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a business telephone

Proper Business Call Etiquette: Saving Face Over the Phone

Following its invention during the late 1800s, the telephone became an integral component in business operations. Despite all the technological advancements brought about since that time, the phone still holds its own in the business world. Voice-to-voice communication is – such as face-to-face communication – just faster, simpler, and more personable than the alternatives in some cases. Using proper telephone etiquette, though, could make a world of difference in the outcome of a business call.

Send the Right Message

Business calls require a balance of professionalism, amiability, and common courtesy. Finding such a balance isn’t always easy, but it’s essential. As a general rule, the phone shouldn’t ring more than three times before being answered or the person on the other end of the line may feel the call isn’t as important to you as it is to him or her. At the same time, picking up immediately has a way of catching a caller off guard. From there, attitude and technique are everything.

  • Smile before Answeringsmiling woman on the phone

    Though the person to whom you’re speaking can’t see you during a traditional call, he or she can usually sense your disposition. Whether your heart is in the smile or not, it’ll change the tone of your voice to a more pleasant one.

  • Names are Important

    We’re all individuals, and we like to be treated as such rather than just another sale or business opportunity. If the caller or callee doesn’t offer an introduction during initial contact, ask for a name. Remembering this identity for future reference is equally critical.

  • Use Your Voice

    Speak clearly and somewhat slowly while holding the phone approximately two inches from your mouth. Any farther away would leave the other person straining to hear you whereas holding the phone closer tends to make voices more garbled. Speed-talking is equally counterproductive.

  • Give Appropriate Answers

    In the midst of a business call, the phrase “I don’t know” shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary. It’s unprofessional and off-putting to the person on the other side of the conversation. If you don’t have an answer, say something to the effect of “Let me look into it” or “I’ll check on that.

  • Avoid Lengthy Holding Patterns

    No one likes to be put on hold during a call, but it’s sometimes unavoidable. Should it become necessary, be sure to ask if it’s okay with the other person. If you expect to be otherwise engaged for a considerable amount of time, it’s better to ask for a phone number and call back the other person later. In the event you realize mid-hold you’ll be held up longer than anticipated, check back in to let your conversation partner know you’ve not forgotten about him or her and follow callback protocol.

  • Break the Vicious Cycle

    Getting the runaround on the phone may very well be the most irritating aspect of calling. Never transfer someone without a courteous explanation, do your best to ensure you’re transferring to the appropriate party, and always be sure the person you’re transferring to is available for conversation.

  • Politeness is Essentialman on the phone

    Always be polite to the person to whom you’re speaking even if he or she isn’t returning the favor. Choose your words carefully. You’ll inevitably run across people who take everything you say as an insult but do your best to keep things on a diplomatic level.

  • Conclusions are Crucial

    End every call with a pleasantry, such as “thank you for your call” or “have a great day.” Don’t hang up until you’re sure the other person has nothing else to say.

As an added hint, keep your purpose in mind. Business is increasingly making its way into the home, and that can be a precarious scenario on occasion. Helping the kids with their homework or yelling at the dog and cat to stop fighting during this type of call isn’t exactly conducive to a business environment. If necessary, find a quiet room away from commotion and distractions to conduct phone calls.

At times, doing business over the phone can be easier and more productive than communicating via text or email. It also brings a more personal touch to an increasingly digital world. Though the benefits of vocal interaction are many, lacking proper phone etiquette could hamper productivity.

Covered table for a business dinner

Business Dinner Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Dining with Colleagues

Business dinners are ideal means of interacting with associates outside the office environment. Though plenty of opportunity for showing off a well-balanced blend of professional and social skills awaits in such a setting, lacking in either could result in disaster. No doubt your business sense can hold its own, but understanding the conventional dos and don’ts of business dinner etiquette could make all the difference. If you keep these things in mind, you will be able to successfully conclude your business dealings.

First Things First

Entrances tend to set the stage for the entire event. Although a number of people prefer to blend quietly into their surroundings rather than make themselves known, the first order of business is to shake hands with everyone at the table. Introduce yourself to those whose acquaintances you’ve not yet made. From there, the next few elements are largely a matter of watching the host or hostess.

  • Don’t sit until the host or hostess has been seated.
  • Napkins should be placed on your lap but only after the host or hostess has done the same.
  • Discreetly try to overhear his or her order, and choose something similarly priced for yourself. Alternatively, ask the host or hostess for recommendations.
  • Along those same lines, don’t order an appetizer, cocktails, and dessert if your host asks for nothing more than iced tea and a hearty salad.

Simple, polite greetings, introductions, and following the host or hostess’ lead should get you through the first portion of the experience nicely. Having said that, quite a few other rules apply in a scenario like this.

Pay Attention to What’s in Front of You

place setting on a dinner tableDinner at home isn’t generally a formal affair. A plate, spoon, fork, napkin, and drink are all you need to achieve dining success. When in an upscale establishment, though, a few extra pieces work their way into the puzzle and can cause considerable confusion. In general, formal place settings include, from left to right:

  • Salad Fork
  • Dinner Fork
  • Dinner Plate
  • Dinner Knife
  • Salad Knife
  • Soup Spoon

Bread plates and butter knives appear on the left above the forks, and water and wine glasses sit to the right above the knives and spoon. If there are a spoon and fork above your plate, they’re reserved for dessert.

Remembering which piece of flatware serves what purpose can be tricky, but you basically start from the outside edges for salads and appetizers. Work your way inward for the main course. Keep the bread plate and glasses in their respective places to cut down on mix-ups with those seated next to you.

Moving Further along

Since the host or hostess can’t be your guiding light for the duration of the event, having your own level of savvy goes a long way toward making a great impression. This is where the matter gets a bit more involved.

  • Should others arrive at the table after you’ve been seated, stand to greet them.
  • Don’t pull out guests’ chairs for them. This is a nice gesture on a dinner date, but it’s not the norm in a business setting.
  • While asking the server a few questions regarding the menu is acceptable, requesting long explanations about several of the available options leaves everyone at the table waiting and has been known to generate animosity among dinner acquaintances and waitstaff alike.
  • Break off bite-size pieces of bread and butter each individually.bread on a small plate
  • Cut one or two bites of food at a time rather than carving up an entire steak or chicken cutlet in a single session. Cutting salad and pasta into manageable bites helps foster politeness as well.
  • When talking with others around the table, place silverware on your plate rather than slinging it around. Also be sure to swallow the food in your mouth before speaking.
  • Should conversation turn to religion, politics, or other potentially heated topics, politely opt out of the discussion or offer a brief, neutral response if addressed directly.
  • If a sneeze or cough arises during the meal, turn toward your left shoulder and block it with your left hand. Keep in mind, napkins and tissues aren’t interchangeable during a business dinner.
  • In the event you need to excuse yourself from the table for a moment, there’s no need to provide an explanation. Simply place your napkin on your seat and push it under the table.
  • Avoid asking for a take-home box if you don’t finish your food.
  • Convention dictates the host or hostess is responsible for both the check and the tip, so don’t argue when time to pay comes around.
  • Be sure to thank your host or hostess for the meal.

You have ample personal and professional knowledge to bring to the table. Combining these attributes with proper business dinner etiquette is the key to successfully interacting with colleagues in a slightly more personal setting. Keep these aspects in mind during your next business dinner, and you’re bound to make a good impression.