If you want to provide top-notch customer service, using proper small business phone etiquette is a must. You can’t rely on face-to-face interactions alone because many people that interact with your business do so over the phone before entering your establishment.

If your business is run entirely online, the phone becomes an even more important centerpiece in your customer service offerings.

There are tons of articles online that give tips for answering the phone at a small business, and we found a lot of great tips this way.

However, we’ve been in the customer service and call answering business for more than a decade and have some tips of our own to share.

Over the years, we’ve discovered that answering the phone is an opportunity to not just give the customer information, but to connect with them and provide a branded experience.

Our guide to small business phone etiquette will help you use the phone to get closer to your business goals and win more loyal customers.

Small Business Phone Etiquette 101

Offering terrific customer service over the phone can be divided into a few segments: Answering the phone, handling caller requests, managing appointments, dealing with angry callers, and ending the call.

Answering the phone

When you answer the phone, provide as much information as possible. The caller needs to know they’ve connected with the right person, company, and department.

Sample script: Thank you for calling _____. My name is ____ and I’ll be assisting you today. What can I do for you?

By clearly identifying the company and person who is answering the call, you’re letting the caller know that you’re paying attention to the call and are ready to help immediately. That goes a long way in providing great customer service and will be perceived by the caller as polite phone etiquette.

Handling caller requests

After you’ve greeted the caller and they’ve communicated their needs, requests, or questions to you, it’s time to take action. While all caller requests will be different, proper phone etiquette dictates that you respond in one way: Graciously. Act as though fulfilling the caller’s request would be your greatest joy in life. For increased effect, use the words “My pleasure” instead of “You’re welcome” when a caller thanks you.

You should repeat the request the caller has made in your response to assure them that you’ve understood what they’re asking for.

Sample script: I think I understand – you’re having trouble signing in to make a payment on your account because the page won’t load, is that correct? (Yes) I will transfer you to our tech support team to get that issue figured out right away. (Okay, thank you) Absolutely! It’s my pleasure. 

Managing appointments

If a caller phoned your business to make or cancel an appointment, they want the process to be quick and painless. If scheduling an appointment is too difficult or time consuming, they won’t call back. We recommend that you use appointment management software to keep track of your appointments and meetings.

Our virtual receptionists can work with any appointment scheduling software you use to ensure you never double-book or forget an appointment. We also send out appointment reminder calls a day or two before the scheduled appointment, which we’ve found lowers no-shows by up to 75%. It’s polite to call and offer a gentle reminder about upcoming appointments.

When a caller wants to cancel an appointment, treat that request just as you would someone calling to schedule one. Life is complicated, schedules are hectic, and the unexpected happens. Be gracious as you accept a cancellation, and if you notice that cancellations are happening more frequently, implement a cancellation policy that can be strictly adhered to. It’s smart to offer to immediately reschedule an appointment when a caller cancels, as they’re more likely to be interested in rescheduling right now than a few weeks down the line.

Sample script: I understand completely. Thank you for calling and letting us know you won’t be able to make it. Can we go ahead and get you rescheduled?

Dealing with angry callers

Dealing with angry and rude callers is a necessary evil when you’re in customer service. People can have bad days, abrasive personalities, and existing biases against customer service. We’ve put together some informative guides on dealing with angry and rude callers, so check those future blog posts for information on those:

Ending the call

You’re not out of the woods just yet–ending the call is a great opportunity to reinforce your brand message and customer service priorities. There are a few ways you can end a call to remind the caller that you’re still listening and always available to help.

Sample script: I’m glad that fixed the issue for you. I know it’s frustrating when a page takes too long to load! You know that you can always call us with any other issues you may have. Enjoy your weekend! 

Sample script: I’m so sorry we weren’t able to help. I forwarded your suggestion to our product team and they will add it to their list of considerations. I want to thank you again for giving us your feedback! We rely on honest feedback like yours. Have a great afternoon.

Small business phone etiquette requires you to be personal, friendly, and always eager to help. If you’re having trouble manning the phones at your business or simply don’t want to hire a full-time receptionist, take a moment to look over our 3 virtual receptionist monthly plans.