Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Telephone etiquette

et·i·quette (noun) - conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.

This morning, a guy made a business call to me at 06h43. On my cell phone. There are various problems with this situation.
  1. Office hours are usually 08h00 (or 08h30) to 17h00. Phoning people outside of office hours means that you're calling them in their non-work (as in 'personal') time. Aside from this being bad business manners, in the morning the person you're calling could be eating breakfast at home, preparing children for school, taking a shower or rushing to get dressed and out of the door to go to work.
  2. He phoned me about Let's Play, where I stopped working in October 2008.
  3. He phoned me to ask about jumping-friggin'-castles. Considering this guy is in the children's sport business and that his company (there are franchises) has been a Play Partner of Let's Play, he should know that Let's Play is Supersport's social reponsibility initiative. Let's Play is not a jumping-castle-for-hire company. He would know this if a) he paid a little attention and b) he checked their website before phoning.
This aside, the dude woke me up.

Yes, at 06h43 during the week, I am usually asleep. Fast asleep. I'm a night-owl and I rarely go to sleep before midnight so I sleep until just before eight - the opening of customary office hours. People who know me well know that I'm quite happy to take their calls at 22h00 to discuss quantum physics, the state of the nation and Johnny Depp's latest movie. Mornigs, before 08h00, are out-of-bounds.

Since you don't know the lifestyle habits of the person on the other side of the phone, it is a good idea to keep common courtesy and polite behaviour in mind before pressing that green button on your phone. Etiquette generally dictates that you phone people during office hours - even if you're a friend making a chatty call.

With this in mind, a friend, who knows my later-than-most morning habits, phoned me on Monday morning at 07h10. This is more irritating than Let's-Play-dude because she knows me well. "Oh, did I wake you up?"

My grandmother, who is French, has a rule that you never phone people before 09h00. OK, so things in Europe get going a little later than here, but it is still a good idea - whether your call is personal or business related - because you give the person a chance to get into work, make a cup of coffee, start up their computer and nail a couple of emails.

Just. Friggin'. Wait.

Speak, dude
Many telephone conversations go like this...

brriiinng-brriiinng-brriiinng

Me: "Hello. This is Lisa speaking."

Other: "Hello. How you?"

Me: "I'm fine. Who are you?"

Other: "I'm mmbbiiim."

Me: "Who?"

Other: "Mmmbbiiim."

Me: "Can I help you?" (I realise I'm not going to work out the name)

Other: "Ja."

Me: "What are you phoning me about?"

Other: "I got your number from the website."

Me: "Which website? What are you phoning about?"

And so the conversation goes. Like friggin' blood out of a stone.

A more appropriate version would have been...

brriiinng-brriiinng-brriiinng


Me: "Hello. This is Lisa speaking."

Other: "Good morning. I'm phoning from / about  [now I can place the person in context] and my name is Joe. Can you take my call now?"

Me: "Yes, sure"

Other: "I've been on your adventure racing website - wonderful site - and I have just read the article on choosing the trail shoes and I would appreciate your thoughts on socks."

This person will get my enthusiastic response because he has done some reading for himself and he is asking something that has not already been answered on the site.
  • Studies have shown that the receiver will hear your name better if you say if name AFTER your situation (place of work or the topic you are phoning about).
  • And say your situation and name clearly. The receiver shouldn't have to ask again.
  • Even if you are a friend, say your name. I may not recognise your voice immediately, especially if I rarely speak to you on the phone. If your number is on my phone, I'll answer my phone with, "Hi Joe".
  • Cell phone reception is rarely crystal clear. Speak clearly and boldly. Don't be a wallflower on the phone (landline included).
  • If you phone to speak to someone, speak. Telephones are for talking. I can't see your body language and facial expressions over the phone, dude.
  • Ask if the person can take your call. They may be driving, on their way in to a meeting or at lunch. Just because a person answers their phone, it doesn't mean that they have time then for a 10-minute discussion.
  • Be clear - and concise - when it comes to what you are calling about and asking for. Get to the point.
Telephone manners say a lot about you. Think before you dial or you'll be classified as an ill-informed, incoherent and inconsiderate moron before you've said three sentences. And that's no way to get a positive response from the receiver or to initiate a business (or personal) relationship.

1 comment:

Hugh said...

The more people that read this the better. I absolutely hate it when people phone me and say, "hello, how are you?" without identifying themselves first. As for the Lets Play dude, what a chop!