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Telephone Golden Rules

Every time you make or receive a telephone call, you're making a lasting impression, so make sure your tone of voice and your manner of speaking are courteous.
12/20/2010 03:14pm ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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Every time you make or receive a telephone call, you're making a lasting impression, so make sure your tone of voice and your manner of speaking are courteous.

Answering the Phone for Another Person

• If you're answering someone else's phone, give that person's name first, then yours: "Pat Farrell's office, Lisa Grotts speaking." Avoid phrases such as "He hasn't come in yet," or "She's on a break." Although these may be truths, they could give the wrong impression to the caller. A simple "Ms. Farrell is away from her desk" will do.

• Avoid leaving someone dangling on a silent line. Ask the caller if he/she would like to wait on hold, but check back every twenty seconds.

• When you take a message, make sure it's accurate. Note the date, the caller's name, phone number, and message. Listen carefully, speak clearly, and be friendly.

Making Phone Calls

• Always begin a call by introducing yourself or your company, if applicable.

• Make sure your voice projects strength and clarity.

• Use good posture and sit up straight, with your feet on the floor when talking on the phone. Believe it or not, you will have more energy and this will come across over the telephone.

• When your phone rings, answer it promptly. This shows efficiency and tells the caller he/she is important.

• If someone calls on another line or call waiting while you're on the phone (and the call does not go to voice mail or is answered by a live person), tell the caller you will call them back. The person you called first has priority.

• Follow up on all calls. If you promise information, call back within twenty-four hours.

• Change your voice mail to reflect your schedule on a daily basis.

• Time your call so it does not interfere with someone else's job. In other words, don't make calls first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.

• If you leave a message for someone, be sure and state your name clearly (spell it out if difficult), say your number slowly (repeat it twice), and always give a good time to return the call.

• If you're calling to simply answer a question asked during a previous conversation, leave the answer on voice mail if the person is not available.

• If you're calling someone you don't know, identify yourself.

• Take the time to end all calls on a positive note. Leave the other party feeling satisfied by thanking him or her before hanging up.

• Always hang up the receiver after the caller does, then replace your receiver quietly.

• Voice mail messages should be informative yet brief. People tend to get impatient with long messages and often press the # key to forward to the beep. I like to do a practice script first before I record; this way I can check on my tone and energy level.

• For security reasons, it's best not to give detailed information in a voice mail message, especially if you work at home or when you're traveling.

• Avoid amusing or musical messages at the office.

• If you have an answering service (common in a doctor's office), give them clear, written instructions on how you'd like messages to be taken. If you must, write out a script.

• Remember the Golden Rule of the Telephone: Speak to others as you want to be spoken to.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, on-air contributor and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (www.AMLGroup.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.