20 Business Telephone Etiquette Tips


Today’s technology has many advantages and a great many disadvantages. I often wonder how our society survived without a mobile telephone. I wonder how I survived without the Internet. I was connected when Prodigy was first introduced on the scene. The pharmaceutical company for which I worked provided a laptop to help me manage my territory or I may have not been so well connected.

One disadvantage of a mobile telephone is the lack of telephone etiquette. People seem to have no manners when talking on their phones. Personally, I do not care to hear another person’s conversation. If I’m having dinner alone in a restaurant, I believe I am having more fun than a family whose parent (usually the Father) is interrupted by a call and does not tell the caller about the personal family time he’s having but continues to talk on the phone. Of course, it’s not my business. I have no idea the understanding that exists between those family members. I do know the call is about business because people tend to talk extremely loud when talking on their mobile phones. That really annoys me.

I have addressed my leisure time away from the workplace where I have observed others and their inconsideration to the general public. At the workplace, impoliteness and rudeness to others when on the phone or not, is totally unacceptable from employees. Since I am a trainer and consultant, I find it extremely difficult minding my own business when I hear conversations employees have with customers, clients or patients. I think of the many opportunities I have to offer assistance to the companies who have not made the connection between untrained employees in the area of proper telephone etiquette (or any area if the employee is untrained) and lower profits. Every connection an employee has with a customer, patient, client (or potential one) is vital to the profits of any company. I therefore offer to you, 20 Telephone Etiquette for Businesses Tips. I’m aware many of these tips are common sense yet I’m also aware common sense is not very common, oftentimes. This list was initially written for dental and medical healthcare professionals but is applicable to any business.

  1. Make sure you speak clearly and are smiling as you answer the phone; also identify yourself.
  2. Before placing a caller on hold, ask their permission first and thank them.
  3. It is better to return a call than to keep someone on hold too long. If the phone rings back to you, you’ve kept them on hold too long.
  4. Do not forget to return the call as you promised.
  5. Do not permit the phone to ring into the office more than three times.
  6. Always use a pleasant, congenial and friendly tone.
  7. Never interrupt the person while he/she is talking to you.
  8. Never engage in an argument with a caller.
  9. Do not handle an unhappy caller’s concern openly at the checkin-checkout desk.
  10. Do not make it a habit of receiving personal calls at work.
  11. Do not answer the phone if you are eating or chewing gum.
  12. Do not give the impression that you are rushed. It is better to return the call when you can give the person the time they need to handle the reason for their call.
  13. Learn how to handle several callers simultaneously with ease and grace.
  14. Return calls promptly that have been left on voice mail and ansafones.
  15. Always get the best number (and an alternate) and the best time to have a call returned to the caller, especially if a manager or another team member must return the call.
  16. Do not ever leave a message with someone else or on an ansafone or voice mail regarding details of a delinquent account. Instead, leave a message asking the person to call the “Accounting Department.”
  17. Always make collection calls in private and away from the patient flow or public areas.
  18. If possible, provide a telephone for patients/customers/clients to use. An area providing privacy is preferred.
  19. Do not call a patient, customer or client’s home before 8:00AM or after 9:00PM, unless they’ve given you permission to do so.
  20. When hanging up the phone, make sure the caller or person called hangs up first if the phone is slammed on the receiver. Otherwise, always hang up the phone, gently. I recommend a remote, handless headset for the business staff. They are wonderful. This will solve hanging up as you push release on the headset to hang up the phone. Also, it does not tie your staff to their desk. The team member checking on insurance really appreciates this device. (The phone can also be answered if away from your desk.)

Contact me if you’d like to know the make and model of the remote, handless headset recommended. I am not asserting this list answers (no pun intended) all of the issues surrounding excellent telephone skills but it’s a very good start. If a tip does not apply to you or your business, I commend you. If even one does, I encourage you to begin immediately to eliminate it.

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