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Article 15 min read

20+ techniques to provide good phone customer service

What makes a good customer service call? Get our best phone customer service tips for increasing satisfaction and brand loyalty.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated March 5, 2024

Even in the age of texts, DMs, and embedded messaging, customers still want the option to contact customer service over the phone. In fact, more than 90 percent of organizations surveyed in our Customer Experience Champions report provide telephone support.

Customers increasingly prefer to interact with businesses over emerging channels like messaging and chat, yet they often want to hear a human voice for higher-stakes problems. Good phone customer service is important because it can:

  • Improve your brand’s reputation

  • Help you retain customers

  • Bring in additional customers through word-of-mouth

  • Increase customer lifetime value

  • Help you stand out from competitors

However, it’s important to make sure that phone methods aren’t the only way to provide customer service—ensure your business is also incorporating chatbots, help centers, and other types of convenient, digital support channels.

Table of contents

What makes a good customer service call?

Good customer service call

There are three key components to a good customer service call, according to Josefina Madrigal, a phone support guru and former call center advocate at True Link, a fintech company offering financial support to vulnerable seniors, people with special needs, and those recovering from addiction.

The agent works to understand the problem

“A good customer service call starts with understanding the problem,” says Madrigal. This requires the agent to use active listening skills and have customer context handy so they can pull up relevant information quickly and understand the full story. With phone support software like Zendesk’s own, agents get insight into details such as contact information, account type, past support conversations, and order history to personalize solutions and ensure customers never have to repeat themselves

The agent can resolve the customer’s issue quickly

“If a call is under five minutes, that’s a good indicator that you were able to help the customer quickly,” says Madrigal. In fact, 60 percent of customers surveyed in our Customer Experience Trends Report said that speed was the most important factor of good customer service.

The customer is left happy at the end of the call

Following up a call with a customer satisfaction survey is one way to determine if a customer felt pleased with the call. But if a customer doesn’t reach out again with the same issue, that usually means they were happy with your support too, according to Madrigal. A good service recovery program can help rectify the situation in the case that a call doesn’t go as expected.

Phone customer service etiquette: 20 ways to make your customers happy over the phone

There are two levels to telephone customer service: Your agents have to interact with customers directly, and the company has to provide the right tools and technology to equip the customer support team to do their job well. Success requires taking a few key steps at both levels.

Here are 20 telephone customer service tips to improve satisfaction and loyalty.

1. Have context at your fingertips

2. Connect your phone system with other channels across the business

3. Answer calls promptly

4. Avoid technical jargon

5. Become data-centric

6. Invest in quality call center technology

7. Use active listening

8. Reduce background noise

9. Communicate hold time

10. Set up routing rules

11. Mirror your customer’s tone

12. Give customers a call-back option


13. Reflect and validate

14. Acknowledge the problem

15. Be patient

16. Keep customers updated

17. Know how to handle emotional callers

18. Prepare an escalation plan

19. Take notes as you go

20. Take breaks to prevent burnout

How conversational support can transform customer service

Learn more about providing seamless conversational service for your customers.

More call center burnout tips

Phone customer service: Things to avoid

Many factors go intocustomer service telephone etiquette, including some things you shouldn’t say or do. Here are some tips on what not to do when leading telephone calls with customers:

  • Downplaying customer concerns


    In phone customer service, never downplay a concern a customer has. Every concern should be treated fairly. Even if the customer is wrong, disregarding their feelings can come off as harsh and can exacerbate the issue. Ensure you stay as calm as possible and help them find a solution no matter the concern.
  • Reading from scripts


    Don’t rely on scripts when leading your customer calls—this can come off as robotic and ingenuine. Prioritize making each customer call a unique experience tailored specifically to the person you’re chatting with.
  • Interrupting the customer


    Nothing is more important than practicing patience with the customer you’re speaking with. Interrupting while a customer speaks shows that you’re not listening or interested in the customer’s concern. Be sure you wait until they’re finished speaking before responding.
  • Overpromising or giving wrong information


    In good phone customer service, it’s important to give only answers that you know for a fact. Overpromising or giving wrong information can break trust with the customer and reduce customer satisfaction.

Why phone calls shouldn’t be your customer service team’s only calling

It’s important to remember that following these steps and tips can help you not only provide strong customer service but also build customer loyalty and retention. You should also keep in mind that your business can’t rely solely on phone calls when it comes to customer service—you should implement a variety of strategies for a well-rounded customer experience.

Zendesk can set your business up for success with an omnichannel customer service solution that’s easy to use and scales with your business. Level up customer satisfaction with streamlined software that provides support anywhere, anytime.

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