A few months ago, we discussed the importance of Communicating With Clients. Today’s discussion focuses solely on tackling the telephone. In the midst of your busy, everyday operations, it is important to have someone kind, friendly, and knowledgeable to field your studio’s phone calls and respond to messages. The person(s) answering the phone(s) provide the caller with his/her full attention for the length of time necessary to resolve the call (i.e. the caller should not feel rushed or unimportant). The phone is a lifeline to current and prospective clients, and all studios should value each and every interaction.

The way you and your staff represent your studio  via phone transactions is a reflection of your business! 

The Workforce Investment Act’s Pathways to Our Future Program offers a fabulous telephone training that includes 36 valuable tips for phone etiquette and ways to handle complaint calls.  We have included the information below, but you may also view the entire document here. This is a wonderful resource that should be shared with all members of your administrative team!

Telephone Etiquette: Thirty-Six Tips

Before you answer be prepared (this includes knowing how to use the phone/system features):

1. Turn away from your computer, desk or other work.

2. Have pens, pencils and notepaper handy.

In answering the phone:

3. Answer calls promptly, by the second or third ring.

4. Smile as you pick up the phone.

5. Assume your “telephone” voice, controlling your volume and speed.

6. Project a tone that is enthusiastic, natural, attentive and respectful.

7. Greet the caller and identify yourself and your company/department/unit.

8. Ask, “To whom am I speaking?”

9. Ask, “How may I help you?”

In the course of the conversation:

10. Focus your entire attention on the caller.

11. Enunciate/articulate clearly. Speak distinctly.

12. Use Plain English and avoid unnecessary jargon and acronyms.

13. Use action specific words and directions.

14. Use the caller’s name during the conversation.

15. Always speak calmly and choose your words naturally.

16. Use all of your listening skills:

a. Focus your full attention on the caller and the conversation.

b. Listen “between” the words.

c. Use reflective/active listening to clarify and check for understanding.

17. If there is a problem, project a tone that is concerned, empathetic, and apologetic.

18. Avoid the Five Forbidden Phrases.

a. “I don’t know”
Instead, say: “That is a good question; let me find out for you” or offer to connect the caller with someone who could provide the answer. If a call involves some research, assure the person that you will call back by a specific time. If you do not have an answer by the deadline, call back to say, “I don’t have an answer yet, but I’m still researching it.” There is no excuse for not returning calls.

b. “I/we can’t do that.”
Instead say: “This is what I/we can do.”

c. “You’ll have to”
Instead say: “You will need to” or “I need you to” or “Here’s how we can help you.”

d. “Just a second”
Instead: Give a more honest estimate of how long it will take you and/or let them know what you are doing.

e. “No.”
Instead: Find a way to state the situation positively.

19. Use “LEAPS” with the emotional caller to vent.

L Listen; allow the caller to vent.

E Empathize; acknowledge the person’s feelings

A Apologize when appropriate, even if the problem is not your fault, you can say, “I am really sorry this has happened” and mean it.

P (Be) Positive

S Solve; suggest/generate solutions that you can both agree on and/or ask what you can do to help and, if reasonable, do it! If not, find a compromise.

In concluding the call:

20. End the conversation with agreement on what is to happen next; if you are to follow-up, do so immediately.

21. Thank the caller for calling; invite the caller to call again.

In transferring calls:

22. Transfer ONLY when necessary; get the information yourself.

23. If you must transfer, avoid the use of the word “transfer.” Say instead: “I am going to connect you with”.

24. Explain why you are “transferring” the call.

25. Give the caller the person’s name and direct number

26. Stay on the line and introduce the caller.

In taking messages:

27. Identify yourself and for whom you are answering the phone.

28. Practice political sensitivity.

29. Indicate the period of time the person will be unavailable.

30. Write down all the important information given:

a. The name of the caller. Ask for spelling if unclear.

b. The (correct) telephone number of the caller.

c. The message. Ask for clarification if necessary.

31. Read back what you’ve written to be sure you’ve understood the message correctly.

32. Always assure the person that you will deliver the message promptly.

33. Deliver the message in a timely fashion.


34. Eat, drink or chew gum while on the phone.

35. Leave an open line:

a. Place the caller on hold

b. Check back with the caller frequently: every 30-45 seconds.


36. Put a smile in your telephone voice and let your personality shine!

The Complaint Call

Complaint callers who are irate are really saying, “I rate.” They have bought into society’s “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” mentality. When that happens, try the EAR method:

E mpathize with the caller.

A pologize and acknowledge the problem.

Accept R esponsibility. (You’ll do something.)

Empathize with the caller. This is different from sympathy, where you take on someone else’s problem.

Try to understand how the person is feeling.

Apologize and acknowledge the problem. You don’t have to agree with the caller, but express regret that there is a problem. People want to be heard, and no one’s complaint is trivial. Each deserves prompt handling, so do not deal with it in a trivial manner.

Accept responsibility. Make sure something is done. Take it upon yourself to DO something. Many times, that’s all that people want: the reassurance that something will be done. People want to be helped. They want to know that you care. Use these phrases to get that sentiment across: “How can I help you?” “What can I do for you?” “I’ll make sure this message/information gets to the right person.”

The acceptance of responsibility may be as simple as forwarding the call to the appropriate individual or sending the caller more information. If you do forward the caller to someone else on your staff, follow up with that person to make sure the caller was taken care of.

If you get an irate caller, or even one who is calm, cool, and collected, here are some more methods to handle complaint calls:

First, don’t overreact, especially if the caller starts using “trigger” words or phrases, such as: “I want to talk to someone who knows something.” Most people respond by getting defensive when their “hot-button words” are pressed. Remember, a positive attitude is the most important asset you have.

Second, listen completely to the complaint. Allow the caller the opportunity to vent some frustration. When you listen, don’t try to apply logic to the situation. Many people are beyond logic if they are angry, so accept the feelings being expressed. Avoid argument and criticism.

Third, do not blame anyone — the caller, yourself, or someone on your staff — even if you know who is to blame for a problem. This information should not be shared with the caller.

Fourth, paraphrase the caller’s comments, and ask questions if you do not understand the information being presented to you. Restate the problem as you understand it.

Fifth, offer solutions and, if appropriate, offer alternatives. Providing alternatives empowers callers. It gives callers a feeling that they were not dictated to and that they were part of the solution.

Finally, confirm the solution with the caller. Make sure the caller agrees with what has been decided. Of course, not everyone will be happy, no matter what you do. These people will not be content; they just like being grumpy. Usually, these are the people who want to talk to the person “above you.” If that is
what it takes to lessen their anger, then do so. By the time they have been transferred to a supervisor, they usually have become calmer and less demanding. It seems that they just needed to vent their anger at someone: you. Just remember that most people are not that way and keep a firm grip on that positive attitude of yours.

In addition to the above information, it is also important to:

1. Have a standardized greeting for your studio. Example: “Thank you for calling {Studio Name}. This is {Insert Name}, how may I help you?”

2. Be interested in the caller’s familial background. Learn about their child(ren), their previous dance experience, etc. This will help you provide the best information.

3. Be Patient. Remember, the dance world is a new experience for many people. Take the time to patiently answer their questions and provide information about your studio’s infrastructure and operations.

If you implement these tips, people will have a positive, memorable interaction and experience with your studio! 


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