Your business’s telephone is its lifeline. Unanswered telephone calls can result in lost sales, and customers who aren’t treated professionally may decide to take their business elsewhere.
Whether you’re answering the main line or your personal extension, don’t underestimate the importance of good phone etiquette.
• Picking up the phone: Make it a policy to answer the phone on or before the third ring. After three rings, customers may begin to wonder if your company can handle their business.
Plus, when the phone isn’t picked up in a timely manner or answered at all, it can give callers the impression that your business is chaotic, understaffed or – even worse- has gone out of business. Everyone in the company should function as a back-up receptionist.
• Greeting callers: The phone greeting is often a customer’s first impression of your company. Make it count. Even hurried callers like to be welcomed with a friendly greeting.
Start out with a greeting –good morning, good afternoon or good evening – and then find out why the person is calling. Using the proactive “How can I help you?” rather than the reactive “May I help you?” usually elicits a more direct response.
Never ask the caller to tell you their name and business before you advise them about the availability of the person they are trying to reach. While you may need to know this information to take a message or redirect a call, the person may perceive that you’re screening their call or that the person they’re trying to reach is avoiding them.
• Putting callers on hold: No one likes to be put on hold, but most customers will agree to wait if they’re asked first. Ask a caller if you can put them on hold and wait for their response before you park the call. Even if a caller spends just a few seconds on hold, always thank them for holding when you pick up the call to resume business.
• Transferring calls: Depending on the nature of the call, several things should happen before a customer is transferred: Firstly, if they wish to speak to someone else make sure that person is available.
If they aren’t, offer to help, to take a message, or ask the caller if they want to leave a voicemail message. If you are unable to help a customer, find out who can before you transfer the call to someone you think can help them.
It’s frustrating for a caller to be shuffled around from person to person. Tell the caller that you’re transferring them, and state the name of the person who will assist them.
• Taking messages: The first rule in taking messages is to try not to take them. If a caller can’t reach the person they need to talk to, offer to help them yourself. If you can’t assist them, suggest that you can leave a message.
Don’t tell a caller why another employee isn’t in the office or can’t take their call. Just state that the person isn’t available and when you expect them to be back.