Thursday, August 10, 2006

How do you rate on the phone etiquette meter?

Telephone, Wikipedia
I have fumed about this issue for years. It’s called phone etiquette. 

When one calls someone else, one is invading their office, their home, or their peace. One is an invader, perhaps a friendly one, but nonetheless an invader. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon YOU, the invader, to identify yourself FIRST.  Hear me? Identify yourself first.

As a boy, I was raised to answer our home phone thus:

“Maddentes’ residence, John speaking, may I ask who is calling please?"

OK, I don’t do that any longer; and I don’t ask my children to that either, however, I still identify myself first when I am calling someone at work, or at home. It is the minimum courtesy one ought to expect. To make a person answering the phone have to guess your identity, is rude.

This issue applies to work or home life. My daughters get phone calls from school mates and as soon as I answer, the caller usually begins by saying something like “Hi is Lauren there?”  Sometimes, there is not even a greeting, it’s just, “Is Katherine there?”

Whoa! You are asking me to function as a switchboard operator and just turn the phone over to my daughter without the courtesy of even knowing who you are?

I suspect it’s generally how one's parents used the phone that affects the way one practices (or chooses not to practice) phone etiquette. I just penned this post after taking a call from an adult who after hearing me answer said simply, “Hi is Caitlin, there?”

Now I immediately responded with “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.” As it turns out, my daughter got on an extension in the nick of time and said “Dad, hold it, she’s here!” I knew my daughter had a guest over, but I know her as “Katy” not “Caitlin.”  Had her Mother began the phone conversation by saying, “Hi, this is Caitlin's Mother calling…” I would have made the connection and spared us both the embarrassment.

My wife gets calls from a neighborhood friend (whom I really do like) and I have a little unspoken game with her. The woman calls, doesn’t identify herself and simply says “Is Mary there?” I answer knowing full well who she is because of her familiar voice - and I reply - “May I ask who is calling please?”

We both know how the game is played and we both never change our lines. Once she says, “Its Gladys Pickover" (name changed  I immediately break in with something like, “Hello Gladys, good to hear from you!”

That’s how we play the game.  When I answer, she knows she’s going to get “the question” from me, but instead of beginning with a simple “Hi, it’s Gladys” she puts us both through the paces and I stick to my part of the game by asking who is calling.  It drives my wife nuts, but I won’t change (and I doubt Gladys will either).

Again, this principle applies equally well to home or work. Yesterday, with our office assistant on vacation, a few of us were trying to figure out how to work the postage meter. One employee, while trying to solve the problem, received a call at her desk. To make myself useful (and keep her focused on the postage problem) I answered the phone for her.  It was an internal call from another office, but before turning the call over to the employee, I asked the caller, “Could I tell her who is calling?” 

I wouldn’t think of doing less.