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9 Tips for Exquisite Phone Etiquette in 2024

9 Tips for Exquisite Phone Etiquette in 2024

Customer Service

 Why do people call into businesses? The answer: to get an answer. It could be any answer for a billion things, but every call is placed with a goal in mind. As the recipient of that call, and as a representative of that business, your job is to direct that caller to that goal.

But how do you direct that caller in a way that is engaging, professional, and friendly all at the same time?

We’re a phone answering service company that has been training call center agents for nearly 100 years. So, we have some call center phone etiquette tips you may find useful when answering calls for your business, or just if you want to get better at speaking to people over the phone.

So, let’s take a look at the 9 ways to improve your customer service phone etiquette, along with some phone etiquette examples.

  1. Know Who is Calling and Why They’re Calling
  2. Speak with an Inviting Tone
  3. Match Your Caller’s Pace
  4. Be Extra Helpful & Enthusiastic
  5. Ask Your Caller for Permission at All Times
  6. Always, Always Say “Thank You!”
  7. Confidence is Key
  8. Don’t Show What You Don’t Know
  9. Define the Clear Next Steps for Every Call

Let’s start with the first point, which is arguably the most important:

1. Know Who is Calling and Why They’re Calling

The first step to taking any call is to identify why your prospect or customer decided to pick up the phone. Why is this important?

Firstly, there isn’t a way to help your caller if you don’t know what they are calling about! Are they asking for your office hours, the name of one of your staff, or information about one of your products? Is it an urgent call or not? You need to know to assist.

Establish this by saying:

 “Thank you for calling (your business’ name), how may I help you sir/ma’am?”

Also, it dictates who is in charge of the phone call. Some callers will start the call out of the gate demanding answers to a question you haven’t even heard. If you answer the phone for your business enough, you will eventually run into a caller that will talk…and talk. And it’s bad phone etiquette to simply cut them off.

But, by starting out looking to address the concern for the call immediately, you provide an avenue for your caller to explain their reason for calling with a question that has an end goal in mind.

What we mean by that is, if your caller is rambling but briefly mentions the reason they are calling, you can immediately insert yourself back into the conversation and direct them to the answer they are looking for.

You can do this by saying:

“Sir/Ma’am, did you say you were looking for (issue they briefly mentioned)? I could help you with that. First, I’d need to gather a little more information around that to assist you, would that be alright?”

Then, you can continue with the next order of questions (or your script if you are a call center agent). 

2. Speak with an Inviting Tone

This is one of the best call center customer service tips that we can provide. Your tone of voice when you pick up the phone sets the stage for the entire conversation. 

The very first words you speak need to communicate: 

“I am a friendly, intelligent professional, and I am very happy to speak with you right now.”

Weirdly enough, smiling when you’re on the phone will make your tone of voice sound more inviting. Little changes in your body language even over the phone makes a noticeable difference on the other end.

Always look for opportunities to use powerfully positive words, such as:

  • Absolutely
  • Certainly
  • Wonderful
  • Delighted

If you’re talking to a first-time caller, this may be their first interaction with you and your company. You’ll want to communicate in a manner in line with your brand while maintaining these professional phone etiquette tips. If that means having a go-getter tone of voice, that’s how you should come off. If your brand feels more methodical and strategic, your tone should match that feeling.

3. Match Your Caller’s Pace, Not Their Phone Etiquette

Some callers will be more or less receptive to your wonderful greeting. Some won’t. Some may be having a bad day, and that would make you a victim of an angry customer.

But you should never match your caller’s phone etiquette, only their pace.

So while you want to stay on brand, you also want to match the way that your caller responds to your tone of voice, unless it’s…unruly. If they skip formalities and get right to the point, it’s good customer service phone etiquette for you to respond with shorter, more concise answers, while remaining pleasant and approachable.


Don’t sacrifice friendliness for brevity!

So, what if your caller speaks slowly

There are many reasons a caller would speak slowly. They may speak English as a second language, have a disability, be tired, just be slow talkers…or a billion other reasons! It’s not proper phone etiquette for you to rush them - ever!

It’s important to remember that they are still callers with a goal in mind. So, the journey might take a little longer, but you would still need to guide them to the answer they’re looking for. 

Putting the call in perspective can help lower your frustrations when helping callers who may not speak like you do. Work with them at their speed and you will notice significantly better interactions.

4. Be Extra Helpful & Enthusiastic

So, we spoke about what happens if a caller speaks slowly. Now, let’s look at what happens if a caller doesn’t speak clearly. There are ways other than with an inviting tone of voice where you can seem helpful to your caller.

It’s a reality that many of your callers will be calling you from their car, a construction site, and every location that can and will obscure their voice during a call. And you’ll likely have people call while on speakerphone, which only adds mote ambient noise to the call.

But it’s proper phone etiquette for you to never blame their phone or signal. Politeness is key here. 

Try saying:

"I apologize, sir/ma’am (or their name), I’m having a little trouble hearing you, do you mind repeating that?"

Often, they realize that they either need to say it slower or step away from their noisy surroundings.

But, what if they don’t realize it’s noisy and continue repeating their question/statement?

This is really important to get right. Why? If you just keep repeating the line we suggested above, the caller is going to get frustrated. But, if you change it a little bit, while gently nudging them to realize it may be their side that’s producing noise, you may start to see real results.

Try following up with:

“Sir/Ma’am, I’m still having a little trouble hearing you with the background noise. I would absolutely still love to help you, so is there anything you could do from your end?”.

Remember, you can never truly be too helpful. If you need to confirm or verify information, think of creative ways to maintain a pleasant experience. For example, if you need to confirm the spelling of someone’s name, you could say, “Did you say Y, as in ‘You’re Awesome?’” Of course, if such peppiness clashes with your brand, you’ll want to be creative in line with your company image while keeping the phone etiquette skills you learn here.

5. Ask Your Caller for Permission at All Times

Callers like to feel that they’re in control of a conversation. But giving up the control of the conversation is a surefire way for your calls to be less efficient and effective.

So, the question is: how do you maintain control of the conversation but make the caller think that they are in control of it? The answer: firmly asking for permission. If you ask their permission – even when it seems unnecessary – you can give your caller that feeling of control they want.

Saying things like “I need your phone number,” or “I need to put you on hold” makes you sound demanding, unfriendly, and is bad phone etiquette.

Try this instead: 

“May I please get your phone number please, sir/ma’am?” or “I can definitely try to connect you to them. Is it alright if I put you on a brief hold, Sir/Ma’am?”

Notice the softer tone this takes? Also, did you spot the use of the powerfully positive word ‘definitely’? If so, you’re already becoming a pro at this!

6. Always, Always Say “Thank You!”

At Ambs Call Center, this is one of the metrics our call center agents have to hit routinely in order to become a full-fledged call center agent. It’s at the very heart of building your phone etiquette skills, and so it is very important to get right.

These two little words can make the entire conversation. And, contrary to common thought, it does not need to only be said at the end of the conversation.


Whenever you can say “Thank you!” during a conversation, you should!

Your caller provides their phone number when you ask? Say “Thank you!”. They say “Okay” when you ask if you may put them on a brief hold? Say “Thank you!”.

Show your appreciation (and your phone etiquette) for your prospects or customers by sprinkling ‘thank-yous’ throughout your conversation. 

7. Confidence is Key

We know how daunting it is to speak to people over the phone on behalf of your business. These are potential leads, clients, or customers. They are also people you may have never met before, from all walks of life. And, you can’t warm up before every phone call, you just have to dive into each one headfirst. It’s scary.

But, you’re the director of these calls – the captain. You need to be able to steer each and every call to its unique destination without fail. You simply need confidence. There’s no other way.

How do you build confidence in taking calls?

Keep taking calls! Repetition is the best builder of confidence!

While we do say that no two calls are the same, the third call can sometimes be similar to the second. 

All calls are unique, because the people that make them are unique! But, the nature of the calls themselves are very rarely actually unique!

After you answer your business’ phones for enough of a time, you realize that some paths are treaded on more than others.

People that call in to a business are more likely to want to book an appointment as opposed to check out the parking situation at your business, for instance. Once you start to realize what are the regular nature of your business’ calls, the confidence that you know what to do will slowly kick in.


The more calls you handle for your business, the better you’ll understand your customers’ frequently asked questions.

Of course, blind confidence is never as good as deserved confidence. You or your team member(s) must be well trained in the various scenarios likely to play out with each call, especially how to manage a complaint. If your confidence stems from knowledge and familiarity, you’ll be ready to handle any call.

8. Don’t Show What You Don’t Know

You’re not going to have the answer to every question. But that’s okay – as long as you’re able to reply in a way that demonstrates that finding the right answer is your top priority. 

Try saying:

“That’s a great question!” and “I want to make sure I find the correct answer for you”

These statements show that you’re confident in your ability to help the caller, even if you don’t know the exact answer to their request. And, it also shows the caller, through proper phone call etiquette, that you actually care about them as a person.

9. Define the Clear Next Steps for Every Call

Especially when callers are new to your company, make sure you define clear next steps for the both of you. 

Booking an appointment, patching your caller with another department, scheduling a visit to your office – these all keep callers engaged with your brand. 

Defining clear next steps positions your business in the front of your prospects’ minds. Also, neither you or your caller is left in an awkward silence, which is a symptom of improper phone etiquette.


Should You Use a Virtual Receptionist Instead?

Positive interactions with well-trained staff often increase your customers’ lifetime value to your business. Thus, providing proper call and customer service training to your team members is extremely important.

But, if you read these telephone etiquette tips and were thinking, “I might need to get someone to take these calls instead of me”, that’s perfectly reasonable! Sometimes, you and your team might not be equipped to handle the calls coming into your business, and that’s okay!  Luckily for you, there are a few options, one of them being hiring a virtual receptionist.

You might be asking “Is it time to hire a virtual receptionist?” or “What are the benefits of using a virtual receptionist?”. You may also want to look into how an answering service is different from a virtual receptionist.

Or, are you not a business owner, but someone with the skills of an effective call center agent? If so, you can apply now to our open positions in Tampa, FL and Jackson, MI.

About Jennifer M. Cronkhite