In today’s world of electronic communications, like emails, Facebook, and Twitter—and a generation of employees who have mastered the art of texting—it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of good phone etiquette in your organization. The initial call can turn a potential client into a long-term customer, so it’s vital that your employees set the proper tone on the phone and professionally represent your business. Here’s a checklist to give all staff members to ensure they keep callers happy, from hello all the way to goodbye. (To view or print a PDF of this article, click here.)
Answering the call
- When you answer the phone in your business, you are the business. Represent it in a positive way by being interested in the caller.
- Always sound upbeat and positive. Don’t sound as if you were just interrupted.
- Smile, and then provide a sincere greeting that conveys you are happy to be receiving their call, such as “Thank you for calling __________. This is _________. How can I help you?” Customers can tell when you are smiling, even on the phone.
- If the caller doesn’t state his name, ask for it and then use it throughout the call. “Yes, Jim, I can find that out for you.”
Listening to the caller
- After you ask, “How may I help you?” allow the caller to talk. Do not interrupt. This is especially important when the caller may have spent several minutes pressing number keys or “talking” to a voice prompt menu.
- Immediately offer an assurance of help: “I’m happy to help you with that.”
- React to the caller’s words and tone to show you understand: “I see. I’m sorry to hear that.”
- Take notes while the caller is speaking so that you don’t have to ask the person to repeat himself.
Putting a caller on hold
- Always ask permission first, and tell callers the reason you are putting them on hold. Say something like, “May I place you on hold to check on that for you?”
- Come back and update the caller regularly, using one minute as an acceptable hold time.
- If you are unable to help the caller in a timely manner, give the caller the option of continuing to hold, or offer to call them back.
- When you get back on the line with the customer, apologize for the wait. “I’m sorry that I had to keep you on hold. I have the information you asked for.”
- If a customer is upset about how long they were on hold, don't argue. Apologize for any inconvenience, and move on to answer the question.
- If you must transfer a customer, don’t “dump and run.” Instead, give an explanation: “Let me put you in touch with [Person’s Name/Department’s Name]. He can handle that for you.”
- If appropriate, give the caller the telephone number or extension of the person or department you are transferring them to.
- If possible, stay on the line and introduce the caller to the person or department who can help, and provide the person you are transferring the call to with the information you learned from the customer.
- Don’t ever blindly transfer to a random number because you’re not sure of the proper person to handle the call. If you’re not sure, put your caller on hold and find out the proper department before making the transfer.
- If a caller thanks you, acknowledge this by saying, “It’s my pleasure.” Or, “I’m glad to be able to help.” “No problem” is not an appropriate response.
- Before you say goodbye, review the reason for the call, what you discussed, and what will happen next.
- Make sure the customer’s reason for calling has been addressed. Ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
- Keep your tone relaxed and friendly. Don’t sound as though you are rushing to get off the phone.
- If appropriate, acknowledge and apologize for any problems or delays that may have occurred: “I’m sorry that we couldn’t find the item you wanted today. I apologize for the delay.”
- Thank the customer and use the company name. Say, “Thank you for calling ___________. We appreciate your business.” Even if the caller didn’t become a customer today, you are planting a seed and sending a message that you want to do business with him or her.
Randi Busse is the president of Workforce Development Group, Inc., a training organization focused on improving the customer experience. For more information, visit www.workdevgroup.com.