The Business Phone Etiquette Guide

business phone etiquette

When answering the phone at work, you represent your business. It’s important to make sure you and your personnel are familiar with proper business phone etiquette so you create a good impression for those who call.

Here, we’ll go through common business phone etiquette tips to help you improve your customer service. This includes general etiquette and what to consider for specific tasks.

Business Phone Etiquette

Anyone who answers a business phone must do so in a professional manner. That’s not to say they have to mimic a machine whenever calls come in, but they should be respectful and efficient in working with the caller over the phone. Some general pointers for business phone etiquette include the following items.

Courteous Greeting

The way callers are greeted should satisfy three objectives. These are:


  • Provide a polite greeting that confirms the caller has reached the correct place
  • Introduce yourself (establish familiarity)
  • Offer to assist the caller (eg “How may I help you?”)


Your greeting should be succinct and to the point. You might say something like, “Thank you for calling Business Inc. My name is Pat. How can I help you today?” This lets the caller know who they have called, who they are talking to, and gets right to the point of the call—how you can help them.

Thanking the caller at the start and the end of the call is simple courtesy and can go a long way toward establishing a positive impression of your business.

Presentable Tone and Pacing

The tone used when answering a business call should be friendly, but not lax. In addition, you shouldn’t waste time, but you also don’t want to sound hurried. Your tone should be calm, respectful, and friendly without being over the top.

An effective way to do this is to sincerely smile while on the phone. Even though the caller can’t see you, the simple act of smiling will affect your mood and tone, and they’ll be able to hear the difference. Experienced phone agents will often have a mirror set up at their station to make sure they smile before taking each call.

Actively Listen

Most callers have something they want to explain to you. It may be a question, a concern, or (in the case of vendors especially) an offering. Listen to the caller and avoid interrupting the caller if at all possible.

It also helps to take notes. Most secretaries have a pen and paper near at hand solely for that purpose. Not only does jotting down notes help you remember important information from the call, but it also helps you listen more attentively.

Think Positive

If the caller makes a request or asks a question that for whatever reason cannot be handled right away, don’t shut them down right away. Focus on finding a solution to the problem. For example, instead of telling the caller, “I don’t know,” and leaving it at that, say something like, “I’ll have to look that up. When can I call you back?” or “Let me get you in touch with someone who would know the answer to that.”

The main point is to avoid shutting down the caller outright. You are eager to assist your customers, and the way you handle difficult queries should reflect that.

Calling Hours

Proper etiquette is just as important in making outbound calls as it is in taking inbound. Whether you’re contacting customers or patients to remind them of appointments or starting a conference call, it’s important to be punctual and respectful of the other party’s time.

When making calls to customers, avoid making calls before 7:00am or after 10:00pm. Making calls during business hours is usually ideal.


Additional aspects of professionalism over the phone include the following:

  • Don’t eat or chew gum during calls
  • Avoid distractions, such a cell phones or social media
  • Respond to calls by the third ring whenever possible
  • Keep calls from home short
  • Use clean language and be polite

Phone Etiquette For Specific Tasks

In some cases, it may be necessary to transfer a caller, but them on hold, or end the call prematurely. This should always be handled in a professional and respectful manner, keeping in mind the caller and their time.

Putting Callers on Hold

Nobody likes to be put on hold, and it should be avoided whenever possible. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable. When you need to put a caller on hold, apologize for the inconvenience and try to give them a fully honest timeframe for when they can expect you to get back to them.

Before putting someone on hold, it can help to simply ask for their permission. Making a polite request to hold on the line while you verify some information or handle a more urgent call can help make sure the person stays on the line.

Transferring Calls

Some requests made by callers may be beyond the authority or knowledge of a secretary or phone agent. Prior to transferring a call to higher authorities, it’s best to let the caller know that you are doing so and to tell them why.

In addition, it’s polite to ask the caller if they have any additional requests before you make the transfer. You may be able to help them with other concerns or requests before handing them off.

Ending a Call

Some situations require you to end a call early. If they are using abusive language or (more likely) they are simply long-winded and getting nowhere, politely interrupt them and take back control of the call.

For example, you can state, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I’m not the best person to solve this problem. Let me get your information and see if I can find the right person to help. What’s your name?” Ending that statement with a question is critical to regaining call control.

Leaving a Voice Message

Voice messages should be brief, to the point, and include appropriate contact information. Always identify who you are and who you represent when leaving a voice message on someone’s answering machine. And if time allows, leave you number twice to make it easier on the person you’ve called.

Effortlessly Nail Business Phone Etiquette

Good business phone etiquette can help improve relationships with customers and increase your client base. When employed properly, a business can grow very quickly from its phone traffic.

A great way to ensure you have proper phone etiquette is to take advantage of phone answering services. This allows you to avoid hiring, training and managing people to answer the phones and provides a great way to keep customers happy and grow your business.

Click here to read more about our phone answering services or call us at 804-200-5696.