Last time we talked about the aspects of handling the telephone that related to your attitude. Today I want to look at a few techniques that will improve your phone performance.
This first one that comes to mind is that everyone that answers the phone at your company should use the same greeting, every time they answer a ringing line.
There are four essential elements in a phone greeting:
Bumper phrase – This just means answering with something simple like, “Thanks for calling”. The purpose is to give them a couple of seconds to focus in on the fact that you have answered and are about to start a conversation.
Identify Company – After the bumper, state your company name, so they know you’re the right business. Capiche?
Identify yourself – It should then feel natural to follow with, “This is Doug” or “I’m Sparky.”
Offer to help – Conclude the greeting by offering to help the caller. “How may I help you today?”
When you put it together you get, “Thanks for calling Robinson Training Solutions. I’m Doug, how can I help you?”
You might be rolling your eyes thinking this is a bit elementary, but I can’t tell you how many times I call businesses and hear stuff like, “Smiley’s…whatcha need?” or “Hello…talk to me”. Greetings like that paint poor mental images and won’t provide much job security for you.
Sometimes you just have to put a caller on hold, so try these steps:
Explain the reason for the hold and what you are going to do, including how long they might be in limbo. Ask the caller’s permission before taking action and offer an alternative if they prefer not to hold.
That might sound something like this, “In order to complete your request, I’ll need to put you on hold, so I can speak to the service manager, which should only take me about 2 minutes. Are you in a position to hold or would you rather me call you right back after I’ve spoken to him?”
That’s light years better than hearing elevator music with no idea when you might hear another human voice.
Another annoying part of a business call is being transferred. When this is unavoidable remember to:
Inform the customer that it’s necessary to transfer their call to someone else. Then, when the caller is put on hold for the transfer, provide the caller’s information to the one on the receiving end of the transfer, so the caller doesn’t have to repeat their story. Most callers would rather suffer a sharp stick in the eye than have to re-tell their “trail of tears” two or three times in order to get some help on the phone.
As you work to improve your phone technique, eliminate using insider jargon:
“Each GSO contains a teleconverter, complete with TTL metering attached to every CCTV unit. And of course, each f-stop carries an ASA rating.” Well, that clears that up. Company acronyms and insider language will be unfamiliar and frustrating to customers and often end up costing you customers. Make sure you speak in common-sense plain English that anyone can understand.
Often you will receive calls from irate customers, and when you do make sure to:
Apologize for the problem – This should be automatic and must be sincere.
Empathize with the customer – The unhappy caller needs to know you really understand their emotions.
Take responsibility for the problem – At this point, you are the company to the caller, so you must take one for the team and admit responsibility.
Offer to help immediately – You should be empowered to perform interventions and take action quickly on behalf of your customers.
“Echo questions” are great probing tools that help gather information without asking for details:
This technique provides you additional information from the caller by simply restating the last thing they said with a question inflection.
For example, if the caller says your guy has been there twice but they still have roaches; simply respond with “roaches…?” The caller will naturally provide more information, such as, “Yeah, this time they are coming from under the refrigerator, probably in the drain pan.” This helps you help them immediately.
Often callers who don’t speak English as their first language call you with issues:
Be patient and don’t rush them – They need a little extra time to translate your response in their head.
Don’t pretend to understand them when you really don’t, as this will just make things worse.
Fight the tendency to just speak louder. They aren’t deaf, they speak a different language.
After reading these last two posts I hope you have harvested a few ideas that will help you improve the telephone etiquette at your company.
How about speaking your mind below about customer service difficulties you’ve encountered and how you dealt with to improve the situation.
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