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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

Effective communication is a vital part of the success or failure of any business, and while email is a popular way of keeping in touch, the trusty telephone still has an important role to play.

Unfortunately, unlike email, you cannot edit your comments or erase something inappropriate in favour of something better. Telephone calls are live, and there is no going back once you have said your piece.

This is why learning proper telephone etiquette can lead to better and more productive phone calls. Every telephone conversation is also a measure of how your business is perceived, so it’s important to make sure you give the right impression every time you pick up the receiver.

Some points to remember with telephone etiquette:

• Neither start nor finish a phone call too abruptly – allow the phone to ring at least once before answering so the caller knows they have connected (a good rule of thumb is to answer between the third and fifth ring) and always allow the caller to hang up first

• It is always important to be polite and speak clearly during each call. Bear in mind that the other person can only hear you, so choose your words and tone carefully to ensure you get the right message across (remember it’s not what you say, but how you say it)

• The right posture and your physical environment can have an impact on how you sound on the phone

• Jot down important points you want to mention on a notepad before you make an important call. This will ensure you don’t forget anything crucial, and the call serves the purpose you intended it to.

• You should never speak over the other person while they are talking. Always listen carefully to what is being said before replying, as you may miss something important if you try and butt in. Apart from that it is obviously bad manners and will reflect badly on you and your business.

• Politeness goes a long way on the phone. If you get caught out not knowing a crucial piece of information, take the caller’s details and offer to call them back when you have the correct information at hand.

• Use voice mail, and make sure your message corresponds with reality so change it regularly according to your situation. It is frustrating to leave a message for someone not knowing whether a message saying “I will call you back” means they can expect a call in 5 minutes (because you were in the rest room) or in 5 weeks (because you were in Europe).

• When calling someone, don’t say you need “a minute of their time” and then hold them up for 30 minutes – be honest so they can manage their time

• Remember that if you take the initiative to call someone, it is also easier for you to finish the call.

It takes confidence and experience to know how to use the phone effectively when calling others. All you need to get started is a willingness to learn and develop the skills you already have.

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