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Professional Communication On The Phone

Without body language and facial expressions communications over the phone can be more difficult than they are in person.

There are three main takeaways from this article:

  1. Understand the importance of proper telephone etiquette.
  2. Identify guidelines for speaking and listening on the phone.
  3. Follow proper etiquette when making and receiving calls. 

The telephone is an essential tool for conducting business—just think about how many times a day you use the phone for your work. How you communicate on the phone reflects on your professional image, and that reflects on the image of your organization. Telephone etiquette facilitates communication and ensures that information flows smoothly and accurately. No matter whom you’re talking to—even employees and colleagues—you need to follow proper telephone etiquette to communicate effectively and be successful.

When You Speak on the Phone

  • Be businesslike, use proper grammar, and avoid slang expressions.
  • Be polite and respectful, even if the other person isn’t. Use words like “please” and “thank you.”
  • Speak distinctly, articulating each word clearly.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or chew gum when speaking on the phone.
  • Maintain a moderate pace—speaking neither too quickly nor too slowly.
  • Vary the tone of your voice to make it lively and pleasant to listen to, letting your tone rise and fall naturally as you speak.
  • Speak at a reasonable volume—neither too loud nor too soft.
  • Put energy and enthusiasm into your voice to project a strong, positive image.


When You Listen

Listen actively. Here’s how:

  • Give the conversation your full effort and attention.
  • Take notes, if needed, to help you follow and remember issues and details discussed.
  • Don’t interrupt—wait until the other person has finished speaking.
  • Periodically, say “mmm-hmm,” “I see,” or otherwise indicate you’re paying attention.
  • Show interest by asking questions, such as for clarification or for further information.

When You Make Calls

  • Greet the person by name, if you know it. Use “Mr.” or “Ms.” with the last name if you don’t know the person well.
  • Identify yourself, giving your full name and the name of the organization you represent.
  • Succinctly state your reason for calling (in a brief sentence or two) right up front.
  • Respect the other person’s time, get right to the point, and be brief.

Ensure Understanding Takes Place

Listen to the other person’s responses to make sure you understand and that you have been understood. Here’s how:

  • Make sure you’ve covered all the points you needed to cover. It’s a good idea to have a written list in front of you.
  • Answer questions succinctly and specifically, and then check for understanding.
  • Conclude the call politely, making sure the other person is ready to conclude also before you hang up.