Telephone etiquette

Getting Through Although email and instant messaging are quickly becoming standard forms of office communication, the telephone still plays an important role in business. Just like a face-to-face meeting, telephone conversations are expected to and should follow certain rules of etiquette to help make the experience pleasant and productive for all those involved. It's easy to forgo manners when talking over the phone. Distractions abound, from impromptu meetings or email notifications blinking on your computer screen. Remember that a conversation over the phone carries just as much weight as a faceto-face meeting, as it is a great opportunity to communicate in real time. Tuning up your pipes If your job requires being on the phone most of the day, remember it usually takes a few hours for the human vocal cords to fully warm up after a night's sleep. Eight hours of rest usually leaves them a little rusty. Practice enunciation in the bathroom mirror while you get ready for work, or do some vocal exercises in the shower. Singing in the shower does wonders for a day of cold calling - but make sure you're not disturbing someone else's slumber with your warbling. Deep breathing exercises help condition your stomach and throat for a day's worth of talking, as well as gently clearing your throat and blowing your nose. If you drive to work, you can also sing along with the radio in the car. Making the call When making a business call, be sure to first identify yourself and your company. If you're routed to a receptionist or operator, also include the name of the person you're trying to reach. A simple, "Hello, this is Mary Robert from Off the Wall Productions. May I please speak with Mark Grand?" will do. Be prepared with a one or two sentence explanation of the purpose for your call. When you are connected with the person, state the purpose of your call and then be sure to ask if you are calling at a convenient time. This is one of the most overlooked areas of phone etiquette, and allows the person you're calling the opportunity to better address your needs at a later time. Don't fib about how long your call will take - if you know it will take longer than five minutes, don't say, "It'll be quick." Let the person know what they are getting into at the start of the conversation. If you get shunted to a receptionist and he or she asks why you are calling, give a concise but informative statement that can be easily relayed. Do not, however, assume that your message will be communicated; when you speak directly with the person you are trying to call, repeat your message in your own words. Don't be insulted if you're asked to leave a message or call back later - previous engagements

do take priority. Answering the phone People make business phone calls for specific reasons. Very rarely do vendors or clients call just to catch up. Telephone calls usually lead to some action to be taken, so make sure your first vocal impression is a good one by trying to answer the phone as pleasantly and professionally as possible. Identify yourself and your company when receiving an incoming call. While it's not impolite to say, "Off the Wall Productions, Mary Robert speaking," it might be easier on the listener to say, "Thank you for calling Off the Wall Productions. This is Mary Robert. How may I help you?" Variations on this theme can convey your greeting quite effectively. If you work at a large corporation with many departments, it may also help to include your department or section name, "This is Mary Robert, accounts receivable. How may I help you?" Hold, please The hold feature is generally considered a double-edged sword in telephone etiquette. No one is usually available at the exact moment of a phone call, and being on hold simply must be tolerated. However, there are many things the caller and the person taking the call can do to make the experience a pleasant one. If you must put someone on hold, ask first and - most importantly - wait for their answer. If someone expresses reservation about being put on hold, calmly explain why it is necessary. Perhaps the person they are calling for stepped out of the office and needs to be tracked down, or is on another call. Callers like an explanation for their inconveniences, but don't give away too much information. If Bill from distributing is in the restroom, just tell the caller he is away from his desk. Remember to keep the person on hold updated on the status of his or her call every 30 seconds. A simple "She's on another call" or "His meeting is running a little late" is sufficient. It's okay to hang up after three minutes on hold. Call back and ask to leave a message instead. Voice mail and messages If you have to leave a message or voice mail for someone, make it short and to the point. Speak clearly and slowly and leave your name, phone number, and a brief message. Say your name and number at the beginning and again at the end of the message, especially if you don't know the person you're calling. If the voice mail system allows you to play back your message, consider taking advantage of that feature to make sure your message is clear and communicates your needs. Returning messages promptly is always appreciated. It's customary to return telephone calls within 24 hours. If you cannot attend to the caller's needs within that

time, briefly phone the person to say when you will be available. Your own voice mail The message you leave as your outgoing message is an important business tool. Information is critical. The best messages communicate several key things to the person calling you: your name, the organization and/or group you're in, the current date (this tells them you are checking your messages), whether you are in the office or not that day, when to expect a call back, whom to contact if the call is urgent, and how to get to that person. This seems like an enormous burden, but it just requires a little discipline first thing every morning or last thing every night. If you've ever called someone and gotten a generic voicemail, you know how disconcerting it can be. Is the person on vacation? Will I get a call back? When? So it's especially important for people who travel frequently to attend to outgoing messages. Of course, you can simplify the approach and perhaps change your message once a week providing an update of the days you'll be out of the office that week. Any useful information in your outgoing message will make your caller feel more comfortable that the message is important and you will respond. Be sure to respond.

On the Call After establishing contact with the party you're trying to reach, you should be ready to use the time as effectively as if you were in a face-to-face meeting. The speakerphone – friend or foe? Speakerphones are a great tool for communication via the telephone, but they must be used wisely. Some people prefer to use a speakerphone even when no one else is listening in so that they can take notes during the conversation without having to juggle a phone receiver. If you're one of those people, make sure you inform the people on the line with you that you are using a speakerphone, and if they seem apprehensive, explain why it is necessary. Speakerphones are also useful for conference calls. If you are leading a speakerphone meeting with a number of people, allow each person to introduce himself or herself, to help the listeners match a name to a voice. "In conference calls, always identify yourself by name and never rely solely on voice recognition," said Lena Bottos, compensation market analyst for Salary.com. "Always preface your comments with an introduction." Silent partners

Conference calls provide unique opportunities for colleagues to communicate with one another. For example, it is not unusual for conference calls to include one or more silent listeners, who may or may not be introduced. Their objectives vary considerably, from training and monitoring to evaluating and getting strategic insights. Never assume your business telephone call is a confidential conversation between you and the people who introduce themselves on the other line. Another silent strategy for conference calls is to use email, whiteboards, or instant messaging software to communicate with other participants on the call. This can be advantageous, for instance, when a silent partner wishes to prompt a speaker to say something in particular. If you are using such signals, however, be careful not to distract the other party by the sound of typing, nor to alienate the other party with your surreptitious strategizing. Tolerant neighbors When using the telephone at work, don't forget about the people around you who aren’t taking part in the conversation. If you can, shut your office door or warn your cubicle neighbors before making speakerphone calls, as a person's speaking voice tends to increase in volume when using remote technology. Headset etiquette In many offices, people whose job involves considerable telephone work use a special hands-free headset-type telephone. This technology frees these workers to walk around the office with the ergonomically friendly device. If you use this type of telephone, be careful not to bring your conversations into parts of the office where they do not belong. Many office workers can relate stories of coworkers walking up and down the halls seeming to talk to themselves. Be sensitive to the acoustics of the area in which you are conducting business, and to your coworkers' work spaces. If you work with people who use hands-free telephones, develop a way of ascertaining quickly whether they are on a call before beginning a conversation with them. When to say no Learn how to use the "do not disturb" function on your phone, or lower the ringer if you to have a meeting in your office that you don't want to interrupt. A ringing telephone can create quite a disturbance in a sensitive meeting. Also, if you want to focus on a particular project - say you've got a deadline and you're not expecting any important calls - you can disable your ringer so that your calls go straight to voice mail. However, don't hide behind your voice mail. Technology makes it quite feasible to

keep people at bay indefinitely. But if people begin to think you never answer your phone, they will stop calling, which could adversely affect business relationships. Have a nice day At the end of each call, thank your caller or the person you called for his or her time, and hang up with a pleasant goodbye.

Telephone Tips Good manners are good for business, while great manners can set you apart. If you're under stress or in a hurry, it's easy to let your guard down and fail to observe the basics. But if you take a deep breath before you call, good manners can actually get you the results you want - faster. Here's a rundown of some quick tips to brush up on your phone manners and phone style. Phone strategy Treat the call as if it were a meeting - have a purpose, and an agenda. Decide what you'll do if someone answers other than the person you're calling. Would you prefer to leave a message, go to voice mail, or call back later? If you're on a scheduled call, be at your desk at the appointed time. Learn the names of the people who answer the phones at the numbers you call most frequently. Speak pleasantly to them, and if you talk to them very frequently, send them a card or gift on their birthday or over the holidays. Do's and don'ts Don't type or shuffle papers while you're on the phone - it suggests that you're not listening to the caller. If you have to put the phone down, do it gently to spare your caller's ear. Rid your mouth of food, gum, cough drops, or candy before talking on the phone - the receiver amplifies your noshing. If you have to sneeze or cough, turn your head and cover your mouth - and the receiver. Speak directly into the receiver - don't bury it in your shoulder or neck. If you dial the wrong number, explain yourself and verify the phone number so you don't repeat the call. Don't hang up; that's just rude. Cut down on the background noise when taking or making a call. Radios, televisions, and even computer bings and bleeps can be distracting over the phone. Taking messages Record the time and date the call came in. Verify the caller's name, company name, and phone number. Initialize the message, so if the person who received the message has any questions, he or she can contact you.

Get a short statement about the caller's intent.

Answering Calls for Your Department 1. Answer promptly (before the third ring if possible). 2. Before picking up the receiver, discontinue any other conversation or activity such as eating, chewing gum, typing, etc that can be heard by the calling party. 3. Speak clearly and distinctly in a pleasant tone of voice. 4. Use hold button when leaving the line so that the caller does not accidentally hear conversations being held nearby. 5. When transferring a call, be sure to explain to the caller that you are doing so and where you are transferring them. 6. Remember that you may be the first and only contact a person may have with your department, and that first impression will stay with the caller long after the call is completed. 7. If the caller has reached the wrong department, be courteous. Sometimes they have been transferred all over campus with a simple question. If possible, attempt to find out where they should call/to whom they should speak. They will greatly appreciate it. 8. When the called party is not in, the following responses should be used both to protect the privacy of the office staff and to give a more tactful response:

What You Mean: "He is out." "I don't know where he is." "He is in the men's room." "He hasn't come in yet."

Tell the Caller: "He is not in the office at the moment. Would you like to leave a message on his voicemail?" "He has stepped out of the office. Would you like to leave a message on his voicemail?" "He has stepped out of the office. Would you like to leave a message on his voicemail?" "I expect him shortly. Would you like to leave a message on his voicemail?" "She is out of the office for the day. Can someone else help you or would you like her voicemail?" "He is unavailable at the moment. Would you like to leave a message on his voicemail?" "She is unavailable at the moment. Would you like to leave a message on her voicemail?"

"She took the day off."

"He doesn't want to be disturbed." "She is busy"

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