CommunicationCustomer service

Silence Isn’t Always Golden … When On The Phone

By June 6, 2019August 6th, 2019No Comments

I’m in the arduous process of updating my website (stay tuned … more info on that shortly :). I was frustrated beyond belief with my host provider so did what you’ve likely done in that situation–I called the help line. That’s when the wheels fell off.

I was greeted by a soft-spoken gentleman named Jeff. I explained one problem and received a brief “uh huh”. I went on to describe the next issue and then the next. All I heard was silence, so much so that I said, “Hello, are you still there?”. I left that conversation feeling like I really hadn’t been heard and was not confident that Jeff would be able to find a solution. This concern was confirmed when I received an email with the “work ticket” indicating “Low Priority”. Clearly, in spite of my stating the urgency of this situation, Jeff didn’t understand how fundamental my website is to clients visiting my site. 

The very next day, I checked my website and none of the problems had been resolved. I called the help line again and spoke to Jeff’s work mate named Jonathon. Jonathon at least punctuated his listening with “uh huh”, “I see”, and asked a few questions to demonstrate his active listening and understanding. He was doing well until the very end of the conversation when I said “goodbye” and he hung up without even responding. Who does that?! Apparently phone service people who don’t realize what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such lack of communication.

ATTENTION TO anyone who speaks to clients on the phone (and isn’t that all of us?). Perhaps you may not require verbalizing your thoughts and you may enjoy some time to process information and find a solution. You are likely a self-described introvert. In case you are not aware, here it is up straight–that behaviour of no-response absolutely doesn’t work for your clients and colleagues. To connect, evidence that you are actively engaged through audial clues.

When there’s a live person on the other end of the phone who can’t see your body language, the person on the other end relies on your voice. If you choose not to give signs of active listening, your client may mistakenly conclude you are disconnected, not interested, or working on something else. That is the absolute worst way to respond and if it’s your way, you would be well advised to change it. Here’s how.


  • After the client speaks, say something. While you may be working away finding the answer for clients on the line, make sure they know what you’re doing. Do not remain silent … when you’re on the phone, silence is anything but golden. Validate your client’s position and frustration. “I understand why you would say/think that” (even though they might be wrong, you can still see WHY they would logically conclude something). Agree with what you can such as, “Yes, you’re right. This really is fundamental to your business and needs to be rated as ‘urgent priority'”. If you say nothing, the client has no way of knowing that you are actively engaged. Remaining silent is bad communication and a surefire way to disconnect. Don’t do it. Open your mouth and speak.
  • Smile. Although the client can’t see your smile, they’ll still hear it in your voice. Be friendly and reassure him or her. Your client is already frustrated with the technical (or whatever) issue, so don’t let your silence add to that frustration. TIP: keep a mirror by your phone and when you’re dealing with clients, and look into it when chatting. If your face looks uptight, angry, disinterested, happy, engaged or smiling, your voice will convey it. Make sure your face is saying what you want it to because only then will your voice have the tone you hope to convey.
  • Respond quickly. When the client reaches out, respond. Even if you can’t take the call immediately, respond within 24 hours. The more urgent the call, the faster your response. That’s customer service. 

Silence may well be golden, but not when you’re speaking to clients or colleagues on the phone. Remember, they can’t see your visual clues, so compensate with lots of audial clues to ensure that you connect. Do this, and even though your silence won’t be golden, your relationships will be.

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Here’s to better communication, better business, better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author  

© 2010-2019 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

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Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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