Whether you're a virtual receptionist just starting out or you're a seasoned veteran, you know it's important to practice good phone etiquette. Your mannerisms, tone and even facial expressions when answering a call could mean the difference between a satisfied customer and one who ends up taking their business elsewhere. Find out Easybee's top 7 tips for proper phone etiquette.

1. Consistency Is Crucial

When you answer the phone, you should do it the same way every time. The small business you're working with, whether it's a real estate office, law firm or HVAC company, will typically provide guidance as to how they want the phone answered. Most of the time it'll be something like, “Thank you for calling X Company. How can I help you today?” or it may be something more concise: “X Company, this is Emma.” Regardless of what you say, it should be the same for each customer.

2. No Interruptions

It's human nature to want to intervene sometimes, especially if something the caller is saying is inaccurate. Listening to the customer's whole story is important, however, even if you're required to ask for their account information first. The customer feels taken care of when you take the time to hear their entire problem or question.

3. Use the Mute or Hold Button Liberally

When you need to step off the line for a moment to ask a colleague a question or obtain clarification, don't cover the phone speaker with your hand; instead, use the mute or hold button. It's much more polite that way and prevents the customer from hearing muffled whispers.

4. Be Friendly and Professional

The small business you provide virtual receptionist services for will likely guide you on how it wants you to address customers, but in general, you should be professional and friendly. Address customers by Mister or Miss/Ms. followed by their last name, and be helpful and personable.

5. Keep Customers Informed

Methods for doing this will vary depending on the business type, but it's important to keep customers informed of the steps you'll take once they hang up the phone, especially if they're calling about a problem or have a question.

6. Smile

It sounds trivial, but when you smile on the phone while speaking with customers, it can improve your customer service. Smiling affects your vocal tone, it contributes to an infectious positive attitude and it's a great mood booster for both you and the customer you're speaking to.

7. Defuse Difficult Situations

No one likes dealing with an angry customer, but sometimes people get emotional if they're upset about a situation or believe something is unfair. Instead of telling people to “calm down,” which can often make the situation worse, try empathizing with phrases such as “how awful” or “you're absolutely right to be upset.” When you do this, the customer feels understood, and then you can move on to how you'll solve the problem.

Hold these seven phone etiquette tips in your mind while engaging with customers and you're bound to help boost the success of the small business you're working for.