Market musings

Tips for Proper Business Phone Etiquette

by Nina Quasebarth
September 7, 2017

Sometimes it seems that the more we use the telephone, the poorer our business phone etiquette becomes. Smartphones are now the primary tool for business communications—email, text messages, chat, video chat, and phone calls. Carrying a smartphone is part of the always-on culture that marks the 21st century, and since the smartphone is the tool for personal and business communications, business phone etiquette has suffered as a result. Smartphone users don’t always differentiate between personal and professional calls on their smartphones, especially when they are telecommuting.

Proper business phone etiquette is just one of the factors that reinforce the professionalism of your organization.

Every employee is a company ambassador, so how employees represent the company on the phone is a reflection on the corporation. Proper business phone etiquette shows respect for the party on the other end, whether it is a customer, a vendor, or a coworker. Unfortunately, phone etiquette is no longer taught, nor is it considered important.

To help your organization and your team stand out as professionals, we wanted to review some phone etiquette tips for the age of the smartphone:

Smartphones Present a Portability Problem

The greatest advantage that smartphones offer is also one of the biggest drawbacks when it comes to phone etiquette. Just because you can make and accept phone calls from anywhere doesn’t mean you should.

Many professionals feel it is acceptable to take business calls at any time, no matter how much it disturbs others. Taking a call at a concert, in the theater, or at the movies is clearly unacceptable, but what about in a crowded restaurant or on a bus? Be considerate of others around you and if you can’t find a quiet place to talk, let the call go to voicemail or suggest calling back.

When making calls, you also need to consider the other party. Don’t make calls from a noisy environment such as a bar or restaurant where you have difficulty conversing. If there are street noises in the background or other distractions, consider waiting to make a call. And never make calls from the restroom.

Caller ID makes it easier to prioritize incoming calls to determine if they are urgent or not. Many times, if you are in the middle of a meeting or task, you can choose to not take the call but let it go to voicemail instead. Particularly if you are driving, unless you have a hands-free phone, let the caller leave a message. It’s preferable to getting a ticket or getting into an accident.

Focus, Focus, Focus

If you are in a meeting or at a social gathering, talking face-to-face should take precedence over your smartphone. How many times have you been in the middle of a conversation only to have the other party start texting or looking at their phone? When you are meeting someone, put your phone on silent or, better yet, turn it off. Focusing on your phone rather than your companion is just plain rude.

In the age of always-on communications, it also is easy to become a distracted caller. For example, don’t check your email or the latest sports scores while on the phone. You may think that you can multitask, but the party on the other end knows when you are distracted. The same is true of conference calls. If you aren’t paying attention, you may be caught unawares when you are called upon.

“I Can See You”—Etiquette for Video Calls

Video conference calls have their own rules and etiquette, especially in the age of telecommuting. Many of these rules are obvious, but people constantly forget them. For example:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. In a video call, people can see you and where you are calling from. Even if you like to work from home in your pajamas or while in bed, consider getting dressed and taking a video call somewhere more suitable.
  • Don’t eat while on a video call. You shouldn’t eat on any business call, but it’s especially rude when others can see you.
  • Avoid interruptions. When calling from home, you may be interrupted by family members or others who want your attention. Be sure everyone knows you are on a call and can’t be disturbed.

There are other etiquette considerations for a video call, but in general, treat a video call as if you were in the office conference room.

Your Office Is in Your Pocket

The best way to approach business phone etiquette in an always-on world is to assume that you are always on call for business. Your smartphone becomes your office, since it is the common tool for phone calls, text messages, email, video calls, etc. Assume every call is a business call and act accordingly.

  • When answering the phone, try not to let it ring more than three times. Answer with a positive greeting such as “good morning” or “hello, this is John, can I help you?”
  • Before transferring a call, be sure you know what the caller wants, and explain where you are transferring the call. If you can’t be sure the transfer will go through, offer options such as “if he’s not there you can leave a message” or “you can try this number.”
  • If you have to put a caller on hold, apologize, explain why you are putting them on hold, and get back to them as soon as possible. Take a phone number where they can be reached if you are disconnected or plan to leave them on hold for more than 60 seconds.

A System that Works for Telecommuters

To give your telecommuters a more businesslike phone demeanor, Spoke has extended the office telephone system to employees’ smartphones. When loaded onto a smartphone, the Spoke app gives smartphone users the same business telephone features they expect from their desktop phone system, including auto-attendant, call routing and “follow me,” easy call transfer, smart directories, hold, and more. Spoke also includes features that can make your team look more professional, such as presence to see if another party is available to accept a call and call priority. It also offers group calling to facilitate collaboration.

For your business, this means callers have one number to call, and the auto-attendant can route calls to employees anywhere. Remote workers can accept and handle calls just as if they were sitting at their desks. Spoke provides the technical tools you need to convert any smartphone into a business handset, so your team can look professional anywhere, anytime. All you need to do is train your staff in proper business phone etiquette.

The Pocket Communication Guide for Your Millennial Employees
The Pocket Communication Guide for Your Millennial Employees