Telephone Communication Skills Crucial for Career Success
Telephone Communication Skills Crucial for Career Success

The telephone is the most common business tool and its proper use is essential for career advancement. 

Talking with a potential client, customer or colleague on the phone can sometimes be challenging. Without seeing an individual’s face, messages can become muddled and meanings misinterpreted.

To strengthen telephone communication skills, ace the following:

Make a great first impression

Show the caller you're helpful, confident, competent.

When you answer the phone, smile as you greet the person on the other end of the line.  A smile creates positive energy which translates to the person on the other end.

Speak briskly but pronounce words clearly. When you talk fast, you may sound hurried or excited, and are difficult to understand. When you speak too slowly, you may sound tired, lazy or uninterested.

Strive for an energy level that matches your normal conversation. A soft voice suggests shyness or uncertainty; a loud voice implies anger or worry. Be alert to your caller's needs. If he's having trouble hearing, speak louder, more slowly.

Control your rate of speech and pitch. The average individual speaks at a pace of 130 to 150 words per minute. Try to match this rate while on the phone. 

Keep your voice pitch moderate. A high pitch connotes youth and may fail to suggest an authoritative image. A low pitch may sound harsh.  Find a middle ground, and vary your inflection to ensure you sound natural, interested. A monotone sounds boring, unenthusiastic.

Use the person's name

As soon as you receive a caller or customer's name, write it down. This will help you remember the person's name, and will personalize the call for you.

Include it naturally throughout the conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask them for the proper pronunciation. Most customers will appreciate this gesture.  Get the spelling correct, too. Callers will value the personal touch you provide with a name

Be genuine

Avoid scripted greetings as most sound artificial, inauthentic. 

When you answer the phone include the company’s name, the department, your name, and offer your assistance by giving the caller requested information. This shows you're a professional ready and willing to be of assistance.

Provide the person with honest answers. Use positive words to ensure a pleasing exchange.  Avoid phrases such as “I don’t know,” or “I can’t do that,”  State what you can do to help, and specify how long a hypothetical task may take.

Be courteous, respectful

Always say hello and identify yourself. Ask how you can help. Use courtesy words, "Thank you for waiting."  If you need to put the caller on hold, ask, and wait for an answer. If you need to phone back, indicate when you'll call.

End the call positively

Ensure the caller understands the information you passed along before hanging up. Summarize your conversation. Ask the person, “Is there any other information I can give you?” Answer any final questions he or she may have to ensure complete comprehension and satisfaction. Also, provide any information that the caller might need in the future. If the person needs to call back, share optimal contact times and with whom he or she should speak.

When all of necessary information has been shared, finish the call in a friendly manner. Say, “Have a nice day” or, “It was nice talking with you." Let the customer know you are willing to assist anytime.

Let the caller hang up first. This gives the person control of the ending as well as an opportunity to ask further questions.

To ensure mastery of telephone communication skills, review the following periodically.

Effective telephone communication skills

When making calls:

  • State your message briefly and clearly
  • Leave your name, organization and phone number, repeating these twice, slowly and clearly
  • Give the full name of the person for whom you're leaving the message
  • State the date and time of the call
  • State whether you'll call back or you'd like the other person to call
  • Ask for a return call at a time you'll be available

When receiving calls:

  • Identify yourself
  • Use courtesies such as "Please hold while I complete another call
  • Offer to take messages when you're answering for someone
  • Repeat the caller's name and number to make sure they're correct
  • Speak in a professional manner
  • Does your answering machine have a pleasant, professional and courteous message? Leave a good impression

Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, by Carole Kanchier, offers additional strategies for succeeding in your life career.