“Good Morning. Thank you for calling ABC Limousine Company. This is Mary speaking. How may I be of assistance?” said the friendly voice on the other end of the phone.
“I would like to speak to Bob Smith, please. This is Linda from LCT,” I replied.
“Let me see if he is available, Linda. Would you like me to let him know what it is in reference to?” she asked.
“I am returning his call.” I replied.
“Can I put you on hold while I locate him?” she asked still smiling.
MARLTON, N.J. — Every time I pick up the telephone and call a company, I make a judgment about them. If the person who answers the phone has a smile in their voice, is helpful and courteous and makes me feel as though my call is important, I instantly know that this is a company that has their act together.
On the other hand, if the person rushes through what sounds like a script and seems impatient with me, I think twice about using them. In both scenarios, the companies probably trained their staffs on how to answer the phone. The difference is only one of these two individuals actually got it.
In today’s economic climate, it is more important then ever to make every call count. If a client gets turned off by how your company answers the phone, they have plenty of other options. This is an ideal time to hone up and re-train customer service and phone skills. It is also a good time to add to it sensitivity training.
The economy has changed the world as we once knew it. Businesses are still furloughing key people. hose same individuals may have been your passengers. How your staff reacts to these announcements and the questions that they ask could create reactions that you may not be able to control. Speaking upfront on staff expectations when these types of situations occur may save you clients.
The fact that the CEO of one of your key clients is still using his private jet is his business and your team should understand that they are never to make a comment about it to anyone.
Every day common sense tips of phone etiquette
• Always answer the phone 7/24/365. We are in a service industry. Make sure the person who answers the phone is capable of assisting the client.
• Always answer the phone within the first three rings.
• Start by answering the call with a smile. I have seen companies who hang small mirrors with a sign over them that asks, “Are you smiling?” Body language and tone all come through your voice over the phone. You immediately hear fatigue in someone’s voice. Hire happy people and keep them happy.
• Script your staff on how you want them to answer but give them the freedom to make it sound less robotic if they are not comfortable with the cadence and the flow. I once had a boss who wanted everyone to answer the phone exactly the same. The script was so long we all sounded like drones. Be flexible here. As long as the greeting says the name of the company, sounds cordial, and identifies who is speaking with a smile in their voice, saying a script verbatim often sounds stilted.
• Don’t eat or chew gum when answering the phone. This should be obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people chewing in my ear on the phone.
• Don’t keep your pets in the office. There is nothing worse then hearing a dog barking in the background. Do you think they allow dogs at IBM in the offices? Do you want IBM’s business? Leave Fido at home. Your office is a business not a kennel.
• Hold only one conversation. If your staff is on the phone with a client, don’t allow them to have other conversations at the same time. The person on the other end of the phone should feel like they are the most important person in the world at that moment to the person answering your phone. Deter interruptions.
• Listen actively to the other person. Have your staff practice this. Repeat back what the person on the other end of the phone is saying. “You want us to pick you up at your home which is ____ address and then take you to the Newark International airport at 3 p.m. Is that correct?”
• Don’t do other things while taking calls. If you can hear keyboards clicking when you are on the phone with someone, it shows that they are not invested in the conversation. I had a boss once who, when I was speaking, was doing other things. I would intentionally ask her a question and then shut up to a pregnant pause until she realized she was caught and answered. It was rude and disconcerting.
• Don’t put anyone on hold without first telling them you are going to and asking their permission. If the hold becomes timely, go back on and explain the delay and ask if they want to continue to hold. Always be respectful of other people’s time.
• Before you end a call which requires an action, repeat back in detail what that action will be. If it is a reservation, repeat back every detail. With today’s reservation software, it easy to do this, yet many companies skip this very important step.
• End the call with a thank you and question if there is anything else you can assist them with today.
Your company is only as strong as your weakest employee. Your staff is your brand. They represent you and your client. A little bit of training and role playing will go a long way to tighten up your telephone demeanor. You set the tone though. Make sure you are practicing what you preach! Be customer service oriented.
Source: Linda Moore, LCT Magazine