In our connected world, your phone is more than just a device for making calls. This is true in your personal life as well as business. Phone calls, texts, video conferencing, Slack messages, and voicemails are just some of the ways you communicate with your co-workers and customers.

Even though many companies, especially small businesses and startups, are trading the suit-and-tie culture for a more casual approach, proper phone etiquette is still an important skill. Understanding how to communicate clearly and follow social norms will make you a better teammate and help you score five-star ratings in customer experience. ⭐️

From making first impressions to nurturing your existing relationships, these tips will help you bring your A-game when handling phone calls, sending texts, or leaving voicemails.

Tips for Proper Phone Etiquette

A gif of a Downton Abbey character using a phone

Even if your brand isn’t prim and proper like a character from “Downton Abbey,” phone etiquette is still necessary. No matter the tone and style you use with your co-workers and customers, these tips will help you communicate effectively, create connections, and make a positive impression.

1. Have a Plan Before You Place a Call

Feeling nervous about that big sales call coming up? Before you dial that phone number, outline what you’re going to talk about so you feel more confident.

2. Refer To Customers By Name

Start a conversation by asking a caller’s name, then use it while you’re speaking with them. This will make customers feel important and valued — instead of like a number.

3. Avoid Multitasking

It’s easy to be distracted by emails, social media, personal calls, or co-workers, but give others your undivided attention when you’re on the phone — that cat video will still be there when you hang up.

4. Answer Calls Within Three Rings

People usually hang up after 3-4 phone rings, and no one wants to get stuck in a game of phone tag.

5. Avoid Using Speakerphone

Background noise or a bustling coffee shop can quickly derail a call on speakerphone. Use a headset or earbuds for a better hands-free option.

6. Bring Your A-Game

Show you’re interested in the conversation and understand their needs by listening to the caller, taking notes, and repeating their concerns back to them.

7. Don’t Use Slang

Use clear, precise language on business calls, and save the slang for your close friends or family members.

8. Transfer Calls Like a Pro

Make sure your co-worker is ready to accept the transfer and share with them the details you have so the caller doesn’t have to start from scratch with a new person.

9. Don’t Put Callers on Hold for Too Long

Always ask permission before putting someone on hold, and limit the hold to 30 seconds. If you need longer than that, offer to call them back once you have an answer. Be sure to give them a time frame for when to expect your call.

10. Record Calls the Right Way

Call recording is a great feature when it comes to training your team and offering customer support. But be sure callers are always told when they are being recorded.

11. Be Upfront

If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and connect them with someone who can.

12. Greet Them With a Smile

Smile and use facial expressions, just like if you were talking face-to-face. Even though they can’t see you, the person on the phone will hear your expression through the tone of your voice.

13. Follow Through on Your Promises

Calls don’t always end when you hang up the phone. Make sure you promptly handle any follow-up before moving on to your next task.

14. Identify Yourself

A caller wants to know they dialed the right number. Be sure you state your company and your name when answering the phone.

15. Speak at a Regular Pace and in a Clear Tone

Make sure you can be heard and understood. Avoid speaking too quickly, too slowly, too quietly, or too loudly.

16. Mind Your Manners

It was one of the first lessons your mom taught you — don’t forget to use “please” and “thank you.”

Tips for Using Text Messages

A gif of Erin from The Office texting on her phone

With more people using cellphones than landlines, some customers may prefer to communicate with you via text message. Much like talking on the phone, etiquette still applies and can help you avoid misunderstandings.

17. Grammar and Punctuation Count

Just like with any written communication, remember to use proper grammar and punctuation. In your personal life, text messages are more casual, but when sending a business text, don’t switch to slang or endless page-long sentences. This will seem unprofessional and can make your message unreadable. Plus, if the text looks too spammy, your carrier might not deliver it!

18. Sprinkle in Emoji or GIFs 👍

There are certain elements of conversation that a text message cannot convey to the recipient in an accurate manner, such as:

  • Tone of voice
  • Emotion
  • Facial expression
  • Hand gestures/body language

If it fits your brand, consider using emoji and GIFs to make up for the lack of nonverbals when you’re texting. Just be sure to keep it clean and professional.

19. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Do you ever feel like you’re answering the same question over and over? Maybe you want to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page?

By using text message templates, you can speed up your workflow by having prewritten responses to FAQs and other common requests. Templates ensure messaging remains consistent, on-brand, and accurate across all members of your team.

20. Don’t Answer a Text With a Phone Call

Respect the way others are choosing to communicate with you. You wouldn’t use a tweet to respond to an email, so a phone call shouldn’t be used to respond to a text. Unless the text message asks for a phone call, the person who reached out is expecting you to respond via text.

Tips for Using Voicemail

Sometimes you can’t sync up with the person you’re trying to call, but what you have to say isn’t well-suited for text or email. Voicemail or audio messages work great in these scenarios. Here are some tips to keep in mind when using voicemail.

21. Recording a Voicemail Greeting

Be sure to record a professional voicemail greeting. You want to avoid the default greeting that is included with most voicemail — “Leave a message after the tone” (said in a robot voice). Not only is this impersonal, it may leave callers wondering if they dialed the right telephone number.

Your greeting should tell the caller who you are, why you are unable to answer the phone or your business hours, and when they can expect to hear back from you. If you’re looking for more guidance, OpenPhone has you covered with a list of 21 voicemail greetings you can choose from.

22. Checking Your Voicemail

Don’t let your voicemail become a phone call graveyard. You want to check and respond to messages in a timely manner.

With OpenPhone, we make staying on top of your voicemail a cinch. You have the option of either listening to the audio recording or reading a transcription of the voicemail.

23. Leaving a Voicemail

Etiquette doesn’t just apply to receiving and responding to voicemails. When leaving a message, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Let them know your availability if you’re asking them to call you back.
  • Keep your message short and sweet.
  • Repeat any key information such as dates, times, or callback phone numbers.

Put Your Phone Etiquette Skills To Work

Photo etiquette: A screenshot of OpenPhone's mobile and desktop app interfaces for text messages

Proper phone etiquette has never been more important with the rise of instant communication. Having the right communication skills is the first step to providing great service and building lasting relationships with your customers.

And, etiquette doesn’t stop with phone calls. You want to bring your best to text messages and voicemails as well.

To take your skills to the next level, use OpenPhone to keep in touch with your teammates and customers via phone, text, voicemail, and group messaging. Take our advanced features for a test drive by signing up today for a free trial.

Author

Co-Founder at OpenPhone. Ukrainian-Canadian in SF. Love exploring new hiking trails.

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