Charm School: Good Manners for the Phone

In our very first post for Charm School, I added a postscript to "Conversation" about phone etiquette but I really didn't complete that section at that time.  In this day and age with phones practically attached to our ear nearly every place we go, I am afraid that common phone courtesy is no longer used.  I'd like for us to begin to correct that and return to the more mannerly side of phone usage.

Do you know how to answer a phone? It seems so easy to just say "Hello" doesn't it?  Yet that is not quite all there is to it.

In face to face conversation, body language, facial expression, hand gestures speaks volumes.  In phone conversation those parameters are gone.  Tone and expression of voice are all the caller has to go by.  It is vitally important that you convey polite courtesy at all times when on the phone.  I suggest you try smiling as you answer your phone.  It's amazing how that affects your overall tone and softens the harder edge of voices.  If you've practiced your speech for conversations, you've hopefully corrected any problems you had of speaking too loudly, too softly or in monotone.  Consider phone calls as just another form of conversation and practice the same vocal exercises you'd use. 

After your initial "Hello", there should be a brief pause while the caller identifies who is making the call.  If they fail to do so and simply ask to speak to "Mrs. Harried" you may politely ask, "May I ask who is calling?"  Indeed it is hoped if you are the one making the call you'll have taken time to identify yourself and it's quite all right to ask the caller to do the same.

If you are the requested party, and the caller has identified him/herself, your reply to "Is this Mrs. Harried?" should be "This is she."  Not "This is me," "Yeah," or "I'm her." "This is she," may sound awkward but practice saying it and it will become more natural.   You may say "Speaking...", but I assure you, the correct form is, "This is she."  Avoid saying "Yes" when answering. 

If the call is for someone who isn't available, you should offer to take a message.  For this purpose I suggest keeping an inexpensive notepad and pen handy where ever you may typically use your phone.  I keep one in my purse, as well as in most rooms of the house.  I don't have to delay a caller indefinitely as I run about trying to find an elusive pen.   Take down the name of the caller, the business he is associated with, and a brief statement concerning the reason for the phone call.  Write down the time the call came in and the date.  Be sure to get a number where the caller my be reached if a return call is necessary.  State as clearly as you can about what time you expect the person to be available.

If the caller happens to be offering a service, or requesting a donation for a charity (these calls are known as 'cold calls'), etc., under no circumstance is it polite or acceptable to curse at the caller, become hateful or slam down the phone.  I know it's sometimes hard to wait for a pause in the spiel, but try to do so and then politely say "Thank you.  I'm not interested. Goodbye," before hanging up quietly.  One thing about cell phones is that is has eliminated the 'slam'.  This is one advantage to cell phones. 

Should it be one of those computer calls that says "Please hold until a representative can speak to you," it is acceptable to hang up, especially if you have no need to speak to the caller.  Frankly, I think these sorts of calls are rude in and of themselves.  I much prefer to speak to a person right away and I feel my time should be valued by the caller.

You are under no obligation to answer any question at all from a stranger who calls.  I mentioned earlier that you should avoid using the word "Yes" when answering calls and during conversations.  This was drilled into me when I worked at a front desk job.  Unscrupulous sorts of sales people would record the conversation and if 'yes' was used, would superimpose it on another pre-recorded conversation which gave the impression one had agreed to switch services or accept charges for our company for products.

When you receive a call, eliminate as much of the back ground noise as you are able.  Turn down the television or radio, shut the door to the room you're in, if you're able.  Cease what you were doing before you answered the call.  Your caller should not hear you eating, typing, running water, grunting over weeds, etc.  All they should hear is as much quiet as you can reasonably assure and a pleasant voice.  This is just as true for family and friends, too, by the way. There is nothing worse than hearing a continual munching on the other end of the line or mumbled words due to a too full mouth.  It is a given that small children seldom allow the peace required for a conversation.  If it is not a good time for a call or it is just chaotic where you are at the time a call comes in, let your caller know.  Offer to call back or ask if the caller can return the call later.  Give a specific time that you will be available and hopefully free of distractions. 

And by all means return that call!  It is terribly rude to not return a call!  You may well end up playing phone tag but at least the caller will know you attempted to do them the courtesy of calling back.   

If you are making a call, be sure that your first words are a polite, "Hello, this is Mrs. Harried."  Immediately state the name of the person you are trying to reach. "May I please speak to Mr. Hunt?"
When the person you are calling answers, then state the nature of your call, "I wanted to ask if you'd come to dinner on Sunday at 6pm?"

If you are calling a business regarding a problem or service be sure you have necessary account numbers,  paperwork and details gathered before you make the call.  While  a company naturally wants to give good service to their customers, it's just as important that you are mindful of the value of their time.  Be patient.  It happens at times that the person we've spoken with initially cannot correct a problem and you may have to repeat details several times to different individuals. Set aside a block of time meant for nothing but the handling of the phone call.  If a person is rude, ask to speak to a supervisor.  If that person is equally discourteous then ask to speak to his manager.  Be polite at all times no matter how rude the representative may be.  If the call is being recorded, you may be sure that you will eventually receive satisfaction and it will be noted by higher ups who was rude to whom.  A friend recently went through just such a trial and eventually ended speaking with a regional manager.  However, it was noted that he'd been polite all through the calls and you may be sure that there were corrections and courtesies extended mighty quickly.

If it's necessary to step away from the phone during a conversation be sure to let your caller know that you must put down the phone.  If you haven't a 'hold' feature be sure that the room is quiet and remember that any conversation that is had in the home might well be heard by those who are waiting patiently upon you on the other side of that line of communication.  Apologize immediately when you pick up the phone and thank the caller for waiting. 

And finally remember that good cell phone etiquette is the same as good phone etiquette period.  Conversations should be held in normal speaking tones or lowered ones if you are in public.  You should not discuss private matters in public, nor hold up others while you converse.  John told me recently that a local business in his work area had put up notices that staff would not wait on anyone who was on the phone.  Indeed the sign stated that calls were to be taken outdoors and not indoors.  I expect more and more businesses will resort to this because people have failed to mind their manners now that phones go with us pretty much everywhere.

All calls should end politely with a simple "Goodbye."  There is never a need to simply hang up without that small courtesy added at the end of the call.  It signals to the caller that the conversation is at an end.  I cannot name the number of times I've been left with empty air at the other side of the phone because the person with whom I was speaking simply hung up without saying "Goodbye." 

All in all the advice here is the same as it's been elsewhere within this Charm School: courtesy and kindness will mark you the woman of charm in all your dealings.  This is one area where we should never let our guard down whether we are dealing with people in private, in public, or on the phone.

1 comment:

Debby in KS said...

I don't think it has ever been easier to be polite on the phone. With caller ID, I don't answer if I don't know who's calling. If I do, I answer by using their name, "Hi, Mary!!" As for my cell phone, my husband and best friend are the only two with the number. They each call maybe once a year on it and they both have customized ringtones. If it's the standard ringtone, I don't even look at it.

As for calling people about business, I'm OCD about not making people wait. I have everything lined up and ready to go. And even if I'm placing an order, I always have a back up item or color available, just in case! While it's not phone-related, if I use the bank drive thru, everything is already filled out and in the little envelope. All I have to do is slip it into the drawer. I'm usually out of there within a minute. I'm always stunned at people who seem to be filling out home loans in the drive thru!! So you don't wonder why I use the drive thru', I go early, before the lobby opens. I don't use the ATM cuz I don't carry the card and I never remember the PIN number anyhow!!

Diary for July: Week Two

July 7, Shabat Saturday:   So very much I want to chatter over today and perhaps I will...I don't typically write on Shabat, having al...