Today’s technology has many advantages and many disadvantages. I often wonder how our society managed to survive without cell phones. I wonder how I survived without internet. I was connected when Prodigy was first introduced locally. The pharmaceutical company I worked for provided a laptop to help me manage my territory, otherwise I might not have been as well connected.
One drawback of a cell phone is the lack of phone etiquette. People seem to have no manners when talking on their phones. Personally, I don’t care to hear someone else’s conversation. When I am dining alone in a restaurant I think I am having more fun than a family where the parent (usually the father) is interrupted by a phone call and does not tell the caller about the personal family time they are having but continues to talk on the telephone. Of course it’s none of my business. I have no idea of the relationship between those relatives. I do know the conversation is about business because people tend to talk extremely loudly when they talk on their cell phones. That really annoys me.
I have spent my spare time away from the workplace, observing others and their inconsideration towards the general public. In the workplace, discourtesy and rudeness to others, whether on the phone or not, is totally unacceptable from employees. As a trainer and consultant, I find it extremely difficult to mind my own business when I overhear conversations employees are having with customers, clients or patients. I think of the many opportunities I have to help the companies that have not made the link between untrained employees in good phone etiquette (or any area if the employee is untrained) and lower profits. Every connection an employee has with a customer, patient, customer (or potential customer) is vital to any company’s bottom line. I therefore offer you, 20 Phone Etiquette Tips for Business. I am aware that many of these tips are common sense, but I am also aware that common sense is often not very common. This list is primarily written for dental and medical healthcare professionals, but it applies to any business.
- Make sure you speak clearly and smile when you pick up the phone; identify yourself too.
- Before putting a caller on hold, ask permission and thank them.
- It is better to call back than to leave someone on hold for too long. If the phone rings back, you’ve put them on hold for too long.
- Don’t forget to call back as promised.
- Don’t let the phone ring more than three times in the office.
- Always use a pleasant, sympathetic and friendly tone.
- Never interrupt the person while he/she is talking to you.
- Never argue with a caller.
- Do not openly address a disgruntled caller’s concern at the check-in counter.
- Don’t get into the habit of receiving personal calls at work.
- Do not answer the phone while eating or chewing gum.
- Don’t give the impression that you are in a hurry. It is better to call back if you can give the person time to deal with the reason for their call.
- Learn how to handle multiple callers simultaneously with ease and elegance.
- Instantly answer calls left on voicemail and ansafones.
- Always ask for the best number (and an alternative) and the best time to call back to the caller, especially if a manager or other team member needs to call back.
- Never leave a message with someone else or on an ansafone or voicemail about details of an overdue account. Instead, leave a message asking the person to call the “accounting department.”
- Always conduct collection calls privately and away from patient flow or public areas.
- If possible, provide a telephone for patients/customers/clients to use. A place with privacy is preferred.
- Do not call a patient, customer or a client’s home before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless they have given you permission to do so.
- When hanging up the phone, make sure that the caller or the called party hangs up first when the phone is put back on the receiver. Otherwise, always hang up the phone carefully. I recommend a remote control, hands-free headset for the corporate staff. They are beautiful. This solves the hang up when you press the headset to hang up the phone. Nor does it bind your staff to their desks. The team member who checks the insurance really appreciates this device. (The phone can also be answered when you are away from your desk.)
Please contact me if you would like to know the make and model of the remote control, handheld headset that is recommended. I’m not claiming that this list answers all the issues surrounding excellent phone skills (no pun intended), but it’s a very good start. If a tip doesn’t apply to you or your business, I’ll compliment you. If there is even one, I encourage you to start eliminating it immediately.