When running a business, it's vital to answer the phones in a professional and courteous manner. The phone remains the primary means of communication between most businesses and their customers. If you read customer-generated reviews on businesses, you'll notice that customers tend to form an overall opinion of a company based on how they were treated on the phone. Customers make judgments based on the number of rings before their calls are answered, how they are greeted on the phone, how long they're put on hold and whether they're satisfied by the end of the call.
Pick up the phone before the third ring. While this may not be possible each and every time, this should be the overall goal. Customers view it as unprofessional when their calls aren't answered promptly. Even if you cannot get to the call right away, at least greet the customer and ask him to hold for a moment.
Answer the phone in a professional manner. For most businesses, a standard greeting works best, and you may want to issue a universal company policy where all phone calls are answered in the same way. Use a simple greeting that includes the name of the company and asks how you can assist. For example, you could say something to the effect of, "Good evening and thank you for calling Company XXX. How may I help you?"
Listen actively while the customer is speaking. Customers are annoyed when they don't feel the other person is paying attention to them or they are asked multiple times to repeat what they just said. Avoid multitasking while on the phone, and give the customer all of your attention.
Smile while you're talking. When you smile, you come across more pleasant over the phone and customers respond positively to this. In addition, always remain pleasant and courteous at all times, even when the customer is irate and not being agreeable.
Speak slowly and clearly while explaining things to the customer. Customers don't want to feel rushed, like you're trying to hurry them off the phone. It's especially important to speak slowly and clearly while you explain lengthy processes or are going over company policies. You want to thoroughly explain yourself so that the customer understands fully and isn't left with any lingering questions.