Technology has turned everyday communication upside down. A letter that used to take days or weeks to arrive through the postal service now takes seconds over email. Calls that once required a stationary telephone, an operator, and connection time now travel to orbiting satellites and back to the receiver’s mobile device in no time. The etiquette involved in these types of communication has also evolved, leaving a lot of holes and gray areas where there aren’t as many clear cut social rules. With this, the business world is left to redraw boundaries and to decide how to approach these quick and easy methods of communication while maintaining a level of professionalism.
Many of the problems surrounding business call etiquette now are rooted in the fact that everybody wants to be heard and understood. Your clients expect your undivided attention when discussing the details of a project or the status of their order. Your associates need your input on daily operations and bigger issues that arise in the office. When calling from outside the office on your mobile device, you may not be able to offer the kind of attention these things require because of your focus on whatever it is you’re doing. Emails have become less formal than old fashioned letters, but does that mean they can be reduced to a single, colloquial line and still be professional and effective? There is a sense of purpose and respect that is expressed when you put that extra effort into addressing your email’s recipient and closing with an appreciative statement.
Though many modern companies are relaxing their environments and fostering a more creative and easy going culture, it is still important to follow a few rules of etiquette when addressing business clients or customers over the phone:
- Pay attention – People can tell when you’re driving or ordering a coffee or otherwise distracted on the phone. If you need to make a business call, excuse yourself from whatever else you’re doing, find a quiet place to talk, and allow the person on the other end of the line to get their message across without any obstacles. This simple gesture will earn you their respect and perhaps make your business transaction more efficient.
- Answer – If you receive a phone call in the middle of another task, consider whether you have one minute to spare. If so, pick up the phone. It is more reassuring to the caller for you to answer and say that you’ll have to call them back at another, specified time, then for them to have to leave a voicemail. If you simply cannot answer the phone at that time, return the call at your earliest convenience.
- Speak up – Speak clearly and with a smile on your face. This intentional positive expression comes through in your voice and can have a relaxing effect on the listener. Greet your caller slowly and identify yourself, setting a calming and level tone for the rest of the conversation. Wrap it up by thanking the other person for their time and confirming any further communication that may follow.
- Tone it down – Do not allow an unhappy customer or client to argue with you over the phone. If there is an issue that causes the conversation to elevate and you are in a public place or in front of other associates, kindly ask the caller to meet you in your office for an appointment to discuss the issue.
- Respect privacy – If you are involved in a phone call in which sensitive or personal information is being discussed, be sure to do it privately. Not only does your customer or client not want their business overheard, others around you may not want or need to know the details. Refrain from leaving specifics in voicemail messages as well. You do not know who is receiving those messages and you may put someone else’s personal information in jeopardy.
Use your business communication style as a way to express your professionalism. It not only reflects on you, but on your company as well. Elevating your etiquette over the phone, through email, on social media sites, and in other business communication shows your customers and clients that you respect them and that you believe in the work that you do. But integrating call center solutions can be a costly endeavor. Some businesses outsource to telephone answering professionals who can work around the clock. This could be an economical and convenient solution for even small businesses.