So much attention is placed on online communication that we sometimes forget about the importance of speaking to customers, suppliers and associates over the phone.
Whether you work in the customer service department within your company or not, it is likely you’ll have to speak with people over the phone at some point. The way your business communicates with customers plays a vital part in shaping their perception of it, so it’s important everyone in your company has good telephone etiquette.
Siobhain Goodall, from contact centre specialists mplcontact, has a few rules when it comes to conversing over the phone professionally:
1. Never leave the phone ringing
In this fast-paced world, it's thought most people will hang up the phone if it isn’t answered after the fifth or sixth ring. If the person on the phone does wait, and you take forever to answer the phone, you give your potential customers a bad first impression.
If you experience high volumes of calls, make sure you provide an option menu to allow the user to get transferred to the right person as soon as possible to prevent any further delays on their part.
2. Make sure you use a suitable greeting
In business first impressions mean a lot; something which also applies to phone conversations. Research last year found over a third of companies don't greet their callers - don't be one of them and ensure everyone greets callers in a suitable manner.
It's important everyone who answers the phone is consistent with their greetings. A simple ‘Hello’ is not going to cut it for inbound calls. Train staff to mention the company and their name so customers know they have got the right number, and also make sure your standardized greeting is polite and informative. Consistency is key.
3. Think about your tone of voice
It's widely recognised that your tone of voice makes up 38% of what you are trying to communicated. It can be especially hard to communicate with someone without seeing their face, so it is important to have a polite tone of voice when you're answering the phone.
There are a few easy steps to aceing your phone-tone however: Firstly, you’d be surprised how your voice changes by simply smiling whilst on the phone. Also, try not to rush when speaking and ensure you are sitting up straight – by doing so, you’ll generally sound like you’re ready and willing to assist your customers.
4. Try to minimise putting people on hold
In reality, you shouldn’t be putting your customers on hold unless absolutely necessary. If you have to, make sure it is done properly by always asking the person on the phone if you are alright to put them on hold and only do so for up to a minute. If the matter is going to take longer than this, suggest a call back and always follow through.
If it is a silent hold – advise the caller of this so they are reassured you have not just hung up on them. A better alternative might be to play hold music while your customers wait. Rather than mindless muzak, pop music has been found to make for the most pleasant hold experience.
5. Always listen
If dealing with an angry or frustrated customer, make sure you never interrupt and you fully listen to the problem. Check you have understood the key points the caller wishes to address, and demonstrate a professional and understanding approach, without judging or making any assertions of remedy or blame until fully investigated.
Call control is critical, and whilst the caller may want to vent any dissatisfaction, by confirming the salient points ensures repetition is not necessary and reassures the caller you understand the principles of their grievance.
6. Provide training
Does everyone within your business know how to use your phone system? You’d be surprised how many calls fail because someone is not sure how to transfer a call to someone. Ensure all new and current employees are trained to use the phones and are taught to follow the right procedures when speaking to someone over the phone.
About the author
Siobhain Goodall is Head of Business Development at mplcontact, one of the UK’s leading providers of outsourced contact centre solutions.