Have you noticed the number of telephone calls you, as a consumer, receive that are either solicitations or political in nature? Is “through the roof” an appropriate description?

Now, add to that the number of business calls from service providers, like HVAC contractors, that come in. In this latter instance, an annoying trend I’ve noticed is that callers either don’t leave you a message, or, if they do, they don’t explain why they are calling. As a consumer, I tend not to return any calls without an explanation.

I bring this up because, to me, businesses today seem to have forgotten how to practice proper phone etiquette. People are so busy today, and they don’t have time for mysterious and vague messages. Those numbers typically get reported to the Federal DO NOT CALL registry.

As a business owner, making phone calls to your existing customer base is and should be central to your marketing and branding program. Every expert in the industry will tell you this is true.

HVAC salespeople, appointment schedulers, and other customer-facing employees need to be clear as to why they are calling — not only when speaking to customers but when leaving messages as well.

Remember, the way in which your team interacts with clients and business associates over the telephone will either portray them in a positive or negative light. That light reflects on you and your company as well.


No more than three rings: Experts say all calls should be answered on the second or third ring.

Positive greeting: Always greet the caller in a warm, friendly way. Say, “Good morning (or afternoon),” tell the caller your name, the company name, and ask how you can provide exceptional customer service.

Smile when you talk: Study after study shows that when you smile, you change the sound of your voice. Smiling makes you sound more pleasant and friendly.

Speak clearly: Don’t talk fast. Don’t talk too loud or too soft. Enunciate your words, and speak slow enough that people can understand what is being said to them.

Limit hold time: If you must put someone on hold, ask for permission first, and give the caller the option to leave a voicemail message.

Most experts will tell you that you shouldn’t keep callers on hold for more than one minute. When reconnecting with them after the hold, be sure to thank the caller for waiting to show that their time is respected. If it requires a longer wait time, you should return to the caller, and either transfer them to someone else who can better help them, or offer to call them back. If calling them back, be sure to give them a time frame they can expect to hear back from you. By the way — don’t set the receiver on the desk without placing the caller on hold. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me, so I just hang up. Imagine what your customers might do.

Listen carefully: When the caller is speaking, listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt them. You can take notes to ensure you respond appropriately to all their concerns.

Leave a detailed message: Your message should include your name, company, proper contact information, the reason for your call, and a good time for them to call you back.

Return calls: Whether you tell a consumer you will get back to them or someone leaves a message for you, get back to them as soon as possible. It is also a great idea to establish specific callback times to ensure a connection.

Transferring a call: If you must transfer a call, ask the caller if it is OK before doing so. Be sure to explain why you need to do the transfer, and give the caller the name of the person you are transferring them to. Before transferring the call, make sure the person you are transferring it to is available.

Be present: Whether answering a call or making one, avoid multitasking, other side conversations, shuffling papers, eating, chewing gum, or working on your computer.

Nothing shows disrespect more than doing these things while talking on the phone.

Show respect: Always treat every call with the utmost courtesy and respect by giving the customer your undivided attention.

Also, scripts are one of my personal pet peeves. When I receive a call, and the caller is reading from a script, I usually hang up. I’ll bet I am not alone in that.

When you make business calls or leave voicemail messages, speak naturally. Sure, you need to know what to say, and a script helps with that. But don’t read it robotically. That is just insulting and a waste of time for everyone involved.

What about rude callers? Every business gets calls from rude, angry, and/or impatient people. The key is to stay calm and be as diplomatic and polite as you can.

Saying things like, “calm down,” usually has the opposite effect. By showing a willingness to help resolve the problem or conflict, you can usually diffuse the situation. As a very good friend of mine used to say, “These situations are how you can turn lemons into lemonade.”

Ending the call: Believe it or not, you can do everything right, but if you don’t end the call correctly, you can still lose the customer. This is all about being as polite and warm as possible to the person on the other end of the phone.

Ask them if there is anything else you can help them with, be sure to thank them for calling, and wish them a pleasant rest of their day.

Bonus point: Use their name because it makes them feel important and makes the entire experience more personalized.

Finally, be sure the caller hangs up first. Seriously. Otherwise, they might think you hung up on them, which is rude.

Having good telephone and voicemail etiquette is a natural starting point for providing a great customer experience. This contact could mean a lot when it comes to customers, business associates, and potential clients getting a picture of your business and what it stands for. Make them feel at home.

Impressive phone manners make people feel better about doing business with you.

Publication date: 12/25/2017

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