How to Use a Telephone Properly

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Even in the 21st century, people still conduct business by phone. Calling your company with a complaint, for example, can get a response quicker than emailing. To know how to use a telephone effectively in business, you only need a few basic rules of phone etiquette.

How to Use the Telephone

People who have spent their lives using cell phones may have to ask, "How do you dial on a landline?" If it's a keypad, it works much like the digital pad on a cell phone. However, it's possible that you'll have to press extra numbers such as "9" or "1" to dial outside the building.

Along with learning the calling rules, you'll need to learn other functions, such as how to switch to the speaker, transfer a caller, put someone on hold or recover messages from voice mail. Most companies cover this in orientation rather than leaving you to sink or swim. Questions like, "How do you dial out from an office phone?" are universal for new employees.

Speaking Clearly on the Phone

Phone etiquette is often more of a challenge than the tech when someone is figuring out how to use a telephone. One of the fundamentals is to make sure the person on the opposite end can hear you clearly.

  • Don't talk too loudly or softly. If you're not sure how many decibels you regularly use, call a friend and get feedback.

  • For clarity, keep the mouthpiece about two fingers away from your lips.

  • Don't speak too fast.

  • If you're making a call or expecting one, don't eat or drink. Talking through a mouthful of sandwich is often unintelligible.

  • If there's a lot of ambient noise around you, use your mute button when you're not speaking.

How to Sound Upbeat

The person to whom you're talking has only one way to assess you, and that is by listening. There is no body language or nonverbal cues, only your words and the sound of your voice. Sounding upbeat is important to making a good impression on the phone:

  • Smile. They can't see it, but it puts a positive spin on your voice.

  • Answer the phone with a greeting such as "Hello" or "Good morning," and follow up with your name and the company name.

  • Listen to what the caller has to say without interrupting.

  • Be courteous even if the other party is belligerent or belittling.

There may be times when you have to take a "bad cop" role on the phone to get results, but those are the exception.

Transfer, Help or Hold

Everyone who has had to call a business has at least one bad story to tell about being put on hold without warning, being on hold forever or being switched over from one person to another without ever getting a problem resolved. This is not how to use a telephone.

  • If you need to put people on hold, ask first. Give them some idea of how long they'll be in limbo. Ask if they'd like to leave a voice mail message instead of waiting.

  • If you need to transfer the call, tell your caller why. Contact the department to which you're transferring them and confirm that someone can take the call.

  • If you can fix the caller's problem yourself, even if it's not your responsibility, doing so will leave you with a satisfied customer. Some companies strongly prefer this approach to transferring calls.

  • Sometimes you won't be able to reach anyone who can resolve the problem. Take notes on the caller's request and get him to the right person later.

  • If you have to call back later, give the person a time. Once you promise, don't fail to make the call.

End the Call Well

The end of the call is your last chance to make a good impression. Make the most of it.

  • If you're trying to resolve a customer complaint, go over the issues to ensure you understand her accurately.

  • If you agree to do something, like return the call at 3:00 p.m., restate your intent.

  • Tell the customer you appreciate her business, assuming that this is appropriate for the topic of the call.

  • Say goodbye, but give her the chance to hang up first.

References

Resources

About the Author

Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com

Photo Credits

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