Unit 5 Telephone & Email Etiquette

The moment you pick up a telephone, body language and visual perceptions disappear and your tone of voice becomes dominant.

Almost the entire message you project to the customer over the phone is derived from tone of voice and attitude.

For example:

A flat tone of voice says to the customer, “I don’t like my job and would rather be elsewhere.”

Slow pitch and presentation say, “I am sad and lonely- do not bother me.”

A high pitch, rapid voice says, “I am enthusiastic and excited!”

A loud voice says, “I’m angry and aggressive.

Telephone Etiquette

Telephone etiquette, unlike more varying body language, can be uniform and is not culturally based. The telephone is often the first or last place a customer comes in contact with an organisation or company. Being telephone friendly is one of the least expensive and cost-effective ways to deliver better customer service.

Answering the Telephone

How a company answers the phone can tell the whole story of how they treat customers and employees. The correct phrase said in the right order in a positive tone leaves a good impression and starts the customer- client relationship off on the right foot.

Pick up the tone in three rings. More than three rings signals chaos in your office or inattentiveness on the part of your company or organisation.

Greet the caller, e.g. “hello”, “good morning”. Good manners show you respect the caller.

Give your name, e.g. “Hi, my name is Emma”. This is a courtesy that serves to personalize the customer service experience as well as allowing the customer to hold you accountable for your level of service. He/ She now have a point of reference and someone to contact when he/she calls back.

Ask the customer if or how you can help. Asking to help tells the customer you are there to serve his/her needs and to solve his/her problems. This also leaves the customer with a positive impression.

Put it altogether and you have a good example:

“Good morning, thanks for calling the London Trading Agency, my name is Emma, how may I help you?”

The greeting is key; it sets the tone and style of the whole interaction.


Some things which may upset a customer are simply unavoidable. Here are some tips on how to best handle these situations.

“Putting a Customer on Hold”

  1. Ask the customer if you can put them on hold; wait for them to say “yes” or “no” and then explain it will only be for a short period of time.

  2. Explain to customers why you are putting them on hold.

  3. Thank the customer for holding.

“Transferring a Call”

Ask the customer if they mind being transferred; wait for them to say “yes” or “no” and explain why they are being transferred and to whom.

“Taking a message”

  1. Explain your co-workers absence in a positive light but do not be too specific. Explain that your co-worker is in a meeting, conference, briefing or training. Do you say he or she is gravely ill, is too hung over to come to work, never called in today, can’t be found, that you do not know where he or she is, or that he or she “was just here”.

  2. Give a reasonable estimate of when the co-worker will return.

  3. Offer to help the caller, take a message or transfer to another staff member.

  4. If a co-worker is on holiday and will not return to the office for some time, it is permissible to say that he or she is on holiday. However, avoid details such as, “Raymond is at the beach and I am sure he is having a great time.” While such details may seem innocuous and even humorous, they give the wrong impression to those seeking service.

“Ending the Call”

This is the final step in good telephone etiquette. A good customer service representative ends the call on a positive note, repeating any actions agreed to be taken and what is going to be done to help or serve the customer.

Responding to your business email

Answering your business email promptly should be a priority for every business. Not only is email an important communication line with your customers, it is often used by them to gauge that you are trustworthy.

If a customer sends you an email with a simple question, and you take forever to answer it, what does that say about the rest of your operation? It’s one of the tell-tale signs customers use to separate efficient, well-run companies, from those that aren’t.

Surveys show that the Top-500 companies fail miserably at answering their business email. Jupiter Communications reported that 42% took more than 5 days to answer a simple question. In the age of the Internet, that might as well have been forever. If a customer has to wait that long for an answer, most likely he/she will have taken their business elsewhere. 35% of companies don’t even bother to answer at all.

So what is prompt answering for business email?

Business email should be answered within 24 hours max. No exceptions. At that rate, you are doing a lot better than many other businesses.

If you really want your customer service to shine, you should consider answering your business email twice a day with a 12 hour interval.

It is even better to check out your direct competition by sending them an email as if you are a potential customer. Send them more than one on several days. Especially check out Mondays, Fridays and weekends. Track the time it is taking them to answer, and implement a procedure to beat them at the business email game.

For email businesses resources and time are limited but your stream of business email is most likely to be less than for big companies. And if you check and answer email regularly, the number of emails to answer is usually very easy to handle.