Telephone Etiquette Tip: 3 Reasons to Skip Formality

When it comes to politeness, the virtual receptionist team at Ruby® knows a thing or two; friendliness and professionalism are our forte! However, we’ve found that terms like Sir, Ma’am, Mr. and Ms. aren’t always the best path to politeness over the phone. Where names are concerned, we recommend following a caller’s lead — if your caller introduces herself as Mrs. Henderson, address her as Mrs. Henderson. If a caller doesn’t offer a title, our telephone answering experts suggest skipping formality. Here are three reasons why:

1. You might make the wrong guess.

Using a respectful title is great, as long as you choose the right one. But what if the caller you address as Ms. Smith goes by Dr. Smith? Worse yet, maybe Ms. Smith is Mister Smith. Don’t assume you can guess a caller’s gender by tone of voice or first name!

2. Your attempt at politeness may backfire. 

Sir and Ma’am are not only old-fashioned terms, but using them may make your callers feel old. I know I always cringe when I’m called Ma’am — I’ve never been a fan of Miss, but have I transitioned from a Miss to a Ma’am already? Moreover, terms like Sir and Ma’am are often used in a commanding way, as in “Sir, you’ll have to take these items to the customer service desk.” Even when uttered with the utmost tact and respect, Sir and Ma’am might conjure negative feelings in callers, and that’s something every phone answering pro wants to avoid.

3. What’s in a name? Plenty!

People love hearing their names, and addressing callers by name is a great way to show them you’re listening. Want to know how to address your caller? Just ask! A simple “May I ask who is calling?” is a great way to go. For added friendliness, try introducing yourself first: “I’ll be happy to help you today! My name is Jane. May I have your name?” Once your caller gives a name, repeat it back with a thank you.

  • Great! Thank you, Jim!
  • Wonderful. Thank you, Mrs. Henderson!
  • Thank you, Linda!

How do you keep your communication polite and friendly? Share your suggestions with our remote receptionists by Tweeting us @callruby!