Effective communications are essential to business success, and poor communications can lead to a variety of problems. Misunderstandings, costly mistakes, lost data, erased messages – without solid communications, these business missteps occur all too often.

Here are some tips on improving office communications, both internal and external.

Answer the phone with a name. A simple “Bob Smith” tells the caller she’s reached the right party. If you employ a receptionist, provide a standard greeting: “Good Morning or Good Afternoon.  This is XYZ Industries, Dawn speaking. How may I direct your call?”

Simple, human, helpful and straight to the point: a timesaver throughout the business day.

When leaving voicemail messages, follow a few simple rules:

  • Provide your name and the best means and time of contacting you.
  • Speak slowly and clearly – especially when giving a return call telephone number. Repeat the telephone number twice so the call recipient doesn’t have to rewind and listen a second time.
  • Tell the recipient the reason for your call, but never leave sensitive information on an answering machine. It may be a breach of company security. Exchange sensitive information only when you have the call recipient on the line.
  • Be patient. Don’t leave frequent requests for a return call. The employee on the other end of the line may have their hands full at the moment. If the call is urgent, indicate that in your message.

Practice good speakerphone etiquette. Always inform callers that they’re on speakerphone, and who’s listening in.

  • Participants in a speakerphone call should identify themselves to the caller, and greet the caller by name. It’s good manners, and it clarifies who’s in on the call.
  • If the person on speaker is new to the business, provide titles with names so the caller knows who’s on the line within the company.
  • Place the speaker phone in a central location to avoid shouting and wasted time. Make sure the caller can hear all participants clearly.
  • Introduce yourself when you speak. Don’t assume the caller recognizes your voice. A simple, “Steve, here…” tells the caller who’s speaking.   

Avoid annoying cell phone chatter. Many companies ask employees to turn off cell phones during business hours. Create a company-wide policy on cell phone use. Allow emergency calls, but discourage chit-chat on the latest viral video.  Don’t walk around holding a conversation on a hands-free device, which may make other staff think you’re talking to them instead of to the person at the other end of the call.

Communicating through Meetings

Meetings are often expensive, with high-paid executives at work in the conference room. This “face time” is expensive time, so use it wisely, keep it short and on point, and skip the opening joke. Instead…

  • State purpose of the meeting.
  • Use notes to stay on point.
  • Provide participant(s) with a written summary so they don’t have to take notes. Then they can give you their full attention and be “present”.
  • Schedule meetings well in advance whenever possible to avoid business interruptions.
  • Meet prospective clients in person when possible; use VoIP when it isn’t possible.
  • Turn off all cell phones during meetings to avoid interruptions.
  • Limit the number of participants, especially when sensitive business activity is under discussion.
  • Use visual displays to present detailed information in an easy-to-see format, i.e. pie charts, digital slide shows, etc.

You’ll get more done in less time if you create communications practices designed for efficiency.


The information provided is offered for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as tax, legal or business advice. Consult with an attorney or other professional concerning your own needs and circumstances.