Phone Etiquette for the Businessman
Telephone calls and ringing telephone bells are the bane of many a businessman’s life. For this reason the handling of telephone calls is usually turned over to the secretary, with the average businessman rarely placing a call himself and receiving only those his secretary thinks he will want to take.
Making and Taking Your Own Calls
The latest trend encourages men to answer their own telephones and make their own calls. Those who go along with this idea claim it saves their time and patience to handle telephone calls themselves. Men who oppose this idea claim that it wastes time, rather than saves it, for them to place their own calls and to answer every incoming call, a number of which can be handled by the secretary alone.
Some companies adopted the policy of having men handle their own calls only because so much time was being wasted by secretaries manoeuvring to give their employers status by putting him on the phone after the other fellow. Secretaries are not wholly to blame for this childish nonsense. The question of who gets on the telephone first is a matter of foolish pride with many businessmen.
The following simple common-sense rules of courtesy can solve this problem:
Inter-office calls. The junior in rank should be on the line first, regardless of who initiates the call. If the two men are of equal status, the one who is making the call gets on the line first.
Local calls. The one making the call should be on the line first. Long distance station-to-station calls. The one making the call should be on first.
Long distance person-to-person calls. The one receiving the call should be on the line first.
The man who makes his own telephone calls announces himself to a woman as “This is Mr. Jackson of Linwood and Sons.” To a man he would say, “This is Jackson of Linwood and Sons.”
A woman introducing herself over the telephone says, “This is Miss Terhune of Smithfield Brothers.”
Answering the Telephone
When a man answers his own telephone he says, “Herrick speaking.” Or he may mention his department, such as, “Accounting, Mr. Herrick.” Or ‘Payroll, Herrick speaking.”
A woman answering her own telephone says merely “Miss Collins” or “Miss Collins speaking.” If she is part of a division or department, she might say, “Advertising, Miss Collins.”
Telephoning for an Appointment
If you are asked what day and time suit you best, when you ask for an appointment, don’t reply that you are free to come any time. That leaves the situation right where it was. The proper answer helps the person with whom you are speaking to arrange a time that best suits you. Say, “I can come in any morning between ten and eleven.” Or, “I can come only on Fridays after two o’clock.”
Don’t use the name of a mutual friend as a means of getting an appointment unless you have asked for—and received—permission to do so.
Receiving a Call on Another Person’s Telephone
Occasionally an important telephone call will be referred to you when you are visiting in someone else’s office. Your host will usually invite you to use his telephone or you may ask permission to use it. If you wish, you may say you will take it outside at the secretary’s desk. Try to keep your conversation brief; your associate is waiting to resume your discussion.
If you have no need of a telephone in your work, and calls for you come in on someone’s else’s telephone, discourage all but important calls. Otherwise you are going to be a nuisance to the individual whose phone you use. Again, keep your conversations brief and to the point. Don’t tie up the phone for long periods of time, chatting with your friends.
Making a Call on Someone Else’s Telephone
If you have occasion to call long distance—perhaps to your home office or factory—from an office you are visiting, reverse the charges or ask the operator for the charges so that you can pay for the call—or at least offer to cover the expense. If the call is a local one it isn’t necessary to offer to pay for it, but you should not make a practice of telephoning from someone else’s office.
Placing and receiving telephone calls when you have a guest
Do not make a phone call when you have visitors, unless your visitors are related to the business that you want to discuss on the phone.
Regarding the incoming calls, only answer the calls that are too urgent. Ask your secretary not to connect the calls unless they are too important or are related to the visitor/visitors you have.
Should a telephone call of extreme importance, or of a private nature, come in while someone from your office is visiting you, courteously ask him to leave: “This is an important call I’ve been waiting for all morning. Will you excuse me? I’ll be in touch with you later.”
Should you be interrupted while you are speaking on the telephone—and this should occur only in an extreme emergency—try to finish your call. If you can’t, apologize to the person on the other end of the wire and say you will call back.
When a call is disconnected, whoever put in the call should ask the operator to connect him with the number again.
Should you pick up an extension telephone and discover you’ve interrupted a conversation, quickly say, “I’m sorry,” and hang up.