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Dear Telephone Solicitor Wanting Business With Me, No, My Call Is NOT Important To You Or You’d Answer The Phone OR Don’t Call Us, Child, We’ll Call You

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22275 – 784:

Here’s the haps:

I am old-fashioned about a lot of things. We live in a society today of rudeness and telephones are one of the worst places for lacking manners. And it isn’t just that people have no sense of decency or privacy and will discuss every little detail of their personal, sometimes very personal, life anywhere they are. Of course, there’s the just plain vulgar person, and, more and more, there is the self-centered narcissist who cares about nobody’s feelings except their own. Just looking at the general decline of nice manners of people raises the question, “Why is it so hot and what is this handbasket I’m riding in?” And. you know, by nice manners I am just talking about what used to be called common courtesy. I mean, if I were invited to dine with her majesty or even a special dinner at the White House with Creepy Joe Presiden Biden, I wouldn’t know which fork to eat what with and I most likely would pick up my soup bowl and slurp its contents without thinking twice. Well, maybe not. I read an article one time that if you are ever invited to dine with her majesty the simplest rule is to just observe what she does and try to follow suit. You should be prepared to be finished whenever she is, no matter how much you have left on your plate. If they are like other functions I have been to I’m sure the food will be cold and icky and you are there more for the presence of the person being honored than actually eating anything. You should always have enough money on you so you can stop for a hamburger after the event. Do they ever serve good ol’ southern fried chicken at those functions? Does her majesty, in private, of course, roll up her sleeves and grab a juicy, deep-fried chicken leg, dripping down to her elbows and face smeared with finger-lickin’ goodness? I mean, rumor has it that she bathes with a rubber duck so she can’t be all business all the time.

But I digress, as I am oft-times wont to do.

I’ll save that little iceberg for another time because I want to focus on one little portion today, appropriately using the telephone to conduct business.

When I was in high school, I don’t remember if it was Junior or Senior year, 1976 or 1977, we were required to take a business class. We were taught how to address business letters, how to type on a typewriter, what the proper margins were to be set at, that you had up to five characters left when the right-margin bell rang so you’d know when you had to hyphenate a word, ten-key by touch which was basically like data entry of a string of numbers using a machine to calculate everything. These skills are all still handy today although our machines are usually programmed with all the settings we need and don’t really have to think about. One portion of the class was dedicated to telephone etiquette.

When receiving a call to your business you never let the phone go beyond three rings without someone answering it. Of course, in those days we only had what is now commonly referred to as a landline and everything was set and standardized by the telephone company. As a general rule, the ring was two seconds followed by a four-second pause although this could vary a bit by locale. So, the standard was to answer the phone in under twenty seconds. When answering the phone you are to use a clear, controlled voice stating the business name, the department, and then your name. “Helpful Hurricane Herb’s Handy Grammar Helpline company, You gotta talk good English, Herb speaking.” Or like in the Old-Time Radio Show, Duffy’s Tavern, “Hello, Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin’. Duffy ain’t here—oh, hello, Duffy.” You don’t talk a hundred miles an hour and when the caller asks you to repeat yourself you don’t huff into the phone like someone has just given you a major insult. Speak clearly and enunciate your words properly. And you smile when you are talking because people can hear your smile through the phone. If, for some reason, you have to put someone on hold, “I’m sorry sir/madam but may I place you on a brief hold while I find out for you? It will be about a minute.” Except, unless it was something that required longer than a minute to answer. Then you inform the caller, telling them how long they will be on hold and what their other options are, e.g., I can call you back, I can find the answer and note your file and you can call back in and someone else can see it, things like that. Several of my readers, people I know in person, either work or have worked phones and know the right way to do it. I was a coworker with one of them. Working in a call-center is not for everyone but there are still right ways and wrong ways of treating people and doing business.

Now, when you make an outbound call to me, I will show you how to do it. First I will show you how not to do it. We will assume for a moment that your number does not come up as “SCAM LIKELY” which means I likely won’t answer your call at all. I did work for an outbound call center where their number came up like that and it was very hard. I couldn’t stand it. I worked for a contractor who worked for a contractor for a big-name insurance company on an automated dialer system. It was really annoying.

So, here’s the right way to do this outbound calling thing, whether you are a small business or a major corporation. I can’t give advice on how to do cold-calling for sales or anything because I was never any good at it. These instructions are for when you are calling someone on a legitimate business call.

When the person on the other end says, “Hello?” You should

  1. Identify yourself
  2. Identify your company
  3. State who you are trying to reach
  4. And say the purpose of the call

Hi, this is Herb from Handy Herb’s Grammar Hotline, I’m trying to reach Herb Superb. I’m returning his call.

See, that wasn’t hard at all. And you get off on the right foot with most people most of the time. If I say hello and you say, “I’m calling Mr. Herb Thiel, is he available?” I’m immediately suspicious. Who are you and why are you calling me? The first I think is that you are a bill collector or a scammer, not that there’s always much difference. “May I ask who’s calling, please?” If you are a legit caller I should not ever have to ask you this. “This is Tammy. Are you Herbert?” “Tammy? I don’t know any Tammy? What is this about?” “It’s about a personal business matter, are you Herbert?” So now I know you are a bill collector. I don’t want to talk to you. “What company are you with, Tammy?” “This is a personal business matter and I can only speak to Herbert. Are you Herbert?” “Young lady (I get to use this annoying and condescending phrase now since I hit the big six-oh and will be in the Sixty-Plus club in a few days.), telling me the name of your company is not divulging any secrets.” Most of the time this is the end of the call. Some hearty souls have ventured to give me what I ask for and then I do feel obligated to talk to them after lecturing them about their uncouth telephone behavior.

Sometimes medical places do this because there is such a fear of breaking any sort of privacy regulations but even so, you don’t have to be snippy or rude. The best ones so far, and maybe this is just my experience, are the ones who call from the VA Health clinic. “Hello. This is Mary Cho. I’m calling from the VA Health Clinic. Is Herbert available, please?” Beautiful. See how different that is? “This is Herbert.” “Hi, I’m your doctor’s nurse from the VA Health clinic, could you please verify your last four and date of birth for me?” “Certainly. It’s this and that.” “Thank you. I’m calling to remind you of your upcoming appointment and that you need to bring/do this/that.” “Thank you so much, Mary.” “You’re welcome and thank you for your service.”

Now, see, how hard was that? She was nice and polite and spoke clearly. I already knew who was calling because their number converts on my phone (I don’t have it in my contacts although I probably should) to show who’s calling.

One last thing about professional phone manners, only make promises you can keep. If you tell the party that you are are going to place them on hold, say how long they’ll be on hold and then, if you wind up having to leave them on hold longer, get back on the line with them and apologize and offer to call them back. Inbound call centers can’t always do that but you can do something. Perhaps annotate their file with what you finally come up with or (I know. You are told not to do this or you will get in trouble.) transfer them to your supervisor.

Finally, all you big companies and all of you monopolies and even, often enough, you local places, please stop telling the biggest lie you have ever told. “You’re call is very important to us. Please stay on the line for the next available representative.” If my call was that important to you, you’d answer it. I know all the arguments and excuses but the point is that you don’t want to spend the money to make it happen. Okay, just admit that. All you have to do is drop that silly, “You’re call is very important to us.” Stop saying that.


27 responses to “Dear Telephone Solicitor Wanting Business With Me, No, My Call Is NOT Important To You Or You’d Answer The Phone OR Don’t Call Us, Child, We’ll Call You”

  1. GP Cox Avatar

    If I get a live person and not a recording on a robo-call, I ask them for their phone number and I’ll call them back during THEIR dinner time.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Lol. That’s a good idea.

  2. dumbestblogger Avatar

    That’s a very handy tutorial. When my wife was in college she was required to take a business communications course for her major. I wasn’t required, and was never encourage to take one. I think that was extremely negligent on the part of the institution I was attending. Everyone should be required to learn this stuff, and people were don’t are at a serious disadvantage.

    1. Herb Avatar

      I agree.

  3. AJMcGregor Avatar

    I think “common courtesy” has become an oxymoron. One courtesy that has disappeared is the little “thank you” wave when you let someone into your line of traffic. I’m now shocked if I see one. Anyway, like you, Herb, I’m tired of rude people. (And Joe is not creepy. 😊)

    1. Herb Avatar

      I agree with you on the little “thank you” wave.

    2. Petra Avatar

      I totally agree

  4. CARL R D'Agostino Avatar

    Enjoyed this delightful read. I get a call every single day from those car repair insurance intruders. Every single day. Usually just as I have dozed off for my afternoon grampa nap.Then there are the military, the firemen and the police calls requesting a contribution. Now I do not object to contributing something now and then but certainly not every single week or so as being on retirement fixed income. Don’t they hear the news about how the virus has millions now unemployed ?

    1. Herb Avatar

      As to the Police charities, the first thing I ask is whether they are for my specific local area or not and most of the time they aren’t. And when they interrupt my Grampa nap they wind up talking to Grumpa.

  5. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View Avatar

    All this education is great but When you call anyplace a machine answers. Are you supposed to be nice to a machine? And most of the time I answer the phone it is a machine. I really love those ones that try to make you think there a real person
    Hello Mr. Ohh! How are you today.

    Me: You are an Idiot

    That’s just great!

    That’s about the time I hang up

    Laugh Loud and Proud

    1. Herb Avatar

      That’s exactly what my wife does. “Are you an idiot?” I hang up the phone a lot.

  6. cheriewhite Avatar

    Wow! I hear you loud and clear, Herb. Manners went out the window a long time ago. And phone manners are no different. Like you, I get overwhelmed with solicitation calls that are less then polite!

    I also hate when I’m standing in line in a grocery store, I have to listen to the young 20-something behind me argue with her boyfriend on her cellphone. Ugh! What ever happened to taking it outside the building where no one can hear you. Or telling the person you’re busy and will call them when you’re in the privacy of your car or home. Thank you for addressing these annoyances.

    1. Herb Avatar

      You’re ever so welcome. It’s even worse when they aren’t fighting, lol.

      1. cheriewhite Avatar

        😀 😀 😀

  7. achme24gmailcom Avatar

    Oh my yes! Preach it!

    1. Herb Avatar


  8. Petra Avatar

    I hope you’re feeling better already

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thanks. Not too bad, just fatigued beyond measure.

      1. Petra Avatar

        Sounds very familiar haha

  9. Klausbernd Avatar

    We are always asking if they are that unsuccessful that they need me to boost their business. It’s always interesting how they react. I wrote my dissertation of communication structures of the spoken language and, actually, I am quite interested how they react. Well, I know these are poorly paid call centre clerks. Nevertheless, their reaction (I record) is quite interesting.
    All the best, happy weekend
    Stay healthy and happy
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by. Yes, they are low-paid and I’m not intending to mock anyone, just the system.

  10. bekitschig Avatar

    Ha ha, fabolous & true! I’ve been to a function once, which has nothing to do with phones, and the portions there were sooo tiny and with every one came a different whine! You really need some soul food after that

    1. Herb Avatar

      I know it. I usually have low expectations of “banquets”.

  11. Tangie Avatar

    Agree. “I am old-fashioned about a lot of things. We live in a society today of rudeness and telephones are one of the worst places for lacking manners.” I digress too…. Have a great day/night and remain safe.

    1. Herb Avatar


  12. kagould17 Avatar

    Good post Herb. I think texts, E-mails and computers in general have made for a very impatient society. We used to have to wait a week for a letter to arrive. Now, if we do not get an E-mail or text reply in 5 minutes, we are poking the person again and again to get a response. We need to relax, unless the matter is urgent. Cheers. Allan

    1. Herb Avatar

      Very true. Thanks for the comment.

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