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The Boston Globe

Business

Etiquette at work

Making connections as you answer the phone

For 20 years I owned an advertising agency. Several times during those years I got phone calls from clients saying, “I just wanted to let you know that when Bruce (one of my art directors) answers your phone, the way he does it makes me feel so appreciated.”

Now the first thing to realize about this compliment is that Bruce, as an art director, was more than willing to answer the phone if it was ringing. Not his job, but he did it, and he did it in a way that built relationships and impressed people enough that they would call just to let me know how great Bruce was and how he made them feel.

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I was curious enough about the situation that I listened to what Bruce said and how he said it. The “how” was impressive. Invariably he would put down whatever he was doing and concentrate on the call. Then, as he answered the call, he would smile. It’s amazing how people can hear a smile on the phone.

When he started speaking, he always included four elements: a greeting, our company’s name, his name, and then he’d ask how he could help the caller. His greeting wasn’t just a hello, it showed gratitude for the person calling: “Hello, thank you for calling PostScript,” he would start out. Then he would say, “This is Bruce.” And he’d complete the greeting by asking, “How can I help you?”

So that’s it. Six simple steps to building relationships when you answer a phone.

1. Take a moment to focus on answering the call.

2. Smile just before you pick up the receiver.

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3. Say hello.

4. Give your company’s name.

5. Then say your name.

6. And finally, ask how you can help the caller.

Why does it matter how you answer the phone? Because, first impressions matter. You can answer with a dull monotone “Hello” or “Ace Corp,” or you can answer the way Bruce did. The monotone “Hello” does nothing to engage the caller. Instead it leaves him wondering why he bothered to call at all. On the other hand, Bruce’s greeting not only makes Bruce look good, it makes your entire business look good.

Take a moment to call your office and listen carefully to how the phone is answered. Is it welcoming? If it is, great. But if it’s not, plan to do some basic phone answering training. It’s worth it.

E-mail questions about etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.

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