Here at Telephone On Hold dot com, we’re kind of “into” the whole phone thing – and we modestly consider ourselves experts on how to behave on the phone. We’d like to offer a few suggestions that we think will help you and your staff become more professional in their phone etiquette, and we know your callers will appreciate the enhanced phone experience, too! So get ready for --- thirteen tips for better business phone behavior!
The phone rings – but, hold on, before you answer it, you should keep a few things in mind. First – get ready to give the phone your full attention. Yes, that means turning away from other work that you are doing. It helps to place your phone where you actually have to turn your body to answer it. But – here’s the second tip – be sure to have something to write with - and write on – close at hand.
Got it? Now you’re ready to answer that phone! Tip three – before you pick up that receiver, SMILE! You might want to put a picture of something or somebody you really like where you can see it when you answer the phone. Trust us, the smile can be heard and felt over the line – and smiling actually does change your own attitude about the call, too!
Tip four – answer the call in a timely fashion, by the second or third ring. There’s really no excuse for eating, slurping your coffee, or smacking gum while you are answering a business telephone. Tip five - when you answer, be professional and respectful to the caller, and use a pleasant tone of voice. Remember that smile! The caller is a “guest” in your telephone home – make them feel their call is welcome! Greet the caller warmly, and identify yourself and your department. Ask “How may I help you today?”
Tip six – During the call, focus your attention on the caller, and use their name during the conversation. Speak in a pleasant, calm, voice and choose your words with care, avoiding company jargon that to you seems natural, but that the caller may not understand. Articulate your words clearly and speak distinctly, especially when providing detailed information to the caller. Ask if they would like anything repeated, clarified or explained further. Ask “Have I answered all your questions? Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
Tip seven – here’s where we come in! If you must leave the caller to research a question or to answer another call, don’t leave the line open. Say “May I place you on hold for a moment?” and assure them that you will return shortly. Then place the caller on hold to enjoy our wonderful custom On-Hold program until you return. Learn all about our on-hold services at Telephone On Hold dot com.
Tip eight – master your phone system. Make sure that you know how to transfer calls, put people on hold, send them to voicemail, and return to the callers efficiently. Practice makes perfect!
Tip nine – when you can’t answer a question, or the question is outside your area of expertise, please don’t say “I’m JUST the receptionist, clerk, etc.” Your job is important! You ARE the receptionist, clerk, etc – you are not JUST anything. Value your job and your own place in the company, and command the respect you deserve. When transferring calls, say “Let me connect you with (name) at (extension number), who can help you with that.” Explain to the coworker receiving the call as much as you can about the problem or question, and introduce the caller before releasing the call to them.
Tip ten – When ending a call, restate any follow-up that is expected by you or the caller. Here’s a good place to SMILE again – and thank the caller for calling. Invite them to call again with any problems or questions you can help resolve.
Tip eleven – If your phone offers voicemail, learn how to transfer calls to your coworkers’ voicemail, and make sure you reply to your own, too! Remember to ask the caller if they would like to be transferred to voicemail – some callers view voicemail as the graveyard for unanswered calls. Reassure the caller that your coworker will receive and reply to the voicemail in a timely manner – and make sure they do! If the call is urgent, follow up with an email or text to your coworker to let them know they have an urgent call waiting for a reply. If you need to take a message instead, let the caller know how long the person will be unavailable and when they may expect a return call. Assure the person that you will deliver the message immediately, and do so as soon as you hang up. Clearly write down the name of the caller (ask for spelling if it’s an unusual name), the phone number where they prefer to be reached, and a time that will be convenient to return the call. Include a short message and read it back to the caller to make sure you’ve understood what they want.
Complaint calls are nobody’s favorite, but they’re a dime a dozen in most businesses, so for tip twelve – let’s talk about how to handle those. First, take a deep breath – and just listen! Let the caller vent – don’t overreact and get defensive. Remember, no matter what they say, they are not angry with you. They just want a problem resolved. Assure them that you are there to help, and that you understand how frustrating the problem must be. Admit that the problem is real, and apologize even if the problem is not your fault. Say “I’m very sorry this has happened,” and mean it. Sincerity is important. Your sympathetic tone will help your angry customer calm down. You are on their side! Let them know that you are as anxious as they are to find a solution to the problem.
Next – be positive that a solution is available, and that you are going to resolve the problem. Don’t blame anyone – the caller, yourself, or anyone you work with, and don’t make excuses. The important thing is to address the solution to the problem, not the cause.
Finally, talk about some solutions to the problem that you can both agree on, or ask what you can do to resolve the problem for them. What will make them happy? If it’s reasonable, do it – if not, explain why not, and suggest an acceptable compromise. If possible, offer some alternative solutions – would you prefer this, or this? Having a choice of outcomes gives the caller a feeling that they were a part of the solution, and restores their self-esteem. It’s embarrassing to complain, especially if they’ve been loud and annoying! Most angry people are normally very nice. They want to end the call feeling like they’ve come to an agreement, and that everyone is on good terms again. You don’t want them going away feeling ashamed that they called, and reluctant to do business with you ever again. Empower them with a part in the solution, and you’re on the same team again.
If you just can’t solve the problem, and the caller insists on talking to “someone who knows something,” or “your supervisor,” go ahead and transfer them on up the line. Once they’ve vented to you, part of the problem has actually been resolved. They’ve calmed down and are more ready to address the actual solution to their problem. You’ve paved the way!
Here are some unlucky phrases that can lead to bad business phone karma – so let’s call these tip thirteen!
When your impulse is to say “I don’t know” – stop and say, “That’s a good question. Let me find out for you.” Let the caller know when to expect an answer, or at least some indication that you’re working on it.
Before you blurt out “We can’t do that” - take a deep breath and put a positive spin on it. Say “Here’s what we can do” and then offer some suggestions.
When you’re tempted to say “You’ll have to…” -- be a little less demanding with “Please help us by….” doing the same thing. Thank them for their help in the situation, too.
Anytime your gut or pure reality tells you to say “No” to a client’s request, stop dead in your tracks. Say “Let me think about this (or discuss this with my supervisor) and get back to you with an answer.” Then find some way to state the situation in a positive way. Explain why you can’t honor their request, and offer an acceptable alternative that you are able to provide.
We hope the thirteen tips we’ve just provided will help you and your staff impress your callers with your better business phone behavior! Remember, it’s really all about consideration and common sense. The phone is a valuable business tool, allowing you to connect in a personal way with your callers – that’s an all too rare opportunity these days! Don’t let poor phone manners drive a wedge between you and your most valuable asset – your customers! Thanks for listening!
Let us help you improve your company’s phone experience. Learn more at Telephone On Hold dot com or call 1-866-359-4653.
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