Phone Etiquette: A Refresher Course in Courtesy

phone etiquette

Good communication and phone etiquette is incredibly important (and sometimes hard to come by) in today’s fast paced world.  Talking on the phone is one of the most common ways in which to do business and good manners can go a long way in helping to establish trust with a potential client and even landing a sale.

Here are a few things to keep in mind during your next call.

Phone Etiquette Refresher


Your ‘upset’ voice sounds completely different than your ‘happy’ voice and the latter is much more pleasant to conversate with. Even if you find yourself in a bad mood when the phone starts to ring, take a deep breath and smile.

It will make a difference to the person on the other line.

Answer the Phone Patiently

Picking up the phone with a terse, “Bob here,” or simply, “sales department” will make the caller feel immediately put off. Instead, answer with a friendly salutation and your name.

This small adjustment will start your conversation off on the right foot.

Speak Clearly and Not Too Loudly

The phone’s microphone is usually never more than a few inches from your mouth, so there is no need to raise your voice while talking.

Talking slowly and clearly is also a good idea, as is waiting to eat your lunch until after you get off the call.

Don’t Hang Up First

Have you ever been almost done with a phone call when the other person suddenly hangs up just as you say “goodb—“? This can be a turnoff and give the call a negative final impression.

Don’t be the person that rushes off the phone. Calmly sign off and then wait for the other person hang up first.

Stay on Neutral Topics

Try not to bring up politics, religion and other sensitive topics when on a call with someone you don’t know well—even if you have an inkling to their favor. For example, just because your potential client lives in San Francisco and has a newborn named Barack, don’t start in on how excited you are for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

You never know. The person might be a far right-winger and the conversation could be long gone before you could grovel enough to say how great Chris Christie would look in the White House.

Wait Your Turn

The prospect with whom you are chatting has the gift to gab and you haven’t said a peep in 20 minutes. That’s okay. Wait your turn and don’t interrupt; it’s rude.

They will have to take a breath at some point and, more likely, will realize that they’ve been hogging the conversation for too long and let you have a turn.

Voicemail: Keep Your Message Short and Slow

Think of a voicemail as a post-it note: A few words will do. No one likes long, drawn-out messages, so just include your name, company name, the reason why you are calling (in 20 words or less, if possible) and your phone number.

When saying your phone number, slow it down to turtle speed. Take breaks between numbers so the other person has time to write it down or say it twice before hanging up.

Phone Photo via Shutterstock


Yaniv Masjedi Yaniv Masjedi is vice president of marketing at Nextiva, a leading provider of cloud-based, unified communications solutions, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. He manages the firm's marketing and branding efforts and initiates programs related to brand management, demand generation, advertising, marketing communications and thought leadership.

17 Reactions
  1. I agree with the smiling part. That is actually an advice that my cousin gave to me when answering the phone. The other party will usually detect if you are smiling. And positive emotions are always infectious. if you want the call to go well, it always begins with a smile.

    • Thanks for your comment, Aira. I’m glad you agree that smiling is the best way to start off a call. It is always important to try and stay positive, even if you aren’t having the best of days.

      • I know this might sound a bit weird (weird is good in my world though!), but sometimes when I’m on a call, I imagine light going off in my eyes – a spark! It usually lifts my energy and therefore the tone of my voice if I want to sound friendlier.

  2. Positive emotions are infectious and any calls with a smile is good customer service. Clients are more likely to do repeat business with a friendly staff.

  3. Great reminders, especially the advice to smile. I try to envision the person I’m talking to because I’d be smiling it they were in front of me, why not when I’m on the phone with them?

    • Yes! My point exactly. It is always good to treat someone on the phone the same way you would in person.

  4. I’ve called companies where the person hung up before I could say bye. Sometimes, they haven’t even said bye – just dropped the phone, which I think is rude and cowardly. You don’t just cut people off like that if you claim to be about the customer or the voice of the company you represent.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ebele. That same scenario has happened to me and it is definitely a turn off. Companies are smart to think about how they come across during the entire lifecycle of a call.

      • It’s happened to you too, huh. It’s just not on. And I think it happens, and continues to, because not many people complain about it. Like me, they get on with their day. I think if it happens a next time, I’m going to make a complaint, then get on with my day 🙂

  5. Identifying yourself when you answer the phone can also be good practice. Callers can get to the point when they know who they’re talking to and everyone loves to save time.

    • I think it’s a nice touch when you call a company and the person who picks up says their name when they answer. However, I can’t think of many companies that actually do that. I know when I used to work in customer service, that was part of answering the call.

  6. One more when on your cell; If disconnected, the originator of the call does the call back. ahhh, imagine a world where everyone knows this one!

    • Great point, Jim. It is always a good idea to call back first, especially if you are the one who placed the original call.

  7. Thanks for sharing these very good tips. I sure hope everyone can practice these etiquette’s especially those in the corporate world.

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