Have you ever noticed that when you call various businesses in the course of your everyday life, each phone call is a unique experience that tells you a little bit about the business that you are calling? Sometimes your call is answered after only one or two rings by someone who is polite, knowledgeable, and helpful. You feel like that business cares about our needs, and you are able to get what you need out of the conversation. Other phone calls are really frustrating. You may get automated instructions that take you through twenty different questions before you finally decide to press “0” repeatedly to speak to a live person, only to have that live person transfer you to someone who does not answer. You might get put on hold for what seems like an eternity. The person who answers the phone may sound rude or annoyed that you have called and asked them to (gasp!) do their job.
Just like you develop feelings about the businesses that you call based upon your interactions with them over the telephone, people that call your business develop feelings about you and about your business. Even though email is used for a lot of business communication, people definitely still use the telephone to do business. Telephone etiquette is an essential skill that home-based professionals must learn in order to be successful in their business endeavors.
The things that will distinguish your business as a “positive phone experience” for your callers are not things that you have to spend a lot of time or money on. It costs you nothing to record a professional, friendly answering machine message or to answer the phone in a pleasant way. Be sure to update your outgoing message as needed to let callers know if you are “out of the office” on any given day so that they can anticipate when you might be calling them back.
Sometimes, choosing not to answer the phone is as important as answering the phone or returning a call quickly. For example, if you have small children and you are at home caring for them, you may not want to take calls unless they are napping or being supervised by someone else because they invariably decide that they need you when you are on the phone. If you let the calls go to voicemail, you will be able to prepare yourself to return those calls when you are able to focus on them. In short, if you envision what your clients experience when they call you, you will be able to see where your telephone habits have room for improvement as well as what things you are doing well. By striving to provide a good telephone experience for clients, you go a long way towards projecting a professional image and getting people talking about what a pleasure it is to do business with you.