How to Keep Phone Conversation from Being Awkward

My first pet was a desert tortoise named Freddy. He just wandered into our Southern Californian backyard one day when I was about three years old and set up shop. I remember one day, my father propped up a little plank of wood against our fence so that he could get out of the hot sun, and curious Freddy slowly started to climb on the plank of wood, lost his footing, and came to rest, square on his back. He rocked back and forth, but it was no use; he was stuck. Of course, we rushed over to help him up and the little guy was okay, if somewhat embarrassed.

Nowadays, I can relate to Freddy; I’ve often squirmed in my seat when calling a business and been left hanging. Have you ever had this conversation:

“Hi! Is John available?”

Receptionist: “He’s in a meeting.”


“…May I leave a message for him?”

It puts the caller in an uncomfortable spot. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to keep the conversation flowing and have your calls go so smooth, Jif would be impressed. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you never leave your callers flailing:

  1. Offer help before your caller has to ask. A quick fix to the above situation is to tack on an offer of assistance at the end: “John’s away from the phone at the moment, but I would be happy to take a message or offer you his voicemail!” Crisis averted!
  2. A thorough greeting is a fantastic way to get things off on the right foot. A plain ole “Hello” is too generic and is so brief a caller could miss it and be met with awkward silence. Include a salutation, your company name, and cap things off with “How may I help you?” or “How may I direct your call?” It’ll open the door for your caller to explain what or whom they’re looking for and set the call up for success!
  3. If you hear a long pause or sense hesitation, propose an alternative. Even, if they don’t take you up on your offer, they’ll appreciate that you’re attentive, empathetic, and genuinely want to help them. Best of all, this simple action will inspire a trust they won’t soon forget.

Awkward exchanges make a bad impression and may hurt your brand. So lend a hand — a smooth call is just the ticket to build trust with your customers and set your business apart from the rest!