Small business owner looking at reports and talking on the phone

In today’s competitive environment, effective communication plays a crucial role in the success of any small business. While email and instant messaging have become popular means of communication, the telephone remains a vital tool for connecting with customers, clients, and partners — 59 percent of consumers still choose phone calls as their preferred medium for customer support.

Mastering the art of phone etiquette is essential to ensure professional and courteous interactions that keep customers satisfied and loyal. This article will explore ten tips and best practices for small business owners and their teams to enhance phone etiquette skills and leave a lasting positive impression on callers. Let’s get started.

1. Answer Calls Promptly and Professionally

First impressions matter; answering calls before they ring out is a crucial aspect of phone etiquette. Ensure the phone is always within reach of you or your staff. That way, it’s easy to pick up and respond to calls.

Aim to answer calls within three rings to convey a sense of attentiveness and respect for the caller’s time. Greet callers with a warm and professional tone, identifying your business and introducing yourself (if appropriate) to establish rapport, build trust, and avoid confusion. For instance, “Thank you for calling ABC Consulting. This is Jane. How may I assist you today?”

Call scripts can be a helpful tool to ensure a consistently high level of service and care when the phone is answered.

2. Ensure Active Listening and Clear Communication

No one enjoys feeling misunderstood or ignored. Effective phone communication requires active listening and clear articulation.

Listen closely to the caller, allowing them to express their needs or concerns fully. Avoid interrupting or finishing their sentences prematurely. Take notes if necessary to ensure you capture all relevant information.

When responding, speak clearly and enunciate your words without sounding condescending to avoid miscommunication. Maintain a polite and professional tone throughout the conversation, using appropriate language and avoiding jargon that may confuse the caller.

3. Use Positive and Engaging Language

It’s not always what you say. Often, it’s how you say it. Both the choice of words and tone during phone conversations significantly impact the caller’s perception of your business, brand, and level of service.

Use positive and engaging language that reflects your professionalism and commitment to customer care. Avoid negative phrases or dismissive language that may leave callers feeling unimportant.

Instead, offer reassurance and empathy, addressing concerns with a supportive and problem-solving approach. For instance, instead of saying, “I don’t know,” use phrases like “Let me find that information for you” or “I’ll be happy to assist you with that.”

4. Manage Hold Times Effectively

At times, your staff may need to place callers on hold to gather information or consult with a colleague. However, managing hold times with care is crucial to prevent frustration and dissatisfaction.

Inform the caller beforehand that you will place them on hold and provide an estimated wait time. Suggest alternatives, such as offering a call-back option or directing them to a relevant self-service resource on your website.

Regularly check in with the caller while on hold to ensure they feel attended to and valued.

5. Implement Efficient Call Transfer Processes

Transferring calls is a common practice in businesses of all sizes, especially when the caller’s query requires the expertise of a specific department or individual. To ensure a seamless experience, follow proper call transfer procedures.

Briefly explain to the caller why the transfer is necessary and ask for their consent before proceeding. Provide any relevant details or context to the individual receiving the call to avoid unnecessary repetition of information. After transferring the call, ensure the recipient is available and ready to assist the caller immediately.

6. Manage Difficult Callers

While running a small business, you may encounter difficult or irate callers. Handling such situations with professionalism and composure is essential.

Stay calm and composed, actively listening to the caller’s concerns without interrupting or becoming defensive. Empathize with their situation and offer understanding. Maintain a polite and respectful tone, even if the caller becomes confrontational.

If necessary, involve another team member to provide additional assistance. Remember that 73 percent of consumers believe a good experience is vital in influencing brand loyalty. Each caller’s experience can impact your business reputation, so strive to leave a positive impression.

7. Know When to Invest in a Call Answering Service

Managing phone calls can be challenging, especially for small businesses with limited resources. One solution to ensure exceptional phone etiquette and uninterrupted customer service is to consider telephone answering services. These services provide professional call handling by trained operators who can answer calls for your business.

Telephone answering services can be particularly beneficial during peak hours, after business hours, or when your staff is busy attending to other important tasks. They offer a seamless extension of your business, ensuring every call is answered quickly and professionally. By partnering with a reliable answering service, you can enhance your phone etiquette, reduce wait times, and provide exceptional customer experiences.

8. Consider After-Hours Call Handling

Your customers may need assistance or have urgent inquiries outside regular business hours. An after-hours answering service can be a vital asset that allows you to handle calls and maintain customer service excellence — even when your doors are closed for the day.

With an after-hours answering service, professional operators can take messages, provide basic information, or even handle urgent matters, depending on your business requirements. By offering a reliable and responsive after-hours service, you demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction and build trust with your clientele.

9. Mitigate High Call Volume Risks

Handling a high volume of calls during busy periods can overwhelm your staff, leading to increased wait times and potential customer dissatisfaction. Overflow call management services can help alleviate this burden by seamlessly managing incoming calls when your in-house resources are stretched thin.

By partnering with an overflow answering service, you can ensure no call goes unanswered. The service can step in during peak hours or when your staff is occupied, providing professional call handling, message taking, and even appointment scheduling.

10. Prioritize Ongoing Training and Monitoring

Investing in training and monitoring is crucial to continuously improving phone etiquette within your small business. Provide your staff with comprehensive training on effective phone communication. Role-playing exercises and mock phone calls can be useful in honing their skills.

In addition, consider implementing call monitoring systems to evaluate the quality of your team’s phone interactions. Regularly review recorded calls to identify areas for improvement and provide constructive feedback to your staff. This process will contribute to developing strong phone etiquette skills and ensure consistent customer satisfaction today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

Level Up Your Phone-Based Customer Support with Absent Answer

Mastering phone etiquette is an essential skill for small businesses and their staff. By following these tips and best practices, you can ensure professional and courteous phone interactions that leave a positive impression on callers.

Get in touch today if you’re ready to level up your phone-based customer support with call-answering services. Our team of customer service experts is dedicated to your success.

Related articles