Mardi Milligan, MBA • Trainer / Facilitator • Speaker • Singer / Songwriter
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Tip of the Month


Improve Telephone Etiquette to

Better Serve Customers: 

Utilize the

S-T-R-I-V-E Method 

By Mardi Milligan, MBA © 2005

Are your advertising and marketing dollars being “thrown out the window” because of the way your employees answer the phone?

Help your employees consistently improve their customer service through telephone etiquette by utilizing the:


“S-T-R-I-V-E Method”


  1. Smile:  Always answer the phone with a smile in your voice
  2. Third ring:  Answer before the third ring
  3. Return calls:  Return calls need to be timely--within 24 hours
  4. Identify:  Audibly identify your company and yourself by first name
  5. Voice message:  Freshen your message with cheerfulness and professionalism.  Make sure the content is current.
  6. End:  Always end your conversations with a “thank you” for customer appreciation  

Smile in Your Voice

Customers always enjoy calling an organization that sounds friendly and professional.  This is achieved by answering the phone “with a smile.”  A smiling voice is defined as cheerful, courteous, has a pleasant tone and is “perky.” 

Word pacing and voicing is important--not too fast, too slow, too high or two low.  A voice that conveys friendliness and sounds inviting sends the image of a successful, confident company.

Above all, please refrain from sounding indifferent, monotone, rushed, rude, irritated or bored.  If there’s any doubt, record yourself and listen to it at home.

Third Ring Rule

The rule of thumb is to answer the call before the third ring. 

When an employee is waiting on a live customer and the phone rings, excuse yourself by saying, “Please excuse me, I need to answer this call.”  Write down the caller’s name and number and return that call as soon as possible.  Always remember, the customer who is standing right in front of you is your number one priority.

Return Phone Calls in a Timely Fashion

There are many reasons for returning calls.  Whatever the reason, call customers back as soon as possible.  The general rule is 24 hours. 

If a follow-up answer cannot be found within 24 hours, go the extra 110%.  Call customers back within 24 hours anyway to let them know their project is being worked on and the information should be coming soon.


Identify Your Company and Your First Name

A simple “hello” is not enough.  It is proper etiquette to say:  “ABC Corporation.” (slight pause)  “This is Mary.”  (slight pause)  “How may I help you today?” 

Your company policy may offer a creative, “How may I provide you with excellent service today?”  Just make sure when an offering such as this is made, the follow-up needs to be the very best service possible. 

Voice Messages With Cheerfulness and Professionalism


Customers regularly listen to recorded voice messages.  Check to make sure your voice message sounds fresh and professional.  By exhibiting a positive corporate attitude, this is just another simple and inexpensive way to help promote and market your organization.

End Conversations with a “Thank You”


Always end your conversations with a “Thank you” to let customers know how much their business is appreciated.  Be creative and come up with different ways to express your gratitude.

Fine Tuning Tip:  Because customers decide within the first 30 seconds whether or not to do business with you, positive first impressions are critical.  Listen to hear how employees are currently answering phone calls in your organization.  Are employees consistent?  Be sure to help and train your employees to succeed.  Maybe it’s time for a customer service “tune up.”


Solo-preneur, Mardi Milligan, of Fine Tuning Solutions, is the creator of the customer service training:  Attitude 101:  Building Service Excellence.

If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE Mardi's step-by-step, three-hour trainings, designed to be the most complete and enjoyable guide to: accelerate excellent customer service, improve your company's attitude and image, improve employee relations and customer retention and MAKE YOU MONEY!  Browse its table of contents and read attendee reviews now at

Mardi also offers FREE articles, along with her three-hour workshops and other resources to help organizations elevate their customer service and strengthen relationships inside and outside of their business to build ultimate success.  Learn more now at  © 2006 Mardi Milligan

Mardi Milligan/MBA/Speaker/Trainer with Fine Tuning Solutions saves organizations time and headaches by offering tune ups and business solutions to "Get ALL your employees all on the SAME page."  © Mardi Milligan of Idram Publishing Co., LLC PO Box 17137, Missoula, MT  59808 *Used by Permission. 406-542-9258

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE?  You can, as long as you include this blurb with it:  Speaker/Trainer/Facilitator , Mardi Milligan, of Fine Tuning Solutions, is the creator of the dynamic customer service training, “Attitude 101:  Building Service Excellence.”  To learn more about this step-by-step program, and to sign up for her FREE articles, visit









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