Your Reputation is on the Line: Tips on Phone Etiquette

Posted on August 13, 2013

by Peggy Noe Stevens

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I obviously give a lot of presentations on office etiquette and professionalism. I have found myself spending a quite a bit of time recently on the subject of “netiquette” and how technology plays a part in our personal brands. Lately I have begun to wonder, however, is telephone etiquette a lost art?

In my opinion, the answer is “No!” Actual conversations, as far as I am concerned, are a vital component to our professional communication. As long as we are still holding conversations over the telephone then we should exercise the appropriate etiquette as it pertains to the telephone.

Returning Calls
I must admit that I get a little frustrated with the lack of respect shown by those who do not return my calls. Perhaps it is my hospitality background, but I always return calls. The same goes for other people on my team. Sure, we happen to be in the business of professional etiquette, but we are also in the business of servicing our clients. No one is well served by being kept waiting. We are all busy and everyone’s time is valuable and like they say, a little effort goes a long way!

When You Have to Leave a Message
As accessible as today’s technology allows us to be, it is not always easy to connect with someone over the phone. In order to make it easier, leave a concise message. If the person you are calling is busy, chances are, they do not have time to listen to a very long message. Also, make sure that you leave instructions for follow up. For example, if you are not asking them to call you back, then let them know that. Try to avoid that game of “phone tag”.

If you Do Not Have an Answer
When you do not yet have an answer, let the other person know so they are not waiting. Managing expectations is important. Let them know that you are working on the matter and you will get back to them.

If it is an Uncomfortable Call to Make
Get it over with! Save yourself and the other person time by being direct. For instance, sometimes it seems easy to ignore a sales call when you are not interested, but put yourself in the shoes of the salesperson by taking yourself off of their list. Perhaps you will realize that you are interested in what they are selling, but just not now. Have that conversation and tell them when you might be in a position to consider it further. They can call you then.

Be Upfront
Always respond and be upfront. If you are truly uninterested, just say, “no thank you”. A speedy response has an impact on trust and your professional image.
When you consistently put things off and force others to constantly follow up, you undermine your professional credibility. You cause people to feel disrespected and lose faith in you and your professionalism. This is not the personal brand that you want for yourself.


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