26 Phone call Etiquette Tips - You should know these

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A smile can “Translate” through the phone causing your voice to sound friendly and warm”

Phone Etiquette 101

For most of my mentees and clients, one of the first lessons I pass to them is the concept that energy flows from place of high to the low. And the easiest way to demonstrate this is during the first moments of a phone call.

If you answer your phone sounding high and sustaining good energy (genuine), the person on the other side of the phone will be made to speak up to match the energy levels. Everyone desires to draw energy from a higher source and this is the basal reason why people love to be around friends or acquaintances that exudes good energy.

It wasn’t difficult to decide to write on this subject for me as I have preached phone etiquette for many years. No one is in doubt that customer service in Nigeria is way behind its peers. While a brief telephone call with a customer agent sometimes come across as mechanical and monotonous, are we any better with our personal phone ethics?

I will save you my acrimonious rants about my experiences with some interesting people while receiving calls on my phone. No, not today!

But then, why do we demand perfection from a service we have not even learned or consistently practiced ourselves? This is why I have taken time to compile a modest list of personal phone etiquette that you can start to practice as you continue to make and receive calls every day.

These are not a set of rules, I know for sure that people do not like to be made to follow specific rules, boundaries, limits and all that as it concerns making or taking calls. These are just healthy tips to project a positive and courteous vibe as you interact with others in your personal space.

You may probably wonder why you really have to mind phone etiquettes when there are easier alternatives to keeping in touch (do I hear the voice of a millennial?). Oh well, while text messages, e-mail, and social media platforms are popular means by which we communicate, there’s no avoiding the still-ubiquitous phone call. You will need to answer your calls even if you don’t make one and it could as well be for a job interview or a job opportunity for entrepreneurs.

Need I say that the experience while on a phone call with you will most certainly be the first impression your potential client or employer will get of you. It is therefore important that every time you make or receive a phone call, you should endeavor to make a lasting impression.

While we search and wait for opportunities to come our way shouldn’t we be prepared for any of the forms it unveils? Answering phone calls properly requires a positive and cheerful disposition and it is best to allow the positivity to resonate starting from your voice. People often mimic positivity and will probably respond to your voice with the same enthusiasm you project. 

How about that? Here we go..

If you disagree with any, please be kind to drop a comment in the comment section after the post!

  • Try to always answer your calls within the first three ring – three rings is an all-around rule but what the rule actually conveys is to answer each call as quickly as possible. A good many young people will let their ring tones play for a bit before they pick up their mobile phones. Does this project the right attitude and persona? Isn’t the ring tone the same one played over and over when your phone rings? Answer your calls promptly if you have the phone within your reach, otherwise send a call back message.
  • Talking about our ringtones, why do they have to be so loud, musical, amusing and noisy? Sometimes a phone rings and everyone in the room gets startled. If it helps having your phone ring loud and clear while you are home alone and dealing with the propensity to forget where you kept it, that is fine! But when you are in a public place or in the company of others, you should have your ringing tone volume decently low. It shows respect for others and projects you as being conscious of your space.

To be honest, it is no longer impressive when you try to show off your ringing tone. Who cares really?

  • If you have a caller stored on your phone and you know who is on the other end of the line, you can answer the phone with “Hello/Hi/Hey….” followed by the caller’s name. For example, “hello mum”, “hi Prince”. I have heard people answer their calls and then wait for the “hello” for the person on the other line, it isn’t quite polite. Whenever you answer the call, you should start with Hello followed by the person’s name if you already know who the caller is.
  • If you do not know who the caller is then, begin by offering your greeting of choice. “Hello” is always a polite option, as is “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” Confirm who you are (“This is John”) and the identity of the person calling (“To whom am I speaking?”) so that all parties begin the call on the same page. Now this may sound rather offish especially in our clime where callers could be fishing for information. In that case, a decent “Hello, Good afternoon” followed by “please whom am I speaking with” if the person on the other line hasn’t done the introductions yet.
  • Remember the Golden Rule of the Telephone: Speak to others as you want to be spoken to and so make sure that your tone of voice and your manner of speaking are courteous. Make sure your voice projects strength and clarity. When you’re speaking into the phone, be sure to smile—even though the caller can’t see you, it makes a world of difference.
  • If someone calls on another line or call waiting while you’re on the phone (and the call does not go to voice mail), tell the caller you will call them back. The person you called first has priority.
  • Always hang up the phone after the caller does. That’s how it works, you call first you hang up first.
  • Take the time to end all calls on a positive note. Leave the other party feeling satisfied by thanking him or her before hanging up. It helps with managing the stress of communicating virtually.
  • When you miss phone calls, it is a courteous approach to consider sending an SMS for a call back or call the person back. This would apply especially if the caller is someone you know. The Truecaller app has been known to help identify phone numbers that you do not have stored on your mobile phone and this could give you a head start on who the caller is before answering.
  • If you’re calling someone you don’t know, identify yourself This is obvious isn’t it?
  • It is important to actively listen on the phone during a call. If for any reason you cannot hear the caller properly due to any reason from poor network to a noisy background or any sort of issue, ask that they call back so you can listen and respond appropriately.
  • Cutting off a ringing phone call is actually impolite if it is not accompanied with an SMS. If a phone call rings at a time when you are indisposed, it’s best to let it ring through and then you return the call later or send a call you later/call me back later SMS. This gives the caller some information about your availability and perhaps his poor timing. I have seen some people answer the call and then apologize saying they would call back later. This is absolutely fine.
  • Which is why this next tip is on the list. Time your call so it does not interfere with someone else’s job. In other words, don’t make calls first thing in the morning or at the end of the day
  • During a phone call, it is inappropriate to put the phone on the speaker mode whether you are alone or not without first asking if the caller is okay with it. Conversations are personal and you are obliged to keep it so. Think about this, you wouldn’t like it if you called a friend and he is with his buddies while you are on speaker. Aside the noise interference from speaker microphones, it also projects wrongly on whoever does so as being impolite and inconsiderate. Not everyone wants to listen in on your phone call in public.
  • In Nigeria sometimes the network can be quite unreliable. And so phone calls can end abruptly without notice. This could give a wrong impression if the other party who initiated the call wrongly assumes that it was ended on purpose. This is a Nigerian nightmare and I can assure you it has caused quite a number of strain to relationships. Giving the benefit of doubt is important here especially if the conversation was not a heated on. If the phone call ends abruptly, please call back and explain so. Do not stay quiet and allow the caller imagine that you cut them off rudely. If the network issues persist, then send an SMS for a call back at a later time.
  • Do not add callers to a conference call without first giving them a notice ahead of time. It is grossly inappropriate. If for any reason this happens, because they sometimes do, make sure to first make the caller aware by informing him of the situation and others on the call before he utters the first word as he joins in. You may also want to ask if he/she is okay joining in the conversation.
  • Sometimes, conversations on the phone gets heated and annoying. Yes they do. It is quite impolite to scream or shout into your phone.
  • If you are wearing a headset or an earpiece, you should be mindful of answering your calls in a public place. As the headset or ear piece has blocked out all sound, you may not notice how loud your voice gets as you communicate on the phone. This is particularly noticeable when there is a bit of noise at the other end of the call, making you feel the need to erroneously raise your voice a bit to be heard.
  • If you are in the company of friends, colleagues or even business partners and a call you must answer comes in, please excuse yourself first and then physically walk away from the meeting to answer the call. No one honestly needs to listen to the issues you are handling with your spouse or your gardener. This would allow the meeting to go on in your absence for the short while. You can then catch up on return.
  • If you are in a proper formal meeting, put your phone on airplane mode, switch it off or put it on the silent mode. If the phone is not switched off, please put it on the meeting table and turn it face down. You can request for a phone break during the meeting to check SMS or return missed calls for a short while if it is necessary. But having your ring tone pierce through the conversation in a formal meeting shows lack of tact and creates a poor impression of you. It doesn’t really tell how busy you are, it mostly shows how poorly organized you can be. However, if it rings, you should apologize and then switch the phone to the silent mode.
  • It is poor judgement to play games on the phone while in a meeting or active conversation with others. There is plenty of time for games later on. We are first social beings and no matter how alluring and appealing the game feels, you should rein in the urge and save the game time for your private moment. But if you must, then excuse yourself from the conversation and bask in the pleasure somewhere quiet.
  • If you must answer another call while you are on one already, please inform the caller on the first call that you would like to place him on hold for a short while or ask to ring him back later after which you switch to the other caller.
  • Flashing used to be a popular phone behavior years ago, but it is still not uncommon. Hear it, it is grossly inappropriate to make short rings on the phone with the intent to get the others attention. Many times it can be irritating and downright annoying. Send a call back SMS or use other platforms to reach the other person if you must. Flashing them won’t make them call you if they don’t want to.
  • I have seen situations where someone else answers another’s phone call. If you’re answering someone else’s phone, give that person’s name first, then yours: “John’s Phone, Lisa speaking.” Avoid speaking to the caller as though you were the owner of the phone, a simple “He is not around call back later” will do….oh well except …..lol
  • While writing this post, I just received a wrong call from a caller who refused to identify himself. We cannot expect everyone to act appropriately, but we should treat everyone with respect notwithstanding. If you get the feel that the caller is a time waster or a scammer working his way into your space, politely inform him that you are hanging up and then do so immediately. Better safe than sorry.
  • Follow up on all calls. If you promise information, call back within twenty-four hours. Returning calls days after would pass a message that you didn’t consider their calls worthy of your time. For days!!!!

I always say that most of the things that feel urgent with phone calls are not really urgent. Racing through the house to answer a phone call will only leave you with bruises and pains and yet the call could still ring out or worse it could be for the most irrelevant request or even a wrong call. We make these calls urgent and then feel the need to answer them quickly because we create the urgency in our own mind.

If you have other phone call etiquette you would like to add to it from your experience, please drop it in the comment section.


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7 thoughts on “26 Phone Call Etiquette tips – Know more”

  1. For about 2 years now I’ve developed a habit of perpetually having my phone ring on “silent”, and I discovered immense peace and tranquility. Because of the nature of my job I’m always engaged on the phone, so I am ALWAYS with my phone and I thought putting it on silent will make me miss a lot of business calls. But on the contrary it gave me control. Because I’m no longer startled by the ringtone and I answer the calls at my own pace and return calls when it’s okay for me to talk. As against, the urge to pick up my calls the moment I hear the ringtone, even when you are not close to your phone someone else is running down to give you the phone ( …lol). Now I see my phone ring and not hear it ring and I’m at peace and more productive. So Silence is actually golden.

    1. Thanks Nike for sharing this. I have since deactivated notification on my phone. The idea is that the phone is to serve my aspiration and not the other way round. So when its time for social media, I pick up the phone and spend good time and then move on. But I certainly would be picking up my phone very often if I had the notification alert turned on.

  2. Pingback: Most Popular blog Post of 2021 – Akin Akingbogun

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