Telephone Etiquette Gone Awry

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The other day I called a local business where I am a frequent customer. I had a simple question. The owner answered the phone, giving the business name and her own. I replied by greeting her and identifying myself.  So far so good.  However as soon as I got the last syllable in Ramsey out of my mouth, she abruptly said, “Lydia, I will have to call you back.  I am with a customer.”  “Wow,” I thought, “What does she think I am?”

I understood that she was busy, in fact I could hear the stress in her voice when she answered the phone.  Also not good.  She runs a profitable venture but it is not because of her customer service skills. A bit of business manners could have gone a long way here.  This woman only needed to say two things to make me a happy caller and satisfied customer.

  1. She should have said, “Lydia, may I call you back?”
  2. The next words she should have used were, “I am with another customer.”

This woman lost sight of the fact that her business is not about how she feels; it’s about how she makes the customer feel. As always, business etiquette is not about the rules; it’s about the relationships. Her response to me did nothing to enhance our relationship.

Have you had a similar experience?  If you have, please share it in the comment box below and let me know how it made you feel and how you responded.  You can learn more about telephone etiquette by reading my book Business Etiquette 101 – Telephone Courtesy.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website,

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