Phone Etiquette: Are You Irritating Your Clients?

Phone Etiquette:
Are You Irritating Your Clients?

By Mark Fitzgerald

Does this sound familiar? It happened to me at least four times this week: people who are very well intentioned managed to irritate the heck out of me. I know they didn’t mean to…but they did.

There are occasions when you will leave your phone number on someone’s voice mail. Presumably, you want to leave the recipient of that message favorably disposed toward you. Here’s how to have the exact opposite effect and irritate the person you hoped to impress: Simply say your number at lightening speed so that there is absolutely no hope that the recipient can copy it down. You can heighten the galling nature of this action by not announcing that you are about to leave a number at all. If you are particularly inclined to antagonize you must be sure to leave an excruciatingly long message before you do your rapid fire phone number routine. That way the recipient will have to play the entire message time and time again, each time attempting the capture of one more digit of your number.

Now, for just a moment, let’s assume that you would like to leave a favorable first impression. Here are the rules for rapport building when leaving phone numbers:

1. Always announce that you are about to leave your phone number and then wait several seconds before actually doing so. This gives your listener a chance to get a pen ready.
2. Say the number very slowly and clearly, one distinct digit at a time. (This is especially true when leaving an email address because “T” can sound like “P” and “M” can sound like “N”. A good way to avoid this is to say: “T as in Tom.”)
3. Announce that you will repeat the number. Then do so.
4. Avoid leaving long messages.
5. If you must leave a long message say your phone number at the beginning as well as at the end. That way, if they need to play your message again, they won’t have to listen to the entire message just to get your number.

I realize that these rules take some of the fun out of leaving messages. Try them anyway. Who knows, courtesy might turn out to be contagious. Then none of us will have to listen to any messages more than once.

Mark Fitzgerald is President of Sales Training Institute, Inc. He can be reached at (813) 831-5555, via e-mail at or

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