Friday, August 03, 2007

Telephone Etiquette

Lately I've been getting phone calls from people who seem to have learned how to use a telephone without learning any etiquette. Our young people nowadays have all this communications technology available to them, but they aren't being trained to use it properly. So here's my guide to telephone etiquette.

  • Call only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. (10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends). Unless you know a person is awake at that hour or it is an emergency for which they would want to be woken, it is rude to call at other times.
  • If it is OK for people to call you outside of those hours or not OK for people to call you within some of those hours, please tell them specifically which hours. "I'm usually up until 10:30, you can call me then." "I sleep in on Saturdays, don't call me before 11."
  • When you answer the phone, use a polite greeting such as "Hello" or an identifying greeting such as "Goldberg residence, Carol speaking". If answering for a business, use the business' name: "Bob's Tires, this is Jereth, how can I help you?"
  • "What?" is not a polite greeting. Waiting for the caller to speak first is also not polite.
  • When calling someone, as soon as you hear their greeting, greet them in return, identify yourself, and ask for the person to whom you wish to speak, even if you suspect that the person you want to talk to has answered the phone: "Hi, this is Jim, is Sandra there?" Use your first name if you are calling people with whom you are acquainted; use your full name if you are calling strangers or a business: "Hi, this is Chris Brown, may I be connected with someone in the Sales department please?" If there is a specific identifying bit of information that is crucial, reveal it when you introduce yourself: "Hi, this is Joe Green, my daughter Julie is a patient of Dr. Stone's. May I speak with Dr. Stone's nurse please?"
  • Do not assume that everyone in the universe will know who you are as soon as you begin to speak. Caller ID will reveal the number you're calling from, but not the identity of the caller. So if you are, say, a student in the class just starting tonight, your professor will not at this point know who the hell you are and certainly won't recognize your voice, so don't start off your call to the professor by demanding information about tonight's class.
  • Calmly explain why you have called and what information you want. Don't assume that the person who answers the phone will know what the hell you're talking about or have any idea what you're about to ask for.
  • If you are calling asking for help with something, even if you deserve the help, politely ask for the help and thank the person who has attempted to help you even if they were not that helpful. "Hi, I bought a widget earlier today, but I can't get the humdinger to hum. Is there someone there who could help me please? ... You'll transfer me? Thank you!"

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