Telephone Courtesy

August 13, 2023


In my business, I get a lot of telephone calls (I no longer have a business phone), and often it is a “feast or famine” situation, where I get no calls for hours, and then I get up to ten phone calls at once. I am a judgment referral expert that writes a lot. Even though I am extremely responsive, there is only one of me, so many calls to me go directly to my voicemail. I always return calls within three hours, and almost always within one hour.

Sometimes, when a verbose person calls me and drones on with the same paragraphs over and over, or discusses trivia, or the full details about what is going on in their life; other people are calling me (with those new calls going to voicemail) at the same time.

I am amazed at how many people do not use their telephones effectively, especially when leaving a voicemail message. These are my tips on using telephones to make business-related calls, and leaving voicemail messages:

When you call someone you do not know, there is no need to ramble on and say a lot more than is really necessary. Unlike with face-to-face conversations, one never knows the other person’s situation when you are calling them on the phone. They might be really busy.

When talking to someone on the phone about a business issue, try to stick to the facts, and keep your goal in mind. Avoid going off on long tangents. Keep a mental note of what you say, to avoid repeating yourself over and over, unless the other person needs clarification to better understand you. Usually, when you catch yourself in a monolog, you are probably not listening enough.

When you leave telephone voicemail messages,try to keep it under 60 seconds. Concisely state your request or questions first, and then leave your phone number. Pretend that your telephone number is not instantly recognizable and memorable. State your full telephone number, with your area code first. Say it slowly, and say it twice. If you have caller ID blocking, so that your phone number is not disclosed to who you call, it is even more important to clearly state your phone number.

If you call someone, and you get an announcement that you can leave a message, why not leave a voicemail? Whether they answer their phone or not, and whether you left them a voicemail message or not; wait at least an hour before you call them again. I have experienced people calling me up to ten times in ten minutes. After I finish my current call, and have a chance to call them back, they sometimes tell me to “hold on, I will be right back to you”. After a few minutes of silence, I hang up. Then, I get another call from a new person, and while I am on that new call, sometimes the previous caller will again call my number up to ten more times.

If you call someone, before you start to tell them a lot of detailed information such as addresses and phone numbers, first ask them if they can write something down. If they are not hiding their email address, you might want to email them instead (or also). Once you get confirmation they are ready, speak slowly when you tell them important information that you want them to write down.

If you have an email account, it is better to send telephone numbers, addresses, and other lengthy information by email; “I’ll email you that” works well. It is a good idea to follow up on phone calls with an email, to repeat and/or confirm important points or substantial information.

Lastly, if you have voicemail yourself, make sure it is working, I cannot count how many times I have returned telephone calls only to hear “the subscriber’s mailbox is full”.

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