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Mar 2016

Phone etiquette is key to customer relations and, with the proliferation of ACD & IVR switchboards and mobile phones, it has evolved.  Has your corporate culture kept pace?



(Mobile) Connectivity

graphic depicting caller on the phone


The number you have called is not available. Please try again later.

I can’t take your call right now, I’m in a meeting.

I’m not available at the moment, but please leave your name and number, and I will call you back, as soon as possible!

My personal favourite: “Your call is important to us. Please hold for the next available consultant“, followed by Beethoven’s 9th Symphony alternating with advertising / information messages … over and over and over again.

And let’s not forget this important message: “For Quality and Training purposes your call may be recorded“. For heavens’ sake … If quality was important to them they would answer my darned call and not put me in a queue for ages! [1]

I’ve heard these and similar voice messages a hundred times, or more, and every time I asked myself: Really? Is the client really important to you? Are you really not available, or just in another meeting? Or is it just a question of you being unable to prioritise the urgent and important stuff?

Recently, for one of my projects, I tried to contact about 30 people. I say ‘tried’ because 80% of them couldn’t be reached on their mobile number and either don’t listen to their voicemail or don’t return calls. Why are we sitting with this endemic corporate sickness?

At one stage, I used to say to myself (as I’m sure many still do): “I am busy, if YOUR call is important to YOU, then you can call ME back!” That changed radically when I became self-employed. Every missed call is now, for me, a missed opportunity. Even when I am in a meeting, I will take a call from my wife, Heidi.

One of the reasons for carrying a mobile phone is instant connectivity. Even if circumstances dictate that you can’t immediately take a call (driving is a good example), you should still acknowledge the call by phoning the person back later.


  1. Listen to your own message. What is it telling others about you, or your company? Turn the tables and try to see it from the caller’s perspective.
  2. Ask yourself: If I were self-employed, how would I deal with my phone calls? “Call back later” may be interpreted to mean that you are not interested, potentially losing you a business opportunity.
  3. Don’t use an auto responder unless you absolutely have to. Acknowledge the call. This doesn’t mean you have to take the call and enter into a long conversation. It means taking the initiative by offering to phone back or asking the caller to phone you at a certain time.
  4. Don’t use a term like ‘as soon as possible’. Make it a habit to follow up on missed calls and call-backs daily.
  5. Look at the 80/20 rule. 80% of people who call you on a regular basis probably need an urgent decision or want to share information with you. Ask yourself why? Has it got something to do with the way you manage and empower people? It’s your call!

[1]    Rod Jones, of Contact Centre Consulting CC


Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

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