Aspects of Phone Etiquette

Many people do not realize they have little or no phone etiquette. When they recognize this, they are often unsure about where to start. One of the first steps to gaining or improving a person’s phone etiquette is to know the different aspects of it, such as phrasing and listening skills. Learning this knowledge can be a great starter tool for many people and can help them feel more confident on the phone right away.

Phrasing

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When speaking on the telephone, a different set of phrasing is used instead of our everyday talking phrases. Using a more professional group of phrasing portrays to the caller a sense of confidence and a sense that you are there to help them. Using phrases such “Could you”, “May I?”, “Please”, and “Thank you” can help the person on the other end of the line feel more comfortable and feel more at ease with your politeness. Important phrasing sections include introductions, transitions and even call conclusions. Although some of the phrasing can seem uncomfortable at first, but with practice, they can become as natural as our everyday speech.

Examples:

  • “How may I help you?”
  • “Thank you for calling.”
  • “Could you repeat that name again?”
  • “One moment while I transfer you.”
  • “May I take a message?”

Tone of Voice

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The tone of voice in which we speak can portray a variety of emotions and feelings. When we’re sad or angry our voice can lower in tone; and when we’re happy or excited it can raise higher. It is generally recommended that when we speak on the telephone, we should speak in our normal tone of voice, if not a few decimals higher. Lower tones of voice can imply sarcasm or disinterest. The speaker should never speak in monotone, which can sound bored and make the caller feel as though the speaker is not sincere. When possible, use inflection in your voice to help stress important points and give the caller verbal hints as to where the conversation is going.

Tips:

  • Speak in a normal speaking tone of voice (or higher)
  • Avoid lower tones or monotones
  • Use inflection when possible

Speaking Clearly

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When speaking on the telephone, the two callers cannot read lips or take notice of any sort of body language, so it’s important to speak clearly and in a professional tone of voice. Do not speak too quickly, since it can cause your words to sound jumbled or rushed. However, speaking too slowly can make words sound distorted and can mislead the caller from what is trying to be said. As you speak, articulate your words and ensure not to slur any sounds together. When you are finished speaking, pause periodically for signs that the caller has heard and understood you, such as answering the question or a simple “Mm hmm”. If in the end they did not catch what you said, calmly repeat the information and try again.

Tips:

  • Take deep breaths before each phone call
  • Speak slowly – do not rush your phrases
  • Pause for understanding from the caller
  • Repeat words if necessary

Listen to the Caller

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With a telephone in our hand, we can often feel a sense of power and can feel the urge to perform all of the speaking – and forget how to listen. However, we forget that the purpose of the call is the person calling us to begin with. After you give your introduction, pause for a moment to listen for the caller to begin speaking and identify the purpose of their call. Allow the caller to finish speaking without interruptions. Focus on what the caller needs and what they are wanting. When they are finished, reaffirm what they are wanting, which is sometimes referred to as active listening. Let the caller know what you can do for them and how you can help with their needs.

Case Study

Robert was taking calls for the clinic one morning. When the phone rang, he picked up the phone:

“Thank you for calling Dr. Smith’s office. My name is Robert. How may I help you today?”

The caller sounded upset and began to explain how he was waiting on a prescription from the doctor and still had not received it. Robert made sure that he did not interrupt the patient and waited for him to finish speaking. When Robert spoke again, he spoke in a calm and reassuring tone of voice. He told the patient that he would be able to connect him with the doctor’s nurse to help him with that. Robert waited for the caller to acknowledge what he said before proceeding to connect him to the nurse’s extension.