15.2 Telephone/VoIP Communication – Business Communication for Success (2024)

Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate the five stages in a telephone conversation.
  2. Understand delivery strategies to increase comprehension and reduce misunderstanding.

Talking on the phone or producing an audio recording lacks an interpersonal context with the accompanying nonverbal messages. Unless you use vivid language, crisp, and clear descriptions, your audience will be left to sort it out for themselves. They may create mental images that don’t reflect your intention that lead to miscommunication. Conversations follow predictable patterns and have main parts or stages we can clearly identify. While not every conversation is the same, many will follow a variation of a standard pattern composed by David Taylor and Alyse Terhune:

  1. Opening
  2. Feedforward
  3. Business
  4. Feedback
  5. Closing

Table 15.1 “A Five-Stage Telephone Conversation”1 provides an example of how a conversation might go according to these five stages.

Table 15.1 A Five-Stage Telephone Conversation

  • Both parties identify themselves
  • Greetings are reciprocated
  • [phone rings]
  • Ken: Hello, Ken Reilly.
  • Val: Hi, Ken. This is Val Martin from [company or department]. How are you?
  • Ken: Fine, and you?
  • Val: Fine, I’m doing great.
  • Purpose and tone of conversation are established
  • Permission is given to continue (or not)
  • Val: I hate to bother you, but I wonder if you have five minutes to give me some advice.
  • Ken: Sure, Val. What’s happening?
  • [or: I’m tied up right now. Can I call you back in an hour?]
  • Substance of conversation
  • Parties exchange roles
  • Val: Here’s the situation. [explains] I know you are good at resolving these kinds of issues, so I was wondering what you think I should do.
  • Ken: Wow, I can understand how this has you concerned. Considering what you’ve told me, here’s what I think I would do. [explains]
  • Signal that business is concluded
  • Val: Hmm, that makes sense. I’ll certainly keep your ideas in mind. Thank you so much, Ken!
  • Ken: Hey, you’re welcome. Let me know how it turns out.
  • Both parties say goodbye
  • Val: Yes, I will. Have a good weekend, Ken.
  • Ken: You too, Val. Bye.
  • Val: Bye.
  • [they hang up]

Cell phones are a part of many, if not most, people’s lives in the industrialized world and, increasingly, in developing nations as well. Computer users can also utilize voice interaction and exchange through voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) programs like Skype. With the availability of VoIP, both audio and visual images are available to the conversation participants. But in our discussion, we’ll focus primarily on voice exchanges.

Figure 15.1

Telephone conversations in business require skill and preparation.

Bill Branson – Business Woman – public domain.

Since you lack the nonverbal context, you need to make sure that your voice accurately communicates your message. Your choice of words and how you say them, including spacing or pausing, pace, rhythm, articulation, and pronunciation are relevant factors in effective delivery. Here are five main points to consider:

  1. Speak slowly and articulate your words clearly.
  2. Use vivid terms to create interest and communicate descriptions.
  3. Be specific.
  4. Show consideration for others by keeping your phone conversations private.
  5. Silence cell phones, pagers, and other devices when you are in a meeting or sharing a meal with colleagues.

You don’t have to slow down your normal pattern of speech by a large degree, but each word needs time and space to be understood or the listener may hear words that run together, losing meaning and creating opportunities for misunderstanding. Don’t assume that they will catch your specific information the first time and repeat any as necessary, such as an address or a phone number.

Feedback, the response from the receiver to the sender, is also an essential element of phone conversations. Taking turns in the conversation can sometimes be awkward, especially if there is an echo or background noise on the line. With time and practice, each “speaker’s own natural, comfortable, expressive repertoire will surface” *Mayer, K., 1980).

Key Takeaway

A telephone conversation typically includes five stages: opening, feedforward, business, feedback, and closing. Because telephone conversations lack nonverbal cues, they require additional attention to feedback.


  1. Write an outline of a script for a telephone conversation that introduces a new product or service to an existing client. Partner with a classmate to role-play the conversation and note points that could use improvement. Compare your results with classmates.
  2. Think of a phone conversation you had recently. Write a brief summary and include at least one example of what worked or what did not. Share and compare with classmates.
  3. Take notes during a telephone conversation and write a brief description, labeling the parts of the conversation and providing examples. Share and compare with classmates.

1Adapted from Taylor, D., & Terhune, A. D. (2000). Doing e-business: Strategies for thriving in an electronic marketplace. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471380652.html.


Mayer, K. (1980). Developing delivery skills in aral business communication. Business Communication Quarterly, 43(3), 21–24.

Taylor, D., & Terhune, A. D. (2000). Doing e-business: Strategies for thriving in an electronic marketplace. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471380652.html.

15.2 Telephone/VoIP Communication – Business Communication for Success (2024)


Why is telephone communication important in business? ›

Phone conversations not only add a personal level to your sales, but they can be used as a reminder of your business, and keeping note of personal touches always pays off. After talking with someone face-to-face, a phone call is the best way to get a personal response.

What is the use of telephone system in business communication? ›

Often abbreviated to “PBX,” a business phone system is an internal and external communication network for a company. It facilitates better teamwork and communication by allowing both enterprises and small businesses to control a large number of phone lines and extensions.

What are the advantages of telephone communication? ›

Phone calls are often faster

Messages can be conveyed more quickly over the phone than exchanging numerous messages via email or instant message. A phone call is also often the best approach when an immediate answer is needed.

What are the five important phases of a telephone conversation? ›

A telephone conversation typically includes five stages: opening, feedforward, business, feedback, and closing.

How does the telephone impact business? ›

Telephones made it easier for businesses to communicate with each other. It cut down on the amount of time it took to send messages to each other. As the telephone network grew, it also expanded the area that a business could reach.

What are the positive and negative effects of telephone? ›

Positive effects include convenient communication, access to information, and educational apps. Negative effects include distraction, addictive nature, and potential impact on physical and mental health.

What is effective telephone communication? ›

From the moment you answer the phone, maintain a genuine and sincere tone as you speak with the client. Keep your greetings and responses natural rather than scripted or generic. Connect with them by attempting to understand their perspective throughout the phone call.

Why is it important to have a good telephone manner in business? ›

Good business phone etiquette is vital. It's often the initial communication point between you and your customers that forms a first impression, and it can help boost customer loyalty. Answering calls swiftly and taking messages displays competency, and lets your customers feel cared for.

Why good telephone customer service is important in business? ›

By offering customers a way to reach you by telephone, you'll improve your brand's reputation. You'll have a great platform to communicate your company's values, your mission, and your image. When customers speak with a friendly agent, they'll think more positively of your brand.

What are 3 impacts of the telephone? ›

The invention of the telephone revolutionised American life by transforming communication , business operations, and social interactions. The telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, brought about a seismic shift in the way people communicated.

What are the disadvantages of telephone communication in business? ›

Workflow disruption - always-on communication in the form of personal and work-related calls can disturb employee workflow and decrease their productivity. Compromised work-life balance - 'all hours' availability can interrupt your employees' personal life if they receive calls outside their working hours.

What is the greatest importance of a telephone? ›

The telephone is inexpensive, is simple to operate, and offers its users an immediate, personal type of communication that cannot be obtained through any other medium. As a result, it has become the most widely used telecommunications device in the world. Billions of telephones are in use around the world.

What are the golden rules of telephone conversation? ›

Note the date, the caller's name, phone number, and message. Listen carefully, speak clearly, and be friendly. Always begin a call by introducing yourself or your company, if applicable. Make sure your voice projects strength and clarity.

What are the 4 P's of telephone service? ›

Promptness, Politeness, Professionalism and Personalization: these 4 characteristics are the key ingredients to any successful service interaction, and when you think about it, they are the basics you expect to receive as a consumer.

What is the primary purpose of telephone communication in a business context? ›

An efficient business telephone system streamlines good communication between organisation and customers. The telephone offers a faster interaction than email, is more personal, and easy and quick to use.

Why are telephone skills important in the workplace? ›

It helps your employees become more empathetic and all this feeds back into your business growth. There are many skills involved in active listening on phone calls, but the most important are: Verbalise understanding. Don't interrupt.

What is the function of telephone communication? ›

Telephones are used to transmit voice conversations, allowing people to talk to each other when they're not all in the same place. Telephone conversations can be between two people, which is the most common case, or between multiple people at once.


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