phone etiquette dos and donts

In a text-driven world, many people forget the importance of telephone etiquette. But in the customer service industry, proper phone etiquette is essential to success.

Most people have a general idea of how to sound on a phone call. But as a live call operator, you must have a certain level of professionalism when talking to customers and practice proper phone etiquette.

The Importance of Telephone Etiquette

What is Telephone Etiquette?

Telephone etiquette is the way you use manners to represent yourself and your business to customers when on a call. Proper telephone etiquette has a major impact on your business as it shows professionalism, creates a good first impression, and creates customer satisfaction.

Essential Phone Etiquette Rules

1. Answer Calls in 3 Rings or Less

Answering incoming calls in three rings or less is the standard for the telephone answering service industry. Answering calls quickly gives callers a good impression of your business and shows that you value your customers and their time.

Three rings may not sound like a long wait time, but it equates to around 18 seconds of ringing. After waiting that long, customers are likely to hang up and call the competition.

2. Speak Clearly and Professionally

Clear enunciation is essential for a good customer call experience! Callers tend to contact your business whenever they are ready to move forward in their buying process, so be sure that they can fully understand your call operators, or it could cost you a sale! 

Along with using a clear voice, be sure to speak at a healthy pace. Speaking too quickly can give off the impression that you are impatient, and speaking too slowly can make callers feel as though they are boring you, which is definitely not good etiquette.

3. Practice Active Listening

It is nearly impossible to understand a speaker’s message without giving them your full attention. We go over four key steps for effectively listening to customers—paying attention to the speaker, encouraging them to share the reason for their call, politely questioning any gaps in information, and repeating what you heard to ensure accuracy—in this blog post on listening skills

Following these four steps will help make you a good listener, especially if you have the energy and determination to do it right.

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Phone Etiquette Dos

Monitor Your Tone of Voice

On the phone, where face-to-face interaction is impossible, tone of voice takes on significance. A defined tone of voice is essential in establishing clear communication between both parties.

Remember, the entire outcome of the call rests on the demeanor and tone of your phone agent.


Although it may sound unnecessary, smiling when you’re on a call has a huge impact! According to a study, a smile can actually be heard through the phone. This is because when a person smiles, they tend to use a more friendly tone of voice. 

When a caller hears your smile over the phone, they are likely to smile themselves. With all of these smiles, your customer has a greater chance of feeling heard and having a positive interaction with your business. Because of this, we believe smiling is one of the most important elements of proper phone etiquette.

Control The Call

Over the phone, a caller has only a person’s tone of voice and attitude on which to base their opinion. A tone that displays confidence will have an advantage over a weak tone. Furthermore, a confident tone commands attention, gets interrupted less often, and is more likely to instill confidence in the caller or customer. 

At Dexcomm, we call this controlling the call. Rather than talking over the caller or allowing the conversation to ramble aimlessly, the call center agent is trained to capture essential information and get that information to the correct party. This is important when you are relying on a call center answering service to extend the professionalism of the business that you have worked hard to build.

Use The 7 Ps

Always keep in mind that effective telephone etiquette requires you to be prepared, present, polite, patient, personable, professional, and proactive. At Dexcomm, we refer to these as the seven Ps of call handling excellence and believe that they are essential to proper phone etiquette.

Lapsing on any of the seven Ps can have a negative impact on your caller experience, which can lead to a negative impact on your company’s image and, ultimately, your bottom line.

Phone Etiquette Dont’s

Don’t Rush the Caller
One thing you should never do while answering phones is rush or interrupt the caller. When you interrupt someone in a conversation, it implies that you already feel like you know what they will say. When you cut them off, it makes it look as if you think you know what they’re dealing with. This is something that can definitely agitate a customer, so it is best to avoid interrupting anyone.

Don’t Lack Confidence
A voice that displays confidence will have an advantage over a weak tone by commanding more attention, trust, and minimizing interruptions.

Don’t Engage in Other Activities

Always listen carefully to what the caller is telling you. While on the phone, it is easy to be distracted and let your mind wander or even do other things such as cleaning up your desk or eating. But the time you or your operators spend with the caller should be all about the caller. Solving the caller's issue is an operator's first priority.

This concept also applies to angry callers. An angry caller needs your attention even more so. When handling angry or upset callers, always remain calm and listen. Arguing with an upset caller will not help them, and it will only lead to further aggression and an inability for your operator to solve their issue.

Don’t Forget to Complete Quality Checks

In order to guarantee that your business practices great phone etiquette, you must complete regular quality checks. 

You can do this by making test calls to your business line and verifying that your receptionists or call center agents are using professional telephone call handling techniques.

Key Points

Proper phone etiquette is essential for a good customer service experience. Share this guide to business phone etiquette with your customer service team to improve your caller experience and better the reputation of your business.

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Dexcomm is a Louisiana-based corporation that provides answering services to businesses and service agencies across the United States. We have been open since 1954, employ a staff of roughly 80 people, and our average client retention rate is 10+ years.

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Read More About The Author: Marina Prestenbach