8 Telephone Etiquette Tips

Whether at work, at home, or on your mobile phone, here are 8 solid telephone etiquette tips everyone should be displaying at all times.

1. Always identify yourself at the beginning of all calls.

A) When in the office, always answer a telephone by saying: “Hello/Good Morning, Accounting Department, Syndi Seid speaking.”

B) From a cell phone, either simply say Hello, or state your name, Hello, Syndi Seid here.  Do not answer by using words such as “yeah” or “yes.”

C) When placing a call, always state your name along with the name of the person you are calling. Example: “Hello, my name is John Doe from XYZ Corporation.  May I please speak with Ms. Jane Smith?”

2. Be sensitive to the tone of your voice.  Do not sound overly anxious, aggressive or pushy. It is important your tone conveys authority and confidence.  Do not lean back in your chair when speaking on the telephone.

Tip: Sit up in your chair or stand during the conversation. When at home, use a personal tape recorder to privately record your own conversations.  You will then hear how your sound to others.

3. Think through exactly what you plan to say and discuss BEFORE you place a call.

Tip:  Jot down the items you want to discuss and questions you want answered.  In other words, anticipate and expect you will be placed into a voicemail system; plan your message to be as direct and specific as possible, asking the person to respond to specific alternatives or questions.  Do not say, “Hello, it’s Syndi, call me back.”  At least state the subject about which you want the person to call you back about.

4. Do not allow interruptions to occur during conversations. Do not carry on side conversations with other people around you.  The person on the telephone takes precedence over someone who happens to walk in your office or passes by while you are on the phone.

Tip: If you must interrupt the conversation, say to the person, “Please excuse me for a moment I’ll be right back.”  And when you return, say, “Thank you for holding.”

5. Especially when leaving messages, speak clearly and slowly. Do not use broken phrases, slang or idioms. Always, always leave your return telephone number as part of your message, including the area code . . . and S-L-O-W-L-Y, including REPEATING your telephone number at the end of your message.

Tip: Practice leaving your number, by saying it aloud to yourself as slow as you have heard an informational operator say it.

6. Build the habit of always turning off your cell phone ringer when entering a meeting, restaurant, theater, training class, or other place where the purpose of your visit would be interrupted or others would be disturbed by hearing your cell phone ring.

Tip: If you are expecting an important call, inform the caller you will be in a meeting during certain times and state you will monitor your message indicator for when it illuminates you will excuse yourself to leave the meeting and return the call.

7. Always speak into the telephone receiver with an even and low tone of voice.  Especially when speaking on a cell phone out in public, be sure to monitor how loud you may be.

Tip: Move the phone ear piece just slightly away from your ear and listen to yourself speaking. Discover whether you are speaking too loudly or too quietly for the other person to hear you.

8. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by other activities while speaking on the telephone, such as rustling papers, chewing and eating, working on the computer, or speaking with someone else.  Most importantly, do not use a hand held cell phone while driving. Get a headset or speaker phone for the car.

Tip: Always treat every caller with the utmost courtesy and respect by giving him/her your undivided attention.

Question:  What other items do you have to add to this list?  Do let us hear from you by locating this article at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/blog.  You may also reach us at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com.  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/subscribe.

Happy Practicing!

Tags: ,

28 Responses to “8 Telephone Etiquette Tips”

  1. Rahlyns says:

    When ending a call, who is responsible for saying “goodbye”? The caller? The person trying to end the call? Is there a rule?

  2. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Rahlyns: There is not rule as to who is responsible to say Good-bye first. It’s from whomever wants to end the call first. The important matter is you do say good-bye, versus simply hanging up on the person. Thanks for the question.

  3. mARGARET says:

    when receiving a call at home or at work, and it is for someone else, is it not rude to ask who is calling if that person has not specifically told you to ask who is calling.

  4. Teresa says:

    I’ve found that the best wayt o end a call is to ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” or “I’m so glad I could help, is there anything else?” or “Thanks so much for calling us today, is there anything else?” When they say No, you say, “Terrific, have a great day”. i wait for about 3 seconds for them to respond then I disconnect the call if they don’t. I find most callers know that I’m wrapping up the conversation and they either quickly identify other business or they say goodbye.

  5. thinh says:

    when the caller’s attitude is not friendly, what should we do?

  6. Shweta says:

    If anyone talks rudely or angrily on the phone, how to answer him or her? Can you please guide me??

  7. Marika says:


    I have a questiona about taking a phone call. I’m not a native English speaker and I have never actually lived in an English-speaking country, so I have probably a silly question, but it has been bothering me for a long time.

    I have this Englsih textbook that teaches to answer phone calls with reciting your phone number. I’ve never actually even seen it in films. Are there any instances that it is actually done? Or is it simply a very old-fashioned way? Though the textbook is not that old, I think it was published somewhere around the turn of the century.

    I would very much appreciate if you could clarify it a bit.
    Thank you.

  8. David Streiff says:

    When handing the phone to another person should you tell than who is calling ?

  9. jesshorwitz says:

    Normally I don’t read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice article.

  10. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear David: Yes, it is always nice when answering the telephone for someone else to ask: “May I say who’s calling?” “Who may I say is calling?”
    Happy Practicing!

  11. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Shweta: Whenever speaks rudely or angrily on the phone, simply say: “John (their name), would you please tone down the tone of your voice. It’s bothering me that you are sounding most rude and/or angry. If this tone persists I will have to hang up. I understand you may be upset (etc.), yet I would prefer if we can discuss this matter more calmly as friends (if this is the case… or whatever, as colleagues, etc.). If this persists and this is in the workplace, report it to your supervisor. If this is a personal friend, then be firm in saying this is not how you prefer having friends who speak in this tone and manner. If you want to be more specific for help, contact us directly at info@AdvancedEtiquette.com. Good luck!

  12. Syndi Seid says:

    Thinh: When a caller’s attitude is not friendly, you should politely, yet firming tell the caller you will be hang up if this attitude and tone persists. There is no need to prolong the agony.

  13. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Marika: It is rare anyone would answer a personal telephone by reciting their phone number. However, I have heard it used by companies/businesses who do not prefer using a business name, yet wish to have the caller know they have reached the number intended.

    In today’s uncertainties, for personal phones it is recommended to simply say, Hello!, or whatever the appropriate equivalent is in various languages.

    There was also another old-fashioned style of saying “Hello, Smith residence.” Even this in today’s times is not preferred.

    You are correct, the textbook you were reading is most curious. Hope this helps. Syndi.

  14. Marie says:

    People tend to leave long messages on my answering service at home. What is the etiquette regarding the length of messages left on an answering machine?
    With thanks, Marie

  15. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Marie: I know how you feel about this. I don’t like long messages either. Perhaps in your greeting you can state something to the effect: “At the sound of the tone, please leave a quick 30 second message simply stating your name, telephone number and the subject of your call and I will return your call as soon as possible.” The other alternative is to just accept that certain people will always ramble on and on and be grateful for having callers. Good luck!

  16. Syndi Seid says:

    Margaret: First of all, a caller should identify him/herself when calling. It is not rude to ask who is calling if you say it in a nice way. To ask “Who’s calling, please” does sound like you are screening the call. The way I’ve memorized is to say, “May I tell him/her who’s calling? It’s only natural a person will want to know who is calling them.

  17. Sylvia says:

    Hi Syndi, I love how you reply to the questions individually. thank you for your assistance

  18. Sylvia says:

    Hi Syndi, I love how you respond to every query individually. Thank you for your assistance.

  19. Ralph says:

    In a work environment are janitors/cleaners allowed to pick company calls when no one is around?

  20. Akki says:

    1. At times i have to answer the customer calls pertaining to the complaints they have; being in a haste they occasionally behave immature & tend to speak sarcastically. There had been 1 instance when i lost my cool & back fired @ the annoying fellow. How will you suggest to handle such lot of people who are reluctant to hear you & disrespect the receiver?

    2. Is it okay to use short messages in a formal text exchange?

  21. Syndi Seid says:

    Akki: Thanks for your post. Being a person who must listen to customer complaints is probably one of the worst jobs a person can have. It requires a person to hear lots of negativity on a regular basis. I can’t think of anyone who “enjoys” this, yet for those in this position, appropriate skills must be learned to handle not only the callers, but also yourself in terms of your own well-being.

    Best suggestions: a) Seek out online articles, books, and courses on customer service and handling customer complaints. There is a skill required to remain calm on your end and to defuse rude callers. b) Email me at Info@AdvancedEtiquette.com and I will send you two articles I have on handling customer relations and complaints. Regrettably blogs do not allow for PDF attachments.

    Regarding the 2nd question, my thinking is there is little difference between a formal and informal text, except for choosing to spell out all words and phrases. The nature of texts are to be quick message exchanges, unlike emails which I suppose could be be considered more formal. In business, texts are only to be used for quick conversations about something requiring immediate attention… such as being late to a meeting, confirming a location. It is not the place to send a contract. Good luck!

  22. Syndi Seid says:

    Ralph: I am assuming you are speaking about janitors answering calls belonging to the client’s office, perhaps late at night when no one else is around. The answer is absolutely not. A janitor/cleaner is typically not part of the daily workforce of that business. Therefore, the janitor has no business answering another person’s telephone.

  23. Andy says:

    Great Article ! Good Study For My Company’s Implementation Of Proper Phone Etiquette

  24. Evelyn Sevilla says:

    what is the allowable / maximum ring before someone has to answer / pick up the phone? is there a rule for that?

  25. Syndi Seid says:

    Evelyn: There is a slight difference between home and business. A general rule for both is to best answer calls within the first three rings. Most systems go into voicemail by the 4th ring which depending on our voicemail system may not allow you to interrupt the answer system to take the call. Case in point I have a friend who owns a large mansion. He tells everyone to never hang up until after the 8th ring and to please always leave a message, because it may be he just couldn’t get to the phone any sooner.

  26. Syndi Seid says:

    Andy: Thank you… it is a hot topic everywhere! Let me know what other items should be included if we were to expand the article???

  27. Pat says:

    My mother receives multiple calls from her friends and family. I speak with her every day, sometimes more than once – sometimes she calls me (most often) and sometimes I call her. Sometimes, when I am speaking with her, she gets another call, and then tells me that it’s so-and-so and she will call me back. I don’t mind if we’ve been on the phone for a while, or if the other caller is calling from a cell phone on the go. But today, for example, a few minutes after I called my mother, she got another call, from her brother. And she said to me: Pat, it’s so and so. I’ll call you back. I felt angry. We hadn’t spoken for more than three minutes. Her brother is calling from another state, but so am I. Please let me know what the correct phone etiquette is for her situation. By the way, my mother’s brother is retired, can talk on the phone at any time, and he speaks with my mother fairly frequently (it’s not like she never hears from him). Thank you.

  28. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Pat: Thank you for the inquiry. After reading your submission a couple of times, my best response is: A) You are blessed to be able to speak with your Mom on a daily basis and sometimes several times in a day, even when she has to call you back. B) Reality is your Mom has full choice to speak with whomever she wants, when she wants, and it has no reflection on her not caring about you in any way. C) Regardless of being retired a person can be most busy in their life. As I see this, for whatever reason, that day your Mom did choose to speak with her brother first, in lieu of having to call him back instead of you. If you are still upset over this matter, you should “nicely” ask your Mom why she took his call first instead of calling him back, over you. This should not be an issue that continues to fester. However, whatever her response, you should accept it and let this matter go. There may be reasons or situations with which you are unaware that caused her to take his call first… or maybe nothing… beyond a spare-of-the-moment choice with no reason. In the greater scheme of things, what’s important is not to let this be something that harms your good relationship with your Mom. Good luck!

Leave a Reply