This is part one in a two-part series. Read part two here.

Working with customers over the phone is a common practice in most businesses. However, far too many businesses are risking their reputation by using poor etiquette on the phone. There’s a lot that goes into a great business telephone call.

Be sure you are following these 10 essential tips for great business telephone etiquette. Here’s the first set of five:

  1. Pick up the phone promptly.
    If you leave your callers hanging while the phone rings and rings, they aren’t going to have a very good impression of your business. Great business etiquette starts before the call even begins. Make an attempt to answer every call within just a few rings. If you have trouble keeping up with call volume, working with an answering service can help.
  2. Set a positive tone from the start.
    When you (or your virtual receptionist) pick up the phone, it’s important that you use a friendly tone. A simple greeting like “Good morning” or “Good day” can have a profound impact. Being polite and positive as soon as you pick up the phone can diffuse any tension or reduce any anger on the part of the caller.
  3. Check your facial expression.
    Although it may not seem possible, callers can “hear” your facial expression on the other end of the line. When you’re talking on the phone, try to smile. It will have a positive impact on your mood and the interaction with the caller overall.
  4. Keep your phone presence consistent.
    Whether you, your staff or a remote virtual receptionist are answering the phones, it’s important that everyone leaves the same impression with your callers. Train your staff or answering service to use the same greeting, and follow the same steps for information gathering. For example, your staff can say “Hello – you’ve reached ABC Plumbing – Joe speaking.” This way your customers can confirm that they’ve reached your business, will know who they are speaking with and then have the opportunity to immediately get to the heart of the problem.
  5. Be a good listener.
    Your job when you answer your business phone is to help solve your caller’s problems – whether that’s handling a botched order or answering basic questions about business hours. You can only do this if you are actively listening. Give your caller an opportunity to speak and listen attentively. Don’t multi-task while you are on the phone, and don’t cross talk with anyone else in the office.

This was part one in a two-part series. Read part two here. In the next part of this series, we’ll cover the five remaining keys for excellent business phone etiquette.