Phone Etiquette at Work: How to Answer Calls Professionally

Even though social media, SMS, chat and email are communication staples both in and out of the workplace, many customers still prefer to get in touch over the phone. 

Despite this, many companies fail to give their staff a crash course in how to answer the phone professionally. Proper phone etiquette doesn’t just apply to the receptionists and front office. Every person with a business phone should utilize best practices when answering calls. 

And look, some things are obvious. For example, most people get that it's rude to answer the phone with food in your mouth. And, we know better than to yell into the receiver or answer the phone with an apathetic "Yeah..?"

But, there are smaller things you might not think about that add up to a bad customer experience that can hurt your reputation long term. 

In this article, we'll go over 8 phone etiquette tips you should know. You'll learn how to answer calls professionally—whether you're new on the job or need a quick refresh. 


The 8 Rules of Phone Etiquette at Work

Follow these 8 rules for good phone etiquette on the job. 

  1. Be prepared. Get familiar with your phone, and learn how to transfer calls. 
  2. Answer right away. Answer within three rings. 
  3. Announce yourself. "Thanks for calling Company Name"
  4. Be an active listener. Let the caller finish, and ask relevant follow up questions. 
  5. Consider your tone. Be friendly and smile. 
  6. Don't use speakerphone. Opt for a headset, or do a conference call.
  7. Summarize before hanging up. Reiterate the conclusion/next steps for the caller. 
  8. End on a professional note. Thank the caller for their time or business. 

Be Prepared

The first step toward being a pro on the phone is preparation. Before you start taking phone calls—particularly if you're using a newly installed phone system, you'll need to learn the lay of the land. 

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the phone system. Learn how to put callers on hold without losing them, print out a cheat sheet of important phone numbers and extensions, and become an expert on how to transfer calls (including blind and attended call transfers). With Telzio, you can even transfer calls directly to voicemail. 

Additionally, you'll want to be ready to take notes, in case you need to pass along a message. Keep your helpdesk, CRM, and other customer service tools open, so you're not scrambling to find them while you're talking on the phone. 

When adding notes, it’s always a good idea to ask for the caller's name, and details to document what they’re calling about. If the caller needs a follow up, make sure you take down their best contact number or email. 

Office staff should know who is responsible for taking calls and have a system in place in case that person isn't available to answer the call. This is easy to do with a phone queue management system from Telzio. With call routing tools like queues and auto attendants, you reduce the amount of time spent on hold and better manage inbound calls throughout the day. 

Related: How to Set up a Phone Menu for Small Business


Answer Right Away

The average length of a single ring is about six seconds, so if you let the phone ring five times, you're looking at a 30-second wait—which may leave callers feeling frustrated. 

On the flip side, answering a call on the first ring can catch people off guard. If possible, aim to pick up around the third ring.

Chances are at some point throughout the day you’ll be away from your desk phone. This doesn’t mean you have to slow to answer calls or even miss them completely. With the Telzio Mobile App, you can route calls on the business number to your cell phone, and still be free to move around. What’s great is, the app keeps work calls totally separate from your personal calls. 


Announce Yourself

When you answer the phone, welcome callers by greeting them and introducing yourself and the organization, this lets people know that they've dialed the right number—rather than answering with a simple "Hello?"

No one should have to ask if they've reached "X Business." 

Instead, try something like this:  “Good morning, this is [Name] from [Company]. How can I help you?"  It's a simple phrase, but it goes a long way in delivering a sense of warmth through the wires. 

If you’re providing an answering service for multiple different departments, teams, or businesses, you can use Telzio’s Call Screening and Caller ID features to identify your callers, where they’ve dialed, and how to answer the call accordingly. 


Be an Active Listener

There's nothing worse than calling a company with a question or concern, and learning that they haven't been paying attention. A few tips for letting the customer know that you’re listening:

  • Repeat what the customer says verbatim. Use this approach sparingly to let the customer know that you heard their request. 
  • Sum up what the customer says in their own words. This shows that you’ve heard what the other person is saying and that you understand their situation.
  • Ask relevant follow-up questions. Get a sense of what this person is trying to do or what their ideal outcome looks like.
  • Confirm that you’re on the right track. You don’t want to hang up before the caller feels that their issue has been resolved. Make sure you ask if there’s anything you might have missed.  

One general rule for good phone etiquette is to listen more than you speak, especially if you’ve answered an incoming customer service call. While you may already have the answer because of your experience, let the caller finish what they’re saying before you jump in with a suggestion. 

Related: 5 Phrases to a Better Customer Service Experience


Consider Your Tone

Keep in mind, your voice on the phone may well be the customer's only impression of the company. When you answer the phone, make a point of speaking with a friendly tone of voice—regardless of how you're feeling that day—some say that smiling as you talk can help you sound more cheerful. Your tone over the phone is like your body language face to face. 

Keep your voice at a medium level, and speak slowly enough that the caller can easily understand what you're saying. 

Additionally, watch out for fillers that can undermine your professionalism. Ums, ahs, and overuse of the word “like” immediately come to mind, as do slang words or anything that might inadvertently offend the caller. 


Don't Use Speakerphone

Unless absolutely necessary, skip the speakerphone. Not only does it pick up extra noise from the background, but it also gives callers the impression that you're not listening with your full attention. 

What's more, it also gives off the sense that the call isn't private. The only time it makes sense to use speakerphone is if there's more than one person from your company on the call—though, arguably, it's better to connect everyone via conference call. If you need to put the caller on speakerphone, make sure you let them know before you do so. Better yet, invest in a hands-free headset instead. 


Summarize Key Points Before Hanging Up

Here's the thing, there's nothing worse than explaining something to someone and realizing that they didn't catch anything you just said. Before you sign off, make a point of summing up the call. The benefit here is twofold--for one, this builds some goodwill between you and the caller, as this shows you were listening to what they had to say (hey, most of us don't experience this much these days).

The sum up is also a great way to make sure nothing important was missed and gives them a chance to clarify the message if needed. 

Related: 30 Business Voicemail Greetings and Tips to Create Your Own


End on a Professional Note

After you summarize the bullet points of the call, make sure you end things on a professional note. Here, your goal is to make sure that the caller is happy with the service they received and that they leave with a positive impression. A few ideas for nailing the dismount, so to speak. 

  • Thank the caller for their time and reiterate the agreed-upon outcome of the call "Thank you for calling [name]. We're sending your package overnight and you'll receive your tracking number via email within a few minutes."
  • Thank them for their business.  "Have a great day [name], and thank you for being a customer."
  • Keep the lines of communication open. You might say something like "If you need anything else, feel free to reach out." 

The point is, you’re announcing that you’re about to hang up, which gives the customer this sort of last chance to mention anything else. On your end, you’ll have a strategy in place for bookending your conversation instead of an awkward, “uh, ok, bye” type sign-off. 


Wrapping Up

Professional phone skills might not be the first thing people think about when they think about how people perceive their business, but even in today’s digital era, sometimes people just want to talk to a real person. 

Asking a quick question over the phone is way easier than typing it out and hoping there's someone on hand to reply. Think about it this way--how often do you email a restaurant when you’re looking for somewhere to eat from your phone? What about if you have an urgent question for someone you do business with or you want to check if a store has a certain item in stock?

The list goes on--but the point is, anyone in your company that might answer the phone at work should have the skills to be helpful, polite, and an asset to your brand, not a liability. 

Related: Call Monitoring - Listen to Agent Calls Live

Grace is a content marketing specialist with a focus on SaaS, technology, and digital marketing. Grace is a digital nomad and savvy user of modern communication technologies to travel and work from all over the globe.