Telephone etiquette is a critical ingredient to making a positive first impression. Make sure that you and everyone else who has access to your clients by phone know and practice professional courtesy. A training session on telephone etiquette is one way to insure consistency and professionalism.
Make no assumptions—not everyone has appropriate manners. Whoever answers your phone represents the entire organization and its philosophy about customer service.
Here are some suggestions for what your employees need to know.
Answer the phone promptly. Every call should be answered between the first and third ring. In many instances the caller hears a preliminary ring that you may not. What you think is the first ring may in fact be the second. We live in a world of instant expectations. If you don’t answer the phone immediately, people assume that you are either closed for the day, out of business or simply provide poor service. Answer the phone as soon as it rings, and grab that customer before your competition does.
Identify yourself immediately. One of the top complaints about telephone etiquette is that people fail to give their name. Whether you are placing or receiving a call, identify yourself right away. No one wants to guess who you are or be put in the awkward position of having to ask.
Be prepared with pen and paper. People are not impressed when you have to search for pencil and paper. If you aren’t prepared to take information, perhaps you aren’t prepared to do business.
Take accurate messages. Because of voice mail we don’t take messages as often as we used to, and we fail to mention this vital step in our telephone etiquette training. If you need to do so, check that you have written the information correctly. Repeat the spelling of the caller’s name. Double check the phone number as well as the wording of the message.
Transfer calls smoothly. Most of us cringe when someone says, “Let me transfer your call.” We have visions of being passed around from person to person and telling our story over and over again before finding someone who can help. If you need to transfer a call, ask the caller to hold while you confirm that you are sending the call to the right person and that that person is indeed available.
Manage the hold key with courtesy. In most telephone surveys, people rank being put on hold as their biggest frustration. Ask your callers’ permission before placing them on hold and wait to hear their reply. Answering the phone with a “hold, please” and immediately hitting the hold key will gain you nothing but an annoyed caller.
Put a smile on your face when you answer the phone. Even if you aren’t feeling cheery, your callers don’t need to know. A smile changes the entire tone of your voice and is audible over the phone. You would smile if the customer was standing in front of you—or I hope you would—so smile on the phone. Fake it if you have to, but do it.
At the end of the day, ask yourself what kind of impression you gave your callers. Was it your best and your company’s best? Did you treat every caller as valuable? If not, remind yourself that there is no such thing as an unimportant phone call and that you are the voice of the business.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.