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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Tele-Taboos: Some Phone Practices Are Guaranteed to Annoy

I'm wondering if it's not just better to forbid some employees from using the phone altogether. I know of at least one business owner who thinks so.

As I sipped a hot cup of overpriced coffee, I listened in incredulous wonder as my friend lamented the latest faux pas courtesy of her in-house accountant. It seems the bean counter had called a very important client regarding an overdue payment. The client was on auto-pay through a corporate credit card , and the most recent payment had been rejected.

So was does Mr. Personality do? He calls the client at home — during the dinner hour, no less — and informs her: "Your credit card has been rejected. We need a payment right away, or service will stop."

In the end, the credit card denial was nothing more than an honest little mix-up, but the damage was done.

"Good phone " is often taken for granted, but like coffee breath and off-color office humor, bad phone etiquette can sour clients quicker than a 2-day-old cheese sandwich. Often it's not what is being said, but how it's being delivered.

Here a few telecommunication no-no's that get under my skin:

Mr. Speakerphone I have one client who not only likes to talk on speakerphone, but seems to go out of his way to test the micro-receiver's long-distance abilities. I end up with cauliflower ear from jamming the phone into the side of my head in an attempt to pick up what he's saying. My subtle hints (“What, what?") go unrecognized.

Anonymous Calling Maybe it's due to the implementation of caller ID, but how about, just for giggles, you tell me who you are before you place your request, demand or inquiry? As a Realtor, it's not uncommon for me to get calls from people who refuse to give me their name as they pump me for my professional opinion. My not-so-subtle hints ("Who is this, who is this?") go unrecognized.

The "Snurfer" The telephonic version of distracted driving, this fairly new phenomenon occurs when a caller is talking while surfing the internet. It can get really interesting when both parties are snurfing — neither remembers what they were talking about. I have to admit that I 'm often guilty of this infraction, usually when talking to accountants and family.

Eating while talking We all multitask, and frankly, I'm guilty of more than a few ill-matched concurrent activities that aren't meant for videophone viewing. But chewing while chatting isn't one of them. I'm surprised how many times I get it on the other end, and it's just not right. Step away from the muffin!

The Conversationalist This is business; dispense with the idle chitchat. I don't need a set-up for every point you're trying to make, and I definitely don't need a nine-minute anecdotal monologue chronicling your life's achievements — my muffin is getting stale!

The Robot Do you hear yourself? Hint: If you're constantly noticing snoring (or snurfing) on the other end, it's time to mix up the monotone with a little inflection.

Joe Slick I get this from salespeople all the time. They think that if they call me "champ" or "boss" or "pal," we'll somehow become bestest buds and I'll buy their widget or service du jour. Combine that with the super-fast, never-coming-up-for-air sales pitch, and what you have is a recipe for a quick "click."

Then there's the cornucopia of contrived and/or clichéd voice messages that make me want to drive a No. 2 Ticonderoga deep into my brain.

"I'm either with a client or on the other line" Really? Are those the only two things that could possibly keep you from answering the phone? How about "I'm getting ripped by my boss" or "I'm in the middle of chewing my muffin" or maybe "I see your name on caller ID and would rather snurf than answer"?

"I can't make it to the phone right now" Yeah, I pretty much figured that out when you didn't answer.

"Make it a great day!" It would be a great day if you answered my freaking call.

"Your call is very important to me!" Obviously not.