10 Essential Telephone Etiquette Tips

Answering the telephone is everyone’s least favorite job, especially in a busy office. But, making a good impression over the phone is one of the most important things your employees can do for your company.

Taking care of your customers over the telephone and making them feel well informed and appreciated is essential. Whether you are the front office receptionist, an executive secretary, or a large call center, the following phone tips should always be followed.

Smile, literally.

A smile can “translate” through the phone, causing your voice to sound friendly and warm. But be careful not to “smile” at a very angry customer. Wait until the time is right.

Speak clearly.

A picture paints a thousand words but the caller on the other end of the phone can only hear you. They cannot see your face or body language. Therefore, taking the time to speak clearly, slowly and in a cheerful, professional voice is very important.

Be Polite.

Address the caller properly by his or her title. (i.e. Good morning Mr. Brown, Good afternoon Ms. Sanders). Never address an unfamiliar caller by his or her first name.

Mirror your customers.

Try to match their tone and emotion. Mirroring doesn’t mean to yell if a customer is yelling at you. However, an initial increase in volume or intensity might help the interaction at the start. Then it’s important to quickly bring the intensity down. Be yourself, and mirror in the best way you can to create quick rapport.

Reflect and validate.

When a customer is upset or frustrated, they might not be able to take in what you say–even when it’s the right answer. First, really listen to help them calm down. After saying all they need to say, they’re more likely to be receptive to hearing the solution you offer.


Tell customers you understand their problem and the reason for their call. Make sure they feel heard.

Give the customer time.

Let customers vent if they need to, even if you understand the issue right away. People often need to finish expressing themselves in their own way before they are ready to proceed.


Repeat back what a customer has told you in a supportive way. This demonstrates that you understand the problem.

Hold time.

Before you put someone on hold, get confirmation that it’s ok to do so. General rule: don’t leave a customer on hold more than 2 minutes without checking back, even if it’s to say it may take longer. If you know it will be an extended hold, tell them ahead of time. Offer to call back, if that’s preferable.

Stay Positive.

It can be frustrating, to say the least, when you have to deal with a disgruntled customer or an annoying tele-marketer. But, try to stay positive and upbeat. If you find yourself snapping at your callers, excuse yourself and take a 10 minute break and re-group.

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