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Essential Telephone Tips to Deliver Great Customer Service

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 In an increasingly remote world, telephone contact is the only medium for 'human' interaction offered by many companies. Getting it right gives tremendous PR points, but, getting it wrong, can lose customers and destroy a company's reputation.

The image below shows real-life comments taken from the review site of a company in the Southwest. Not only do the reviews suggest a poorly trained team delivering below standard customer care via the telephone, but the results are indelible. The incidents may have been minutes in the making, but the poor reviews are publicly available in the long term.

As business professionals, we all want to be proud of the work we deliver. So, how do we avoid comments such as those listed above and instead use the telephone as a means to promote our company?

Below, we look at some essential tips to help you make the best impression possible.


Telephone Skills Tip 1: Understand your Business 

There's nothing worse for a caller than having their call taken by someone with no understanding of their needs. Understanding the business you work for, the products and organisational flow will drive caller confidence and help you to manage the call productively.

 
Telephone Skills Tip 2: Answer with a Smile!

Research has shown time and time again, that people can hear a smile through the telephone. For example, during phone calls, individuals can discriminate whether or not someone is smiling. How? Because smiling affects our pitch, intonation, and delivery. These changes may be imperceptible on a conscious level, but they certainly make their mark subconsciously.

As such, receive a call with a smile. Not only will this put your caller at ease, but the very act of smiling will also relax you too!

 
Telephone Skills Tip 3: Use a Professional Greeting

Demonstrate your commitment to professional customer care by following the three-part greeting format. This includes using a word of welcome, stating your company name, and also your name. This gives the caller immediate confidence that they are speaking to the right people.

Greet your customers with the respective welcome and their name (where this is available). For example:

'Good afternoon (insert their name). Thank you for calling (insert your company name). You are speaking to (insert your first name). How can I help you today?

If you work across cultures then be sure to greet people from hierarchical cultures with their title, (such as Mr or Mrs) and their surname.

 
Telephone Skills Tip 4: Appreciate the Value of Time

People in the West tend to place a great deal of value on time. Making customers wait too long is a sure-fire way of causing upset and frustration. In fact, the most common complaints relating to telephone care include the following:

• The caller was left waiting for a prolonged period as the phone rang out.
• The caller was redirected and left waiting again as the phone rang out.

The promptness with which a call is answered can influence the nature of the call. Callers left waiting while the phone rings out are more likely to be irritable when their call is taken – particularly if they are calling to raise a complaint.

Answering the phone quickly and efficiently demonstrates an investment in customer care and projects you as professional and competent. In the event that calls are forwarded, it's important that this same commitment is shared across the entire business.

 
Telephone Skills Tip 5: Actively Listen

A common error made by many people is to try and jump to a solution before the caller has fully outlined their needs or misgivings. This is a sure way to frustrate people and to limit the amount of information you have to go on. Avoid doing this and, instead, be patient and give people the chance to talk without interruption. Ask open questions to further encourage this exchange and to maximise the information you receive.

Once the caller has had sufficient time to talk, then summarise what they have said and ask if you're missing anything.

 
Telephone Skills Tip 6: Manage Difficult Conversations Positively

If you're responsible for managing conversations via the telephone, then you'll know that it's impossible to avoid calls from disgruntled callers.

A great way to tackle these calls is to keep calm and to demonstrate your commitment to resolving the problem. Show empathy by letting them know that you appreciate why they are feeling upset. Then establish the preferred outcome for the call and start making your way towards it.

 
Telephone Skills Tip 7: Avoid Scripts

Unless you work in a call centre with mandated, scripted responses, it's a good idea to allow calls to proceed naturally. Although there are likely to be necessary touchpoints, you should avoid standard responses at all costs as scripted answers are obvious to callers and demonstrate a lack of commitment to customer service. Anything other than genuine and sincere responses is likely to damage caller perceptions.


Telephone Skills Tip 8 – End the Call on a Positive

It's essential that your call ends on a positive note and that the needs of the caller have either been met or, that they understand the next steps.

If you have agreed on the next steps, then advise what will happen and when. To go that extra mile, it's a good idea to check that these actions actually happen on time. For a particularly challenging call, you may want to follow up with the customer to ensure they were happy with the action taken and to check that there are no outstanding needs. 


Telephone Skills Summary 

To summarise, good telephone skills can be the difference between a positive outcome (and good reviews), or a negative outcome (and negative reviews). The following simple steps will help you make the best impression possible:

1. Understand your business
2. Answer with a smile
3. Use a professional greeting
4. Appreciate the value of time
5. Actively listen
6. Manage difficult conversations positively
7. Avoid scripts
8. End the exchange on a positive

Individuals managing calls on behalf of a business play an incredibly important role. The way you manage a call can be the difference between a happy customer and one that leaves an indelible rant on an online review

All calls are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your company's commitment to customer service and customer care. When this opportunity is used well, you are more likely to see an increase in repeat business, word-of-mouth referrals, and positive reviews.

If you would like to explore telephone skills further, then enroll on our 'Effective Telephone Skills' training course. Our specialist training team delivers training courses across the South West. Whether you are in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, or Somerset, we have the expertise to deliver specialist, tailored courses on-site to your staff.


Our Effective Telephone Skills Training Skills courses are designed to help staff:

• Project a professional company image when managing calls
• Develop essential skills to help manage calls effectively
• Acquire the etiquette needed to deliver exceptional customer service

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04 August 2021
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