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How to Answer Business Calls Professionally

Being responsive to customers and answering the phone professionally is what creates success in business.

Even though so much of our communications have moved online, phone calls are still a science any entrepreneur, business manager, or customer service rep will want to perfect.

Think of the person on the other end of the phone as impatient and demanding. How would you answer the phone to arrive at the destination you want? A business partner or customer is expecting you to be there and available.

The expectation of a response by phone or customer service has increased tremendously. You’ve got to be well-trained and know what you’re doing.

Many businesses use an answering service to field their calls, which pass along important messages efficiently and effectively. Whether you outsource this service or not, it’s still vital to learn a few techniques when answering the phone.

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Here are some best guidelines on how to answer business calls professionally:

Don’t Let the Call Ring More Than Three Times

Following up on the expectation of responsiveness from the customer, don’t let the phone ring more than three times. Any business call at all, you don’t want to leave the other person waiting.

Customer service reps especially will want to pick up on the second ring or third ring at the latest. Any later, you run the risk of them hanging up, becoming frustrated, or losing their business permanently.

Don’t Answer on the First Ring

It may seem counterintuitive when you want to be as responsive as possible but never answer a call on the first ring. It will catch the person off-guard.

They usually don’t expect this. Always let it ring the first time and at least partway through the second. Then, you can pick it up. You want a phone call to come off as natural as possible and answering on the first ring can come across bizarre.

Answer With a Positive Greeting

Decide beforehand how you will greet the person on the other hand. An excited ‘Hello!’ or a ‘Good morning!’ is excellent. The person on the other end, you want them to feel like you’re positive and ready to help.

A lot of reps who use the phone will put a smile on it before they pick up. That’s a great rule!

A smile affects the sound of a person’s voice, giving it a more pleasant, friendly tone. All in all, this is all to get the call started on the right foot.

Give Your Name and Name of the Business

Within three seconds of when you pick up the phone, you want to drop your name and give the business name as well. If you’re in a company with multiple departments, you may want to give the department name.

This is all to communicate to the person on the other end that they’re in the right place.

It is not uncommon in larger organizations with inexperienced reps who are unsure about what department they need to end up in the wrong place. Be kind and if need be, re-direct them.

Speak Clearly

Throughout the whole phone conversation, the telephone should be held two fingers from the mouth. Assuming you have a headset, this distance is thankfully already established. When speaking, always use a clear tone that isn’t too loud.

Enunciate more than you would in regular conversation, speak slow enough for people to understand you, and assuming you may have to repeat yourself occasionally.

You never know where a customer may be calling from, so be prepared to accommodate them in any way you can.

Ask Permission to Put Them on Hold

If you have to find some information or look something up, it’s much kinder to the person on the other end of the phone to put them on hold.

Ask permission first. If they say no, that’s alright. If they’re ok with a hold, be sure to thank them when you come back.

Do Not Interrupt

A big rule in customer service and business phone calls is never to interrupt the other person. Listen to what they have to say and allow them to speak their piece. When they are done, you can respond.

Even if they’re angry, stating false information, or aren’t being helpful, don’t interrupt. Let them say what they want to say.

Transfer the Call

Sometimes, the customer called the wrong department. At other times, they need to speak to someone else in your organization. Inform the person on the other end you will need to transfer the call.

Reassure them to stay on the dedicated phone line while you facilitate the transfer.

Before transferring, give the person’s name and any other relevant information to the party who is receiving the transferred call. This is to make the phone call transfer as seamless as possible and ensure the customer doesn’t need to repeat themselves.

Never Say I Don’t Know

When answering the phone, always keep the conversation moving in a positive direction. Don’t ever use the words ‘I don’t know. Instead, ‘I’ll check that for you’ works. Whoever is calling wants answers.


You don’t want to make it seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you have to look something up or can’t give a definitive answer, all you need to do is communicate you will find the information they want.


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