How to Communicate Efficiently
on the Phone

See also: Top Tips for Customer Service

Good telephone skills always impress, and will always be highly valued.

It may come to a surprise to you but, even in the age of Internet and social media, businesses are still primarily being reached by phone. Therefore, working on your phone answering skills is a sensible investment of your time.

There are not many jobs that do not involve any phone calls so it is worth thinking about what you should do to improve your phone communication skills.

Be Enthusiastic and Speak Clearly

These are two of the most basic and essential skills you need when handling a call.

It is important to convince the other person that you are happy to be speaking with them. To do so, you should be taking every call with a smile and energy in your voice. You want to transmit your eagerness to help your caller, and your voice has to exude warmth, so they feel satisfied with the interaction. People do not need much to be cheered up.

Of course, enthusiasm is not everything. It is equally important to speak slowly and clearly, so callers understand what you are saying. You should develop your composure during a phone conversation and make sure you do not fire off words in someone’s ears. Confidence comes with experience but, at first, you need to remember to be as calm as possible when you pick up the phone as this will slow down your speech and make it more distinguishable.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Some smart bloke once said that “success” comes before “work” only in the dictionary. And “result” doesn’t come before “practice” even there.

If you want to project dazzling phone skills, you have to train yourself (and your colleagues and employees) how to approach calls. Phone answering is just like any other skill you want to master – you have to exercise it regularly in order to get it right.

The idea of practicing is not only to get better at what you are doing, but also to establish it as some sort of a reflex you perform naturally. In the case of phone answering, you should reach a level when you do not think about having to smile or to speak slowly and clearly.

The flawless diction and the enthusiasm in your voice can be developed through various means. You can record yourself and listen to the recordings, or you could ask friends, relatives or colleagues (pretty much anyone) for feedback. It is always good to hear someone else’s opinion as they will see things differently and can provide you with ideas on how to polish your skills.

Concentrate Only on the Call

What is the one key skill you need to demonstrate when answering the phone? In truth, there probably isn’t one single most important factor. Instead, it is a complex set of skills that you need.

However, I would strongly advocate paying attention to… paying attention. Yes, concentrating on a phone call is critical if you want to deliver a positive experience to the person on the other end of the line.

This is especially so if you are working in a call centre, or speaking with customers or business prospects who are effectively bringing money to your business, and therefore to you personally. You should try to isolate yourself from your surroundings as it is crucial that your caller has your full attention.

Concentrating only on the ongoing call will sharpen your senses and you will be able to focus on the matter your caller has raised. Being completely focused on the call reduces the risk of making factual errors or misinterpreting what the other person is saying. There is no need to go into detail about the possible consequences of such mistakes: I’m sure you can figure those out yourself.

Learn to be Patient

Coupled with the advice to listen carefully to what a caller is saying, you should also remain patient and wait until the other person is finished. Interrupting is not an option.

Listening skills are hard to develop, both during phone conversations and face-to-face communication. However you need to learn patience as this is a particularly handy skill when delivering customer service on behalf of a business. Sometimes you may have to speak with angry clients, and here you will be expected to demonstrate your listening skills and patience. Let the other person say whatever they have to say, as long as it is not abusive or threatening, and then offer the best possible solution to their problem.

Double-check Important Information

Sometimes, no matter how hard you listen to the caller, you may miss bits of what they are saying.

This could be due to a momentary line disruption or the person may not be speaking very clearly (perhaps they have an accent). On such occasions, it is not only acceptable but also recommended to ask them politely to repeat what they have just said. It is not uncommon to fail to grasp a name, a phone number, or other potentially significant detail during a call, so don’t worry if you have to ask your caller to repeat something. It is always better to ask for clarification than to rely on something you are not entirely sure about or have completely missed.

Speaking of that, another useful tip is to always double-check important information gathered from the customer since getting every detail right can play a major role in your future relationship. For example, you certainly need to make sure you have got their name right. As far as I am concerned, there is a difference between being called Joe, Josh or John. But it is not only the name and, if you are taking an order, you should always confirm your caller’s preference to avoid any misunderstanding that could result in the order being inaccurately processed.

Introduction to Communication Skills - The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Our Communication Skills eBooks

Learn more about the key communication skills you need to be a more effective communicator.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

Mind Your Language

Language puritans never stop moaning about the simplification of both written and spoken English. And, frankly speaking, they have a point.

Our language culture is said to be deteriorating when we replace text with emojis, and when we fail to orally articulate what we want to say without using “hmm”, “errrm”, “eh” and more of these fillers. “You know” and “like” are slightly more “sophisticated” fillers but they are still unacceptable in professional phone conversations.

The problem is that we are so used to cluttering our speech with such fillers that we hardly even notice them anymore. However, a solution can be found at the beginning of this article – practice is the key to getting rid of these parasite words that pollute our speaking skills. Working hard on improving your general oral communication skills and confidence when speaking can aid your phone skills, and your broader social skills too.

About the Author

Vladi is a PR officer and SEO expert at Pocket Receptionist – a Lowestoft-based telecommunications company providing virtual receptionist services. Vladi is a BA Media and Politics graduate from the University of East Anglia.