Tag Archives: telephone courtesy

Telephone Etiquette is Crucial to Customer Service

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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.

Press One and Go Directly to Voice Mail Jail

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Stuck in voice mail jail

If you want to get a reaction from someone, all you have to do is say, “voice mail”.

I used to think that was odd because voice mail is one of the most efficient and effective communication tools we have today. Then I realized that for many people hearing the words “voice mail” means that they are about to find themselves in “voice mail jail.”  You know, when you dial the business number and a voice—not a live person—answers with, “Hello, you have reached XYZ Company.  Please listen carefully to the following options as our menu has recently changed.”  You’ve heard this before so you grit your teeth and prepare for an ordeal.

After listening to all the choices, you realize that none of them suits your needs.

You suffer any one of several different reactions . You might feel stupid that you can’t figure out what number to press.  Or you become annoyed when you have to go through the list again, wasting precious time while you try to guess which magic number will get you through to the person who can help you.

“All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers…”

Perhaps you didn’t have difficulty making a selection.  You picked a number, heard the line switch over and were told, “All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers…” You know the rest.  You hear that your call is very important and a disinterested voice  asks you to stay on the line for who knows how long until someone can get to you. My personal favorite of all the automated messages is the one that tells you that you are caller # 1. You expect some one to come on the line immediately.  Dream on.

In yet another effort to assist the customer without having to have any personal interaction is the option to bypass the menu and enter the extension of the person you are calling. 

The voice  tells you that if you don’t know your party’s extension, you can listen to the names of all 300 people in the firm and their extensions in alphabetical order.  This can send you right over the edge, especially when the person you are calling is named Ziglar. If you are lucky, you are told to enter the first three letters of the person’s name. What if you don’t know the name of the person who can help you? Sometimes you can press zero and go straight to an operator, but that trick doesn’t always work.

So what are customers to do? 

 Well, if customers have a choice, they go to the competition.  When they don’t have an option, they get angry or frustrated.  When they finally get someone on the line, they lose it.  The person on the other end now has an irate customer to handle and has to engage in damage control.

Why put your customers through this? 

 If you have an automated answering system, call your own business from time to time and see how you like it.  Do you really mean to build a wall between yourself and the people who keep you in business?  If people stop calling, it won’t matter what state of the art system you have, you won’t need it or your phone line.

Gone are the days when a live person answered the phone in most businesses. The automated systems save money, but are they worth it if they turn people away? What most of us want to hear when our calls are answered is a pleasant, “Hello, this is XYZ Company. Veronica speaking. How may I help you?” Finally, a real human being.

 

Photo from Savannah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author who works with individuals and organizations who understand that manners add the polish that build profits. Good manners mean good business. Lydia believes that It’s not about rules; it’s about relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

How Long Are You Keeping Your Customers on Hold?

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Waiting for customer rep

Waiting for customer rep

When your customers call, do they hear, “Thank you for calling ABC Company. Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and the next available representative will assist you.” ? While the customer is waiting, the clock is ticking.

Time goes by, and the caller is subjected to the same message over and over, sometimes there is some elevator type music playing in the background. More often than not these days, you take the opportunity to promote your latest products or services while keeping your customers on hold. By the time a representative comes on the line, the customer has your message or messages memorized word for word, and not happily so.

As I write this, I am on one of those interminable holds. By now, my clock tells me that I have been waiting for 15 minutes. What do you want to bet that I can finish this blog before a representative comes on the line?

What am I thinking at this point? Try choosing the answer that you think best matches my thoughts.

  1. My call is definitely not important.
  2. I am not a valued customer as they would have me believe.
  3. My time is of no consequence to them.
  4. This company is not concerned about customer service.
  5. I do not care to do business with these people ever again.

If you chose any or all of these responses, you are correct. This will definitely be the last call I make to this company.

And would you believe that:

  1. I have finished this article?
  2. More than 45 minutes have passed and I am still on hold?
  3. I am getting ready to hang up and never plan to do business with these people again?

Is that how you want your customers to be treated? If you truly value them and their business, you will staff your phone lines with enough trained representatives to keep your callers from holding for more than one minute. If your response to my suggestion is to say, “But that costs money,” then remember the old adage, “You have to spend money to make money.” If you can’t afford to spend money on customer service, you probably can’t afford to be in business.

Additional information on being courteous and respectful of others over the phone and the rules for keeping your customers on hold can be found in my e-book, Business Etiquette 101 – Telephone Courtesy

Photo from Savannah magazine

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com

Technology Has Us on Auto-Pilot

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send emailThis morning the phone rang. That in itself was a surprise since I am now more accustomed to hearing the little beep that signals an email message or a text has arrived as opposed to the sound of my phone ringing. I used to welcome phone calls because they meant I was about to be connected to a person. As an extrovert, I love connecting with other people. Yahoo, someone from the outside world wants to talk to me.

All that has changed, and I realized just how much this morning. As I glanced at my caller ID, I saw that the call was coming from my dentist’s office. I have an appointment in a few days so I immediately thought, “This is a reminder call.” Something in my brain added, “Oh yes, it is one of those automated messages.” So I picked up the phone and waited to hear a recording that would tell me the date and time of my appointment. Nothing happened. Silence. Then a woman’s voice tentatively said, “Hello?” Oh my gosh, it was a real live person calling me.

Needless to say, I was more than a little embarrassed. Fortunately for me, the woman calling with a reminder had a delightful sense of humor. When I explained why I had answered without so much as a “hello,” we both started to laugh. She assured me that this dental office does not use automated calls. How refreshing.

At the same time, how sad. How sad that we have come to expect recordings, text messages and emails and that when we hear the voice of a real live person, we are surprised or even shocked. We are rapidly removing all that is personal from our communication with other people. We take for granted, as I did today, that we are not going to have that “live” experience with another human being.

Technology has us on auto-pilot. While it may save time and money to use automation, what has it done to our ability to build relationships? Ultimately what is the price we will pay for distancing ourselves from other people? Are we now programmed to be programmed?

By the way, I could have avoided the embarrassment of that moment when I simply picked up the phone and listened if I had followed my own business etiquette advice.

First: When you answer the phone, always, always, always give a greeting followed by your name.

Second: Never make assumptions based on caller ID. The person on the other end of the line may be someone else all together from the name you see on your phone or screen.

To sum this up, use professional courtesy when answering the phone. Your reputation and success depend on it. Don’t let technology put you on auto-pilot.

Here’s to your professional courtesy,

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

Mouth Noises Over The Phone – Choose The Smile

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You may think that while you are sitting alone talking on your phone, people can’t see what you are doing. In this mad world of multi-tasking, absolutely no one feels comfortable doing just one thing at a time. We have to be doing two or three things at once or we feel guilty. So when we are on the phone, we can’t simply focus on the caller. We need to be checking email, sending text messages, shuffling the piles of paper on our desk, eating our lunch, drinking a soda, chewing our gum and cracking our ice.

Some people even smoke while talking on the phone. They sneak outside to the safe area for a cigarette and use the time to return phone calls.You know them. You’ve heard them exhaling. And how about the yawners?

All of those sounds and distractions are obvious to the person on the other end of the line unless you managed to hit the mute key. People know when they don’t have your full attention. They know if you have muted your phone.

To me the most offensive sounds are  mouth noises over the phone.  This is no time to grab your lunch, finish off those few potato chips, chew your gum, crack your ice or slurp your coffee. Not only are you not fooling people, you are offending them with your lack of phone courtesy. Instead of turning on clients, you are turning them off.

However, of all the mouth noises over the phone, there is one that your caller would like to hear. Can you guess? It’s your smile. People on the other end of the line cannot see your smile, but they can definitely hear it. Try it. Perhaps you don’t feel like smiling. Maybe you are having a bad day. Do it anyway even if it isn’t coming from your heart. A smile, genuine or fake, changes the tone of your voice.

When you choose to make mouth noises over the phone, go with a smile. It’s good manners. It demonstrates your attention to business etiquette…and it enhances client relationships which ultimately adds to your profits.

If you want more tips on telephone courtesy, I have written an e-book Business Etiquette 101 – Telephone CourtesyClick here to learn more.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.