How to Answer the Phone at Work (Professionally and Creatively)
The adoption of modern communication tools such as social media, live chat, and emails for everyday life has seeped into the workplace, much to the delight of customers. For the customer, it is an effortless way to establish contact and interact, and many business owners approve since they have forgotten how to answer the phone professionally.
Still, many customers prefer to get in touch over the phone.
Despite this revelation, some companies have failed to arm their staff with polite, friendly phone etiquette that can translate into leads, problem-solving, and customer satisfaction. To remedy the situation, consider this blog a crash course on how to improve your phone etiquette in the workplace.
Top 15 Rules of Phone Etiquette at Work
Proper phone etiquette at work applies to every staff member with a business phone, not just the front office and customer service representatives. As such, in this section, we will go over some essential office phone etiquette.
1. Pick up by the Second or Third Ring
When answering phone calls at work, pick up by the second or third ring. The average length of a single buzz is approximately six seconds, so if you let the phone ring six times, you have created a 35-second wait period, during which time the customer may become frustrated and impatient.
On the other hand, answering the phone too quickly can leave the customer grappling for words as they may not have had enough time to compose their thoughts. If you are away from your desk often, invest in a call routing app to direct business calls to your cell phone.
2. The First Impression
When you pick up the phone, remember that your voice may be the only impression the customer will have of the company. Therefore, as an employee, this is your opportunity to contribute to the reputation of the company.
No matter how you feel that day, ensure that you speak in a friendly but professional tone. Emotional Intelligence experts assert that smiling while speaking reflects in the speaker’s voice and makes their voice light and warm.
Another great tip is to keep your voice volume moderate and enunciate every word. Remember to also speak slowly enough for the caller to understand you.
3. Prepare a Standard Professional Greeting
The proper way to answer a business phone is to welcome callers politely and identify yourself and the company immediately. It is best to implement this strategy since it may be impossible to determine every caller at the end of the line.
You want to show everyone the same level of respect and professionalism.
We recommend that you prepare a standard professional greeting such as, “Good morning, this is James from MTTP Solutions. How may I help you?” No one should ask if they have reached the right company. Even if your phone system shows the caller, do not say “Hello,” or “Talk” when you answer the phone.
4. Ask for Their Name
In most cases, the caller will introduce themselves and the reason for calling. If they do not tell you their name, or you cannot recognize the number, or you do not have a Caller ID or did not hear their name the first time they shared, prompt them again by saying, “May I ask who is calling?”
Once the customer has introduced themselves, address them by pronouncing their name correctly. If they provide their first and last name, and you want to be more professional, address them by their last name, using the title they have provided.
5. Avoid Profane or Filler Words
As a professional and representative of your company, you must speak politely and avoid cursing or using profane language. Even if issues get heated with a customer, and they scream or curse at you, maintain your composure, and continue being polite.
You should also avoid using slang and buzzwords that might inadvertently offend the caller. For instance, instead of saying, “Yeah,” or “Okay,” say, “Very well,” or “Certainly.”
Similarly, you should watch out for slang words and undermine professionalism. Do not say “What’s up,” or “Um,” or “Uh uh.” Also, refrain from phrases such as “Like,” and “You know.” Stay calm and speak slowly, clearly, and directly.
6. Practice Active Listening
When someone calls your business phone with a question or concern, they expect to find a listening ear. Therefore, it would be disheartening for the caller to learn that you have not been paying attention. To practice active listening, consider the following tips.
Repeat what the caller says, but do so sparingly. At the end of the conversation, sum up their questions or concerns in their own words to show that you are attentive and understand their situation.
Ask relevant follow-up questions and before hanging up, resolve the issue, or assure the caller that you will solve the problem at a specific time. Lastly, remember to take notes where necessary.
7. Speak Directly into the Mouthpiece
Even though it is tempting, do not hold the phone in the nook between your ear and shoulder. Your voice will be muffled and the caller will struggle to hear you.
Instead, let the phone rest gently against your cheek and speak directly into the mouthpiece. In this position, it is unlikely that the caller will struggle to hear you, but if they do, go ahead and speak a bit loudly.
8. Return Calls Promptly
Whether you offer a callback service or use voicemail, ensure that you return all phone calls within one business day. This is an essential phone etiquette in the workplace. You want to make the people that call your business feel respected and valued.
Considering the early bird adage, it is clear that there are several advantages to returning calls promptly. By doing so, you stand a chance of solving a problem, getting that contract, making a sale, and importantly, creating a favorable impression of your company.
9. Do Not Answer the Phone While Chewing
Take the time to spit or swallow anything in your mouth, whether it is food or gum, before answering the phone. The person on the other end of the line will have a hard time understanding you if you speak with a mouth full of food.
Your mouth is not the only thing that should be free and clear; your environment, too. A quiet background will help you to focus on the call and provide better service.
10. Seek Permission
Generally speaking, it is unprofessional, and in some circles, rude to leave people on hold without informing them first. With this in mind, always ask the caller if it is okay to put them on hold.
It is also a good phone etiquette to provide them with progress reports every 30 to 45 seconds if you have not resolved the issue.
Remember to offer options, as well, “We cannot reach Ms. Brown at the moment. Will you continue to hold, or should I have her call you back?”
11. Do Not Use Speakerphone
Unless it is necessary, refrain from using a speakerphone. Not only does it pick up background noises, but it may also give the caller a false impression that you are not giving them your full attention.
Additionally, speakerphones do not promote privacy. The only time it may be appropriate to use a speakerphone is if another person from your end is jumping on the call, and the caller is aware. However, to ensure privacy and maintain the quality of the phone call, it is best to connect everyone via a conference call.
If you must use a speakerphone, we recommend that you invest in a wireless headset instead.
12. Using Voicemail or Answering Machine
Record a professional message if you use a voicemail or answering machine in your absence. Implement the tips discussed under “Prepare a Standard Professional Greeting” and provide pertinent information before a caller records their message.
Say, for instance, “For delivery issues, press five and leave your message at the tone.” Assure the caller that someone will respond to them soon and remember to return to the caller in one business day.
You should also update your voicemail messages to reflect upcoming holidays, abrupt closure, and when your business will reopen. Furthermore, remember to speak in an enthusiastic yet friendly and polite tone.
13. Provide In-House Training
As already discussed, proper phone etiquette does not only apply to customer service representatives and those at the front office. If you are the owner of the business or at the management level, consider providing in-house training to ensure that everyone who calls your business phone enjoys profound professionalism.
You can go over this “how to answer the phone professionally” list with them and practice until the results are satisfactory. If you run a home-based business, you would have to train anyone likely to answer the phone, including family members.
14. Summarize Key Points Before Hanging Up
After investing time on the phone, a caller may find it annoying or a waste of time if they realize that you did not catch anything they have discussed with you. This is why we recommend that you summarize the heart of the phone call before hanging up.
There are many benefits to taking this crucial step, including assuring the caller that you were listening to every word they have uttered thus far. Summing up the call also improves customer experience and helps build a favorable reputation.
15. Signing Off
After summarizing the heart of the phone call, the next step is to end on a professional note. Here, your goal is to make sure that the caller is satisfied with the service they have received. Start by asking if they have any more questions or concerns. Then proceed to end the call professionally by considering the objective of the call.
For instance, to reiterate the agree-upon outcome of the call, try, “Thank you for calling, Kevin. You will receive your login information via email within a few minutes.”
4 Professional and Creative Phone Etiquette Tips to Adopt
Whether you choose the professional or creative route, the standardized method of greeting customers should be consistent with your company’s image. Here are a few examples to add to your office script.
1. The Power of Intimacy for Small Businesses
“Hi. This is Jenna from MTTP Solutions. How can I help you today?”
This short script marries professionalism and intimacy and offers the caller direction. The first name introduction also evokes familiarity. If you are looking to appear more established while harnessing the power of intimacy of a small business, consider this welcoming message.
2. Scripted Service for Midsize and Large Firms
“Thank you for calling MTTP Solutions—your one-stop-shop for office equipment. This is Jenna, how can I direct your call?”
This script is direct and offers the caller essential information without them asking. It is also professional yet snappy, perfect for problem-solving oriented companies not looking to waste valuable minutes.
3. Play on Words
“You’ve reached Tequila Mockingbird. Yes, we’re sober right now. No, no mockingbird died in the making of this name.”
If you want to get creative with your standardized greeting, try puns. The creative touch will make your brand name unforgettable and put a smile on the faces of your callers.
4. Draw a Smile
Without missing a beat, welcome customers with a quick joke or fun trivia. It can be as ridiculous or as tame as you want, just make sure that it is in tune with your company’s image.
The goal here is to create a fun environment that would make your callers happy whenever they call. Implementing this technique is also great for diffusing tense situations and calming down an angry caller.
Common Customer Complaints and How to Respond
Now that you have learned the proper way to answer the phone at work, you need to be ready to offer solutions for unhappy customers. Below, you will find a few common examples of customer complaints and how to solve them effectively.
1. “I’ve Been Waiting Forever!”
While it is unfortunate, sometimes, a customer has to wait for a variety of reasons. So, without tying the blame to a specific reason or shortcoming, acknowledge the fact that they have been waiting and thank them for their patience. You can also assure them that you are working quickly to resolve the issue.
2. “I Keep Getting Moved Around.”
Customers want to feel heard and valued, and as a business owner or employee, it is your responsibility to provide that dedicated service. The best response here can be, “I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. Please hold for a few minutes, I’d like to resolve the issue for you. Is that okay?”
3. “I Talked to Someone Earlier and They Were No help.”
If a caller has a bad customer experience, do your best to show that it was an isolated incident and that they can only expect the best moving forward. Take this step without speaking negatively of your colleagues or revealing any internal issues. You can say, “I’m sorry you had this awful experience. Please explain the situation to me and I’ll see how best I can help.”
4. “I Bought Your Product/Service but It Doesn’t Do What It’s Supposed to do.”
Calmly ask the customer what they would like to achieve with their purchase and explain to them how to use the product or service. If the error was on the part of the customer, let them know that they can return the product and exchange it for one that can get the job done. If it was from your end, let them know that you would deliver the right product as soon as possible.
5. “You Just Don’t Care.”
Actions speak louder than words. So, instead of convincing them of your care, resolve the problem they are facing. The best response to this common complaint can be, “I do care and I am sorry you feel this way. I will do what I can to make this right.”
If the situation requires time, let them know how long it will take and follow back once the issue has been resolved for feedback. Remember to be empathetic and supportive.
6. “I Haven’t Heard Received Any Update!”
Customers want to know that the company is actively working on their problem or request. If the issue will take some time to be resolved, you can say, “I apologize for the delay, we handle several tasks at once but I promise you that we will be in touch as soon as we know more.” Following these words, it would be best to keep your word when you receive new updates.
Answering the phone professionally can create better customer experiences for both employees and customers. It can also promote professionalism and assure callers that they will be treated with promptness, respect, and empathy.
When you implement the 15 ways to answer the phone at work, you will create a polite and friendly environment that will make your customers feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share their concerns.
What are some tips and tricks for answering calls professionally? Share your opinion in the comment section below.