Residential Magazine

Phone Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

Here are 10 things to keep in mind when handling phone calls

By Nancy Friedman

Most executives tune out when the subject of telephone skills comes up. Many of these folks seem to feel they’re in an ivory tower and therefore exempt themselves from telephone-skills training.

This is wrong, however. In all industries — especially the mortgage industry, where customer service is of utmost importance — having proper phone skills is essential. There are no job-title restrictions on this topic; everyone within an organization should have some sort of phone-skills training.

Remember, it all starts at the top. So many managers and top-level executives have poor phone skills. Here, in no particular order, are some valuable phone skills for everyone.

  1. Do acknowledge all your calls. If you cannot return a phone call yourself, at least have someone return it on your behalf. Not returning a phone call is like not using your turn signal when driving. It’s rude and sometimes dangerous. 
  2. Do place your own phone calls. If you must have someone else place a call for you, be ready when the person you’re calling is on the line. It’s bad taste to get a call from someone’s assistant and then be put on hold to wait for Mr. or Ms. Self-Important. Today, with speed-dialing and auto-dial, there is no valid reason to have an assistant dial and turn the call over. Letting the assistant make the call and follow through is fine, but don’t have someone dial for you. This also applies to leaving your own voice-mail messages.
  3. Do give bad news yourself. You can’t deliver on time? Do you have to cancel a contract? It’s best to give this news yourself, when possible. Having someone else deliver your bad news is “distance-induced bravery.” Be careful about giving bad news via e-mail and voice mail, as well. Bad news is best delivered face to face or on the phone directly with the person. You can leave a message saying you need to discuss a situation.
  4. Do identify yourself when accepting incoming calls. Do this even when you’re using caller ID — it may not always be who you think it is. Saying “hello” isn’t exactly a business greeting on the phone. Everyone likes to know whom they’re speaking with — don’t you? Saying something as simple as, “Hi, this is [insert your name here]” will work fine.
  5. Do expect your called party to be unavailable. Expect voice mail. Be prepared to leave a detailed message with full disclosure of who you are and how to reach you. Here’s a bonus: Leave your phone number twice — and slowly.
  6. Don’t make employees lie to your callers by having them say you’re not there when you actually are. Face the music. Better yet, train your staff to handle the call. It’s much healthier than an out-and-out lie.
  7. Don’t be too busy to be nice. We’re all busy. Being busy does not give you carte blanche to be rude. 
  8. Don’t hide behind voice mail. It was not intended as a screening device or to warehouse calls.
  9. Don’t use a speakerphone on initial greetings. Echoey voices should not be the first thing a caller hears. Answering a call using speakerphone tells callers, “I am too important to pick up the phone.” When you do need to use speakerphone, always ask if the other party minds.
  10. Don’t use a cell phone for full-blown sales calls or presentations. There’s too much chance for distraction and of course, for an accident. And while we’re on the topic of cell phones, when using it in public, take it to a place where you’re not disturbing everyone.


  • Nancy Friedman

    Nancy Friedman is the founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor, a customer-service training company headquartered in St. Louis. She has spoken at several state and national events for mortgage brokers and bank associations, and she has worked with corporations and associations on communicating better with their clients. She is the author of nine books, and her online and Zoom programs have been acclaimed as a "class act." Visit her website at

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