The internet might play an increasingly important role in the way businesses communicate with customers, but the humble telephone still has a role to play in the modern day. Whether you are courting potential new customers, dealing with the ongoing satisfaction of existing ones or talking to other businesses and organisations, effective telephone skills are essential.

There are a number of tips that can help to ensure you make a good impression when talking on the phone.

The greeting
Whether you're taking an incoming call or making an outgoing one, your greeting should be friendly yet professional. 'Hello' is generally better than an informal 'Hi' and should be followed with a brief introduction. This could introduce the speaker ('Hello, this is Emma from Business A') or simply the company ('Hello, Business B, how can we help you?'). If you are calling out, always ask if the person dialled is busy before launching into any preamble or pitch.

Prepare notes
You should be prepared to answer common questions and have access to facts, figures, price plans and relevant people or departments that you may have to transfer a customer to.

Minimise hold or waiting times
Being left on hold is often one of the most frustrating experiences that customers complain about when contacting a business. Try to minimise hold and waiting times. It may not always be possible to deal with a customer straight away, but a human voice apologising for the delay and ensuring the customer that they will be dealt with as soon as possible can help to ease the process.

Answer queries as effectively you can
As already mentioned, you should have as much information as possible to hand. You should also know where you need to go in order to bring up other information that you have access to. If you have to look something up or access information on a computer, inform the customer and ask them politely to bear with you. If you are not able to answer a query, don't simply take a guess. Direct the customer to someone who can help them or offer to call back with the relevant information. If you are putting them through to a colleague, explain why they may be in a better position to help.

Be clear and concise
It's important that you communicate clearly and effectively. Speak as clearly and simply as possible and don't use jargon or abbreviations that your customers might not understand.

Listen to the customer
Let the customer say what they have to say and then respond. Don't interrupt or second guess what they are saying. If the call warrants it, make notes so you are clear exactly what the issue or situation is.

Keep calm
At one time or another, many workers who deal with customers on the telephone will have to deal with one who is either angry or upset. It is essential to stay calm and friendly and to attempt to find a satisfactory resolution for whatever the individual customer's issue might be.