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Ever talk to someone who “sounded nice?” What about someone you disliked without ever   meeting in person? Our voices carry a tremendous amount of emotion and tonal information that other forms of technology, like email, do not convey.  This is great because it leads to fewer misunderstandings – but it can also catch people being a bit TOO transparent… showing their true colors to the world when they should simply be courteous instead.

When a caller’s voice is unfriendly or uncooperative, it can offend and intimidate. This causes conflict and friction. While the telephone is one of the most frequently used pieces of technology, it is also one of the most often misused. At one time or another we have all been on the receiving end of an unmannerly call.  Here are some ways to convey respect and professionalism on the telephone:

  1. 1. When answering the telephone, speak clearly, identify your company or department, and identify yourself with your first and last name.  If your job is one where security is requires it, use only your first name.
  2. 2. Go easy on the word “you.” During the course of the call, be careful not to overuse the word “you” – especially when the caller is angry.  Framing your words in the form of a question and using “I” statements is preferable.
  3. 3. Ask permission before putting someone on hold.  For example, ask, “May I put you on hold while I check on this?”
  4. 4. Many individuals have titles. In the US, we use titles when appropriate.  If the person does not have a title, use Mr., Mrs., or Ms.  Avoid defaulting to a first name unless you are asked to do so, or you are on a first name basis.
  5. 5. Avoid sneezing or coughing into the telephone.
  6. 6. Avoid chewing gum, eating, or drinking while on the telephone.  These sounds are magnified over the phone.
  7. 7. Avoid the temptation to interrupt the caller.  Be patient and wait until they finish speaking before you speak.
  8. 8. Phrases such as, “That is not my responsibility,” “That is not my job,” or “That is not my department” are unprofessional and reflect poorly on your judgment.
  9. 9. Ask permission before putting someone on a speaker phone.
  10. 10. Give the caller your full attention: do not rustle papers, type on your computer, or sound distracted.
  11. 11. Whenever possible, answer the telephone promptly – by the third ring.
  12. 12. Return calls as soon as possible.
  13. 13. Smile when you answer the telephone.  Callers can “hear” a smile.  Be upbeat.
  14. 14. Speak clearly, although not too quickly.  Keep your voice moderated and low.
  15. 15. Attitude matters.  Courtesy counts.  Tone tells all.