This article is to respond to Ernest’s question on how to improve on our telephone etiquette.
The telephone is often the first point of contact for most businesses yet many people seem to ignore its importance.
It is a customer service tool that is necessary not only with existing clients but most especially for potential customers. It doesn’t matter whether the caller is a new customer or an established one, how the phone is answered and how the caller is handled should be done in a professional manner.
The last time I called a certain big company in town; I had a first impression that I had dialed a wrong number. It was just a “hello” without any greeting. I could barely hear the person’s voice.
There was no enthusiasm in the person’s voice. Strangely, I felt that the service person was irritated and busy doing hundred other things at the same time.
Excellent customer service is about creating a good first impression by making your callers feel welcome, excited and valued through the phone.
Today, as we very often use our mobile phones for our businesses, we need to be extra careful when responding to calls with numbers we do not know; the callers might be potential customers who will straight away form a first impression of ourselves and our businesses.
Phone answering skills are therefore critical for all and at all times. The following tips will ensure that your callers know they are dealing with a winning and professional business:
1) Make sure all incoming phone calls are answered before the third ring.
2) While answering, be warm, enthusiastic and smiling. Your voice at the end of the telephone line is often the only impression of your company a caller will get. Smile can be heard on the phone and it creates a warmer impression of friendliness. It really does make a huge difference.
3) Welcome all your callers courteously and identify yourself and your organization. Identifying your organization makes the caller feel straight away that he is at the right organization. Say, for instance, “SHEI Consulting Good morning, how may I help you?”
4) Articulate distinctly with enough volume the words you use on the phone so that they can be understood. Remember on the telephone, a message is understood by 80 percent by your intonation and 15 percent by your words. Your voice here is the most powerful tool. As the caller doesn’t see you directly, your voice makes him imagine who you are.
5) Control your language when answering the phone. Don’t use slang or jargon. Your callers don’t understand your technical words used in your area of business.
6) Write down telephone messages completely and accurately. Our memory on the phone is shorter so if we do not write down messages, we might forget them rapidly.
7) Before putting someone on hold, let him know why. And don’t leave callers on hold for a long time without explaining the progress reports very often. Offer callers choices if possible, to either be on hold or call back.
8) Always thank the caller at the end of the conversation and wish him a good day. The way you finish a call is just as important as the way you start it. This is actually the last impression that the caller will keep of you and your business.
Don’t be in haste to hang up before the caller.
Remember that the telephone is a powerful tool that can market your business and services. Handle it professionally and always try to give an impressive conversation.
The author is a customer service expert presently working in Rwanda.