Phone Etiquette for Businesses

There are common rules for being polite on the phone. For some reason, all of these basics seem to go out the window when businesses get involved. Allow me to set a standard with explanations as to why each one is needed.

Let’s start with hold etiquette. If someone calls you, they are interrupting your time and it is perfectly acceptable to place them on hold if need be. If you call someone else, you are interrupting their time. There are occasionally good reasons to place the call recipient on hold, but it should never happen in most calls. Also, there is NEVER any reason to place someone that you called on hold within the first minute of the call. You should have taken care of those potential reasons before you call. This segues into the auto-dialer.

If I call a business, I expect to be placed on hold until a representative is available. However, if a business calls me with a recording that says, “please hold for the next available representative”, I’m hanging up. And for good reason. You don’t know what someone else’s situation is. I have kids. I have a government-supported cellphone limited to 250 minutes a month that have to last my entire household through talking to WIC, following up with potential employers, setting doctor’s appointments and receiving results, talking to creditors, etc. You are wasting my valuable time and I literally cannot afford it. I can’t afford to add minutes. I can’t afford to miss that call from a potential employer just because my minutes are out. Do not compound this. Also, by placing a person on hold as soon as you call them sends the message, “You are nothing to us. You are unimportant.”. If that were the case, why would you bother to call? Do not annoy the person you are calling. There is no good reason to place a person on hold as soon as they pick up the phone, EVER! Always have a human being ready to answer.

I’m not saying that a business can’t use an auto-dialer. I get the reasons for their existence. When a business deals in a high volume of outbound calls, it saves a tremendous amount of time over manual dialing and it reduces misdials. Fine. But the auto-dialer should NEVER dial until there is a representative available to handle the call. Ever. This seems to me to be the most common discourtesy foisted upon individuals by companies.

Don’t ever say, “this is not a sales call”. If you think that this phrase is necessary, it’s a sales call. I cannot count how many calls I have received with this phrase. Yet, I can tell you the percentage of those calls that turned out to be sales calls. 100%. Either the phrase is unneeded or you are starting off with a lie.


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