How to Answer Business Telephone Calls Professionally

Updated on June 13, 2020
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has over 30 years experience developing and supporting automated phone systems. He has a Master's Degree in Computer Science.

The first few seconds of a phone call can influence client satisfaction more than anything that follows. It sets the tone, and you want to impress clients with professionalism when answering calls. I'll tell you how.

I ran a business for over 30 years, and I learned the importance of training my staff to know how to answer the phone and how to handle telephone conversations in a businesslike manner. There are several crucial things to consider, so let's get started.

Proper phone etiquette is important for the success of a business.
Proper phone etiquette is important for the success of a business.

How To Say Hello When Answering a Business Phone

You don't want your personnel to answer with a long drawn out spiel. But you may have a preference for what the welcoming introduction should be.

Write a script and provide it to all personnel. It should be simple and to the point, such as "Thank you or calling Xyz Corporation. How may I help you?"

In some cases, you may want your employees to state their name or the name of the specific department. Such as "This is the accounting department. How may I help you?"

It's essential to instruct your personnel on how to properly answer your business phone professionally so that everyone puts out the same message with a certain amount of consistency. Even part-timers you hire should be included with the training.

Be Prepared to Take Notes

A notepad or paper, and pen or pencil, should be available at all times by each telephone.

Personnel should write the caller's name before getting involved in the discussion. Otherwise, it may quickly be forgotten. If the caller doesn't say his or her name, ask for it before going any further.

Jot down details of the conversation while talking. It's important to know whom you were speaking with and what was discussed. That helps if you need to refer to the phone conversation again later.

Use the caller's name once in a while throughout the conversation. And again, at the end, when you thank them for calling. When the caller hears you repeat his or her name, they will feel that they are important to you.

Use Proper Phone Etiquette

We don't have the advantage of visual feedback or body language when talking on the phone. The focus should always be on making a positive impression for your company.

Show Empathy

It's essential to pay extra attention to the way the other party sounds. Try to pick up on a caller's feelings.

If they are frustrated about something, show compassion, and understanding. Make every effort to listen and respond accordingly to their needs.

Everyone Should Know Your Business Policies

There will be times when someone will make unreasonable requests on the phone. Here is an example of how this can work against you:

I once sent my product to a customer who said he didn't have a credit card and wanted me to ship with an invoice. His company later claimed he was not authorized to make purchases, and they refused to pay. I then made a policy only to accept orders prepaid by cash or credit card.

Policies are not meant to make things difficult. They are intended to keep the business profitable. So make sure all your employees know your policies and stick to them when dealing with customers over the phone.

Phone Manners

Good manners are required when speaking to customers. I once caught an employee becoming irate when a customer asked for help. He took it personally and talked back to the customer in an unfriendly way.

You must discover early if this is happening so you can correct it before doing too much harm to your company.

Proper Use of Grammar

If you hire people who don't use English as their native language, then they may not use proper grammar. That can make a bad impression on your company.

These employees may be very good at what they do, but you may not want them to answer your phones. And if you do, then it may benefit your success if you were to give these employees some form of training in ESL.

Over the Phone vs. Face-to-Face Conversations

When you work face-to-face with someone, it's easy to focus on that person. But when talking over the phone, all you have is their voice in our ear.

Things might be going on around you that attract your attention away from the caller. Don't let this happen. It will create a feeling of disinterest in the mind of the caller. You might lose a good customer over that.

Make sure your work environment is set up so that your personnel has as few distractions as possible, especially for those who work over the phone.

It's also vital to give verbal feedback to the caller to show that you understand his or her issues or concerns. Instruct your staff to do that. It helps when dealing with callers who are complaining or who have problems.

Frustrated phone caller
Frustrated phone caller | Source

Handling Customer Complaints

Customers will always remember how responsive your employees were to their problems. A positive attitude will make a lasting impression and can bring more business in the future.

Remember that when talking over the phone. One cannot see a caller, so verbal communication is more critical than ever. Try to notice the stress level of the caller. Their tone could make that apparent. Respond to that with a positive and friendly attitude.

Have a policy in place to know how your company has chosen to deal with everyday problems. Make sure all personnel know these policies so that they can respond quickly and decisively to customer complaints over the phone.

How To Use a Business Phone Answering System

A short greeting is all that's necessary, announcing the company name along with a simple-to-follow list of routing options. Some companies use greetings that callers dread listening to because they want to get connected to the right person quickly.

Never waste the caller's time with promotional announcements in the greeting message. Lengthy greetings can especially frustrate repeat callers who already know your company.

It's best to provide a simple list of options the caller can select, such as how to reach the most sort-after departments or personnel.

Always include a known method of reaching a receptionist who can help callers who don't know for sure what department they need to speak with for any particular issue. Option zero is mandatory for that reason.

In Conclusion

With the proper configuration of your phone system and a businesslike manner of answering and handling calls, your customers will notice the professionalism of your company. That will keep them coming back whenever they need something that your business provides.

© 2012 Glenn Stok


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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      letstalkabouteduc - That's a good point. Background noise can make a business phone conversation very unprofessional. Thanks for that additional information.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 

      4 years ago

      Great tips! I worked at a small business where the phone was located in a busy, noisy place. It was almost impossible to be patient and polite when I was struggling to hear. Business owners need to find a quiet place to put phones or else let the machine pick up.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      agvulpes - Thank you, Peter, for your important confirmation of what I wrote about here.

    • agvulpes profile image


      4 years ago from Australia

      Congrats for recieveing your HOTD for this hub and I could not agree more with you . I was in a 'Service' related business for more than 40 years and I learned very early that the Telephone is sometimes the only contact a customer has with the Company and they judge the Company by what comes through their Earpiece !

      I hated to use the Auto answering machines and liked to answer the calls within Three Rings.

      I believe that First Impressions are the most important to create a lasting relationship with a client :)

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      DzyMsLizzy - You're not the only one who feels this way about automate phone systems. I'm with you 100% on your feelings. For that matter, I wrote an entire hub on the issue... "How to Automate a Phone Answering System" where I discuss the points you brought up. I always try to teach my clients how important it is to have an easy access to a live person. Check it out. And thanks for the compliment for the Hub of the Day.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congrats on HOTD! Well done.

      However: nothing, but nothing sours my opinion of a business faster than being greeted by an automated answering system (sorry, Glenn, given your bio statement, but that's how I feel).

      That in itself is bad enough, but even worse is having to sift through interminable menu choices and sub-menus, and the oh-so-frustrating attempts at 'voice selection' in which the robot never seems to 'get' that I just want to talk to a LIVE PERSON.

      The bigger the corporation, the worse this problem is. The phone company. The gas and electric company. The cable TV company. They are the worst offenders.

      I object to these systems on two bases: 1) they deprive PEOPLE of a JOB, and 2) they are impersonal and dehumanizing to the client.

      I guess I'm just a grumpy old lady who came up in the days when REAL PEOPLE actually answered the phone. I don't want to try to converse with a robot.

      If you want to make a good impression for your business, then HIRE someone to answer the damned phone! Make the first contact your customer hears be a live person who answers the phone in a professional manner.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      RTalloni - Thanks for that wonderful comment. You explained it well. First impressions are what always stay in my mind when I have an experience with a company for the first time.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      The old saying about first impressions being memorable stands the test of time so your guide is useful for all business owners. Too many times I've finished trying to contact a business and was left thinking one word…pitiful!

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for a much needed post that business owners can benefit from, as well as job applicants!

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      ChitrangadaSharan - Thank you. I also just received the email from HP about this hub being selected for HOTD. Thanks for the positive comments about it.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Congratulations for the HOTD!

      A very well organised and informative hub. I like your presentation.

      It is very important to be professional , when answering the phone especially when we are the face of the business. We are the link with whom the customer speaks. And yes the first impression counts.

      Thanks for sharing this helpful hub!

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      old albion - Hi Graham. I found it interesting that you stand up when on a business phone call. I thought I was the only one who did that! Actually I did it without thinking about it, but I was aware that when I talked with a difficult customer I would tend to stand up. Now I know why. Thanks for stopping by.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Glenn. I agree with you all the way. One thing I used to do with business calls was always to stand up. I always felt more in charge of the situation. Notes a little more difficult I know but it worked for me.


    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      andromida - That's right. And they tend to remember when they are mistreated more than when they are treated well. Thanks for the positive comment.

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 

      6 years ago

      Indeed customers always remember how they are treated when they ask the service provider for help.Brilliant post Glenn.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Nita Pradhan - To answer your question, I would tell the client that I want to be sure I give him or her the correct information and ask if I may call them back after I check with my superiors. It's okay to admit that you are new there. They would appreciate that you are taking the extra effort to get the correct information.

    • profile image

      Nita Pradhan 

      6 years ago

      Your article is very helpful. Thank You very much for sharing it. I have a question about handling telephone calls. Lets say I am working in new company and I don't have much information about the company or how things are done there and if I get a telephone call from my client asking the things that I don't have much knowledge about then what would be the best thing for me to say or do in such situation?

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 

      7 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      These are great tips. Growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who taught me about how to answer the phone with more than just 'hello'. It is something not many people think about, but adds a lot of professionalism. Great hub.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Christy - That's right. Callers react to what they hear and how we treat them since there is no other means of communication when calling over he phone. Thanks for the feedback on my hub and thanks for sharing.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi Glenn, when answering the phone we have to be professional as we are the face of the business. We are the go-between that the customer speaks with. Well organized and informative hub here. Happy to share it.

    • Sue B. profile image

      Sue B. 

      7 years ago

      Hi Glenn,

      I thought this was a great hub! You must have learned a lot running your own business. I also found your links to related articles very useful. Two thumbs up!


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