Salisbury Press

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Respectfully Yours: Best practices for business calls

Friday, June 1, 2018 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

What do you do when a friend or business client has time to kill and keeps you on the phone for an extended period of time? How do you end the conversation politely without sounding rude?

Dear Reader, In a perfect world, the caller would ask if it’s a good time to talk.

This would allow you the opportunity to either take the call or reschedule for a later time. Simply letting the caller know from the beginning that you have some time to talk or not would prevent this uncomfortable scenario.

The caller didn’t ask if it’s a good time. Now what? You’re caught on the phone with a long-winded friend or business client. Naturally, you don’t want to upset someone and have them think there’s something you need to take care of that’s more important than them.

Instead of using the “you’re breaking-up” ploy that has lost credibility from overuse, there are ways to employ some subtle techniques to end the call without departing from basic etiquette.

Business calls that drag on longer than you anticipated are handled differently than social calls. Business calls have agendas. There is a specific reason for the call and that should be the central focus of the call.

What you say and how you say it will be the only clue that the person on the other end of the line is going to have that you are pressed for time. Because of the lack of body language, it’s key to adjust your inflection to signal completion. To avoid letting the conversation drift off in another direction, keep the conversation focused on the purpose for the call. If the person you are talking to begins to drift off into small talk, gently steer them back to the purpose for the call.

Once you have taken care of the business at hand, you can execute the end-of-call handshake. Use a conversation ender, like “It was good talking to you.” Keeping statements in the past tense indicates that you’re about to hang up. Let them know that you will follow up and use a quick, “Thank you for your time today.”

Despite your best efforts to handle everything on your to-do list with grace, there are times when we simply can’t linger on the phone. It’s in those moments that a phone call comes in from someone who just wants to ramble. Don’t worry, with a little help, you can sign off gracefully.

When you sense that the call is going on and on, you could simply say, “I don’t want to keep you, I’m going to let you get back to whatever you were doing.” Ending a call needs to be done the right way. It’s all about being as polite as possible to the caller.

Respectfully Yours, Jacquelyn

Have a question? Email: jacquelyn@ptd.net. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation. All Rights Reserved © 2018 Jacquelyn Youst