How To Answer Your Business Phone (Please!)

Do I have the wrong number?

I love working with small businesses. I really do. The people I’ve met over the years have been amazing – inventive, creative, thoughtful, and above all, hard working.
Which is why I shed a tear inside every time I call a small business and someone answers ‘Hello.’ Just ‘Hello’. Nothing else. Nada.
I find this particularly applies to tradespeople. My estimate is about 15% of small business owners or employees answer with a sentence that identifies them or their business. Worse yet, about a quarter answer with just a ‘Yes’, or just their first name, barked out in an annoyed tone.
If you are one of those people, even the odd time, can I please please please implore you to change your ways. I really want to know I’ve reached Al’s Appliance Repair, or Steve’s Superior Painters, or Mike’s Mechanics. Really, I do. I really want to avoid asking ‘Is this Phil’s Phone Technicians?’ – it makes me feel awkward, and probably makes you think ‘Of course it is – who do you think you’re calling?’
By identifying yourself properly, it is a win-win situation. I know I’ve called the right number, you take the pride in announcing your business. We both start off the conversation on the right foot and get down to business.

The Importance of Phone Etiquette

While my introduction applied to my experiences with tradespeople, I have noticed that business professionals have similar afflictions. And don’t get me started on younger folk – I actually had this exchange with a job applicant:

Applicant: “Yeah.”

Me – “Can I speak to Steve, please?”

Applicant: “Yeah.”

Me: “Steve, it’s Chris Healy speaking.”

Applicant: “Yeah.”

Hey, I’m not perfect either, but there are limits.

The problem with all these phone introductions is that I really don’t know you, and your first impression is overwhelmingly underwhelming. It is like seeing a bad advertisement for a product – the product may be amazing, but the ad is so bad, it transfers a perception of low-quality to the product. If you don’t care enough to make a good ad, what is your attention to detail on the product?

If you don’t think this is true, look at the overwhelming body of evidence that supports how much weight we place on physical appearance and ‘first impressions.’ We may try to guard against it, but the cold, hard reality is that we have formed unconscious evaluations within 30 seconds of meeting everyone. If you looked like you’ve slept in a bathtub when I meet you, that image is going to be stuck in my head forever, no matter what you wear next time.

Whether I am looking for a web developer or a pipefitter, my overriding criteria is ‘can you do the job?’. If you answer the phone professionally when I call you, I am primed and ready to hear your message. If you sound like¬†Sylvester¬†Stallone in Rocky, and grunt ‘hello’ into the phone, my expectation of professionalism goes out the window.

Remember – I am calling you. This is my business that I am bringing to YOU. This is the best thing that can happen in sales – the warm lead! I am calling because I have a need that you can potentially fill. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste by giving an unprofessional image! It is a tragedy that can be fixed by just a few more words.

“Chris’ Carpentry and Cabinets, Chris speaking.”

Was it that hard? Of course not. Sure, keep the quick salutations to people you know, but that is the beauty of call display: you should know when Uncle Billy is calling you with the latest political joke he’s heard versus a potential new customer. Even if you just use your full name, it is better than the one word grunt.

And if you are in an office, whether in your first job or a seasoned executive, for heaven’s sake – please let me know who you are. Tell me you are a professional by the way you answer the phone, and that you are someone I want to

a) do business with

b) potentially recruit, and/or

c) trust

So, for the last time: please answer the phone correctly. Your business will thank you for it.



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One Comment

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  1. harshad December 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    Very relevant and a great best practice.


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