It only takes seven seconds to form a first impression.

Answer phone calls professionally and you’ll help callers form a positive impression not just of you as a person, but of your brand and business as a whole.

Answer the wrong way and you’ll leave callers annoyed, frustrated and offended, hurting your business’ ability to turn them into loyal customers, clients and valuable contacts.

Good phone etiquette is one of the most important parts of business, even in the era of email and social media. But it’s also one of the most frequently ignored, often by professionals who don’t understand the effect that good phone manners can have on your business.

Below, we’ll explain why the way you speak on the telephone is important. We’ll also share a few of our proven tips and tactics on how to answer the phone – helping you achieve the ideal answering style on every call that comes your way.

Why your telephone answering style matters

Just like a letter or email full of spelling errors, punctuation mistakes or inappropriate language can hurt your chances of gaining a new client or closing a new deal, poor telephone etiquette is just as much of a faux pas in the world of business.

How you answer the phone communicates several important details. It tells the caller if you’re enthusiastic to take their call or not. It also helps them form a first impression both of you and your business.

For most businesses, the telephone is still the primary channel for contacting customers. Learn to nail your telephone answering style and you’ll create a positive first impression that tells your customers you genuinely care about them.

We’ve written before about the importance of politeness in customer service, but a good phone manner goes beyond just being polite – it’s also about having the right voice, tone and message to match the identity and values of your business or organisation.

How to answer the phone in the right way

Just like there’s a right and wrong way to write a letter, there’s a right way to answer the phone in a professional setting. Below we’ve listed several of our favorite techniques for starting any phone call on the right foot and projecting the best possible image:

  • Answer the phone as quickly as possible. It’s always best to answer before the third ring, as calls left beyond this point will result in some callers hanging up after assuming you can’t come to the phone. The vast majority of customers hate dealing with long wait times.
  • Avoid sending phone calls through to voicemail at all costs. It’s impersonal and leaves a bad impression with the customer. If you can’t always get to the phone, ensure you have the proper procedures in place to deal with overflow calls.
  • Avoid putting callers and customers on speakerphone unless absolutely necessary, as it doesn’t feel as private or personal as a normal telephone call.
  • Use a professional greeting, such as “Hello. How can I help you?” or “Welcome to [your company’s name]” to let people know they’ve reached a business instead of a personal phone.
  • Identify yourself. People want to know who they’re talking to, and giving your first name – as long as your company allows it – is a great way to build instant rapport with callers.
  • If the customer is frustrated or angry, listen to their feedback and remain professional for the duration of the call. You can also apply the tips we shared in our guide to dealing with complaints from customers.
  • Keep the call professional by using relatively formal language and avoiding slang. This ultimately depends on your work environment and relationship with the caller, but as a general rule, it’s always best to err closer to overly formal than overly casual.
  • Speak at a moderate pace and volume, with a focus on enunciating words properly and clearly. This way, callers will be able to understand what you’re saying even if they have a weak signal.
  • If you need to put a caller on hold, ask them for permission first. People dislike being put on hold suddenly, but few callers will feel ignored if you ask them for permission to go on hold while you track down the right person for them to talk to.

Communications skills are soft skills, but important ones nonetheless, and they’re something you can strengthen and improve with practice and experience.

If you’re new to speaking to customers on the phone, try printing out our list of techniques and keeping it on your desk. When you answer a phone call from a difficult customer or run into an issue you’ve never experienced before, you can reference the list for live, on-the-fly help.

Just like sales or social skills, phone communications skills take time and work to develop. Put the time, focus and effort into your phone answering approach and you’ll develop a telephone answering style that helps you make an outstanding first impression on any customer.

Want to ensure that your business’ telephone answering style is as professional and friendly as possible? CALLCARE can help with that! Discover more about our telephone answering services and much more by getting in touch today!

Ross Barnes-Moore