessary to help you
remember those little-used procedures.
- Consider using earphones instead of speakerphones. Speakerphones subject
the caller to an annoying echo that makes it difficult to hear clearly.
- Ask a caller's permission before putting them on hold. Studies indicate
that callers become annoyed after being on hold for 17 seconds. Reduce their
annoyance by asking permission, explaining why they are being put on hold
and by giving an estimated time that will elapse before you return.
- Answer the phone with your business name and your own name. For example,
"Hello. Jones Catering. This is Sandra Jones." If answering a call that has
been transferred to you, answer with your name. Mistakes in transferring
calls occur often enough that callers have little faith that the person
saying "Hello" is really you.
- Ensure that no more than four rings elapse before the call is directed to
voice mail. If the phone is to be answered in person, try to answer in two
rings. Avoid leaving a phone ringing indefinitely without answering. If
switchboard operators leave their post for even a short time, ensure that
incoming calls are switched to voice mail.
- Customers arriving in person have priority over telephone customers. When
talking to a customer in person, allow voice mail to pick up the phone call,
or ask someone else to answer. When a customer arrives while you are talking
on the phone, ask to place the caller on hold, then address the walk-in
- If you are using an 800 number, find out precisely what areas or
countries can reach you using that number. Post that information on your web
site or wherever the number is advertised. Be sure that your representatives
don't respond to email messages with an invitation to call an 800 number
that the customer cannot use.
- Give a thought to time zones before phoning a customer or potential
customer. If you're on the East coast of North American, that 9:00 AM phone
call you place to a customer on the West Coast will wake them up at 5:00 AM.
Or, if it's a B2B call, your 11:00 AM telephone appointment won't work
unless you both understand the time zones involved. If you don't recognize
the area code that you are calling, your local phone book will usually offer
that information. Still don't know what time zone your caller is in? Check
the World Time Server at http://www.worldtimeserver.com/
- Be aware that coffee drinking, gum chewing and cigarette smoking are clearly audible
over the telephone. Instruct personnel to avoid these activities while
talking on the phone.
- If working from home, your business phone must be answered in a
manner. Many telephone companies offer a service that in my area, is called
You pay for only one phone line, but you have two different numbers -- each
with a distinctive ring so you always know whether it is a business call or
a personal call. Ensure that your telecom will allow you to use Smart Ring
for business purposes -- but most do!
And you do know that your customers won't think it cute when your toddler
answers the phone?
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