How to improve your small business telephone etiquette

Here are 10 proper phone etiquette tips small business owners in the services industry can use to improve their customer service. 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, and providing high quality customer service starts on the phone.

1. Be prompt and courteous

If you have a scheduled phone call, make sure to answer your phone or make the call on time. People will likely view your timely manner as an extension of your professionalism and organization skills. If you'll be late or need to reschedule, that's totally okay too — your day is variable and stuff happens. Just give whomever a reasonable heads up so that you minimize any inconvenience on their end. If a customer calls you and leaves a voicemail, return their call when you can. It can help to provide an estimate in your voicemail recording of when you'll be able to call back.

2. Identify yourself professionally

When you answer the phone, it's always a good idea to identify yourself and your business name through a friendly greeting. While it may seem obvious that whoever calls knows who they're calling, you'll make a good impression by sounding professional. Even something as simple as "Hello, this is Casey Smith with Smith Appliances, how can I help you?" or "Hi Sarah, this is Casey with Smith Appliances. Thanks for taking my call." can go a long way with impressing new and existing customers and suppliers.

3. Listen Carefully

It's easy to be distracted, whether that's by the emails flying in on your computer, the papers you were in the middle of filing, or the dripping paint can you were cleaning when you received a call. Treat every call like your top customer, and focus on listening carefully to what the customer is saying. Especially if you are scheduling an appointment or gathering information such as name or address, you want to pay special attention to avoid making a potentially costly mistake such as driving to the wrong house.

4. Be brief but thorough

By listening carefully, you can also get to the point of the conversation faster, saving both you and the homeowner time. There is a short caveat here though: don't be too cursory. You want to show your customers and suppliers that you value them and giving them your full attention is one way to do that. Depending on the call, small talk makes sense and is an important component of building relationships and closing prospects. Use your discretion on striking the perfect balance between being brief and thorough.

5. Do your research

Know who you're talking to. For supplier or business partner meetings where you are initiating the conversation, make sure you do your research on the other company and the other person you're meeting with. Even spending 10-15 minutes doing some quick research can go a long way. For customers, any personal touches you can remember helps your customer feel valued. Asking about someone's family or pets by name can be an easy but impactful way to showcase your professionalism. It's helpful to keep some of this research in an easy-to-access note so you can reference it from time to time.

6. Care about the customer

In addition to doing your research, take the time to show your customers that you care about them as people not just customers. Some ways to do that include sending holiday or birthday texts, taking the time to answer their questions even if you have other stuff going on, referring to them by name, and smiling when you talk on the phone. They may not be able to see you smiling, but smiling is proven to make you happier. Customers are the core to your small business success, so making the extra effort to provide a top notch customer experience can go a long way.

7. Speak clearly and slowly

Speaking clearly and slowly into the microphone will help your customers hear you easier. When you're excited about a phone call, you will likely start to speak faster and less clearly, so just remind yourself to slow it down. If you're moving around while taking a call, try to mitigate any background noise that may distract from the call itself. Doing so will make it easier for others to hear you and help minimize miscommunication.

8. Make calls at non-peak hours

If you're giving someone a call, trying during reasonable non-peak hours can improve your chances of getting through. Depending on the person or business you are calling, the exact time may vary, and things to consider are any potential time zone differences, when a business likely experiences peak demand, and typical family or sleeping time from 8pm to 8am local time.

9. Be flexible

If something unexpected comes up, roll with the punches as much as you can. Suppliers or business partners may ask to move a scheduled meeting or customers may call you to change a scheduled appointment. Even though it may inconvenience you, staying flexible can go a long way in building lasting, meaningful relationships.

10. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Even though talking on the phone is primarily verbal, you can learn a lot from non-verbal cues such as changes in tone of voice, length of pauses, and brevity of responses. These non-verbal cues can shed light on how your customer, supplier, or business partner is feeling, and you can react accordingly.

Start practicing today

Ready to start implementing these proper telephone etiquette tips in your next conversation? Having a separate business phone can also help your professionalism, and FieldBuzz makes it possible to do that without needing a separate physical phone. Make sure to sign up for our waitlist.