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Our top rules for phone etiquette

Especially right now when we are all socially distanced from one another, the contact that we have over the phone can be vital. It’s as important for professional and customer facing relationships as it is for individuals so getting the basics right is essential. When you’re approaching phone contact there are some key rules for etiquette that it’s important to have covered.


  • Provide basic information when you pick up the phone. The most effective way to answer the phone is with your name and your company - then follow this up with a question, such as “how can I help.”
  • Be available. When it comes to being professional about phone contact ensure that you’re available and try to pick up within three rings. This shouldn’t be difficult to do and will mean that customers or clients don’t ever feel like they’re being kept waiting.
  • Use your voice as a tool. Remember that when you’re on the phone the other person can’t see your eyes or body language so you only have your voice to work with as a tool. Make sure you’re coming across clearly and without hesitation - a strong, confident voice can have a great impact.
  • Practice active listening. Being able to listen well is just as important as the way that you come across. Actually listen to what’s being said to you rather than sitting and waiting for a gap in the conversation so that you can respond. Take notes if it will help you to be more engaged.
  • Opt for the optimistic. Even if a customer is irate or unhappy try to stay measured and positive and remember that it’s not about you. We don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives and they could be having a really bad day that you’re getting the brunt of. If you can’t turn the call around - or they are crossing the line and being rude or aggressive - then politely offer to continue the conversation at a later date.
  • Don’t fall into the speakerphone trap. When we put the other person on speakerphone there is often a temptation to do other things as we’re not using our hands to hold the phone. You may also find yourself shouting or missing something that has been said. Effective phone etiquette means giving the call your full attention and if speakerphone is going to detract from that then don’t do it.
  • Stick to professional language. Being too formal on the phone can be off-putting as it makes people feel distanced from you. However, language that is too informal - such as swearing - can instantly shut down trust and connection.
  • If you’re not sure then just say so. There’s nothing that damages credibility more than being able to hear hesitation in the voice of someone who is insisting they know what they’re talking about. So, if you don’t know the answer then just admit this and say you’ll go and get that information. This is a much better option than fudging your response or, worse, lying.


These are our top rules when it comes to phone etiquette in 2021. Find out more by booking onto our Telephone Techniques - Incoming & Outgoing Calls training course...