Many marketing dollars are budgeted to ensure that customers can reach businesses. Most advertising documents, such as letterheads, business cards, phone book ads, newspaper ads etc highlight telephone numbers in a most prominent way.
Yet very few training dollars are dedicated to properly answering the telephone. As a general rule the person responsible for answering the telephone has quite a few other duties to perform that are not always compatible with telephone answering. Most often the person designated to answer the phone is the first available individual.
In many businesses, it is not rare to see a huge reception area very ornately decorated to greet visitors and a receptionist, occupied with a multitude of tasks, too busy to properly greet visitors or answer the telephone properly.
When you look at the help wanted adds, virtually all those for receptionists ask for skills and qualifications that have nothing or very little to do with telephone handling. What will accounting basics; Excel, Word and or PowerPoint do for your corporate image when the phone rings?
Whenever someone calls a business, an image is forming in his or her mind as soon as the telephone starts ringing. When the call is answered that image is either positively or negatively reinforced.
Therefore a large portion of the dollars spent to enhance a corporate image can rapidly go to waste every time someone calls.
Call your office and experience what all callers do and then review the basic elements of the Art of Properly Answering the Telephone. How are you faring out?
The following are so basic that the tendency is to take them lightly and quite often ignore them. Reviewing them regularly and evaluating how they are being applied will most certainly prove to be beneficial. Who can really afford to lose a customer or a prospect by neglecting a few basic techniques and principles?
Your corporate image is always at risk. No matter how often a caller is being transferred, within your business, everyone picking up the line is responsible for its safekeeping.
Test yourself the next time you answer the phone and see how many of these elements you actually apply before you decide to consider them so basic that “heck, everybody knows that!”
To help you evaluate your performance, give yourself points or ask someone to grade you (Always =3, sometimes = 2, rarely =1, never = 0) for each of the following elements and see how close you come to the perfect 36.
1. Always smile before you answer the phone…
When you smile, you are actually sending a message to your brain that you are in a pleasant, congenial and happy mood. Even if it is not entirely true, your subconscious will actually accept this as a fact. This will affect your tone of voice as well as your manner of answering. Have you ever tried smiling and frowning at the same time? Ever tried talking to someone in a very abrupt or upset manner while you are smiling? You never know for sure who is at the other end of the line when you answer a call. Your entire corporate image is reflected on that magical moment which lasts but a few seconds. Your smile will leave a pleasant lingering image with your caller.
2. Always enunciate clearly and energetically your business as well as your name…
How often have you called somewhere and were not really sure you had reached the desired person or business? If your caller asks you to repeat your name, your company’s name, or department name chances are you answered too quickly or simply mumbled. Energetically means you sound happy to receive this call. The caller should never feel like he or she is disturbing you!
3. Always have a note pad and a pen that works next to your phone…
This is not only to take messages, but also and most importantly to efficiently take notes of the details the caller is unconsciously volunteering. It will help you reply properly and completely to the caller
4. Always interrupt whatever you are doing prior to answering the telephone…
This allows you to concentrate your full attention to the caller and ensure that you actually apply the previous elements. Multitasking is not always a good thing and can actually be most impolite. How can you actually listen properly and take valuable notes if you are doing other things? Would you neglect a customer standing in front of you?
Your caller can’t see you, but he or she can certainly feel they don’t have your full attention.
5. Always remain courteous, polite and professional – NO MATTER WHAT…
If your caller is upset or in a bad mood, your chances of turning things around in your favor are much greater in you remain courteous, polite and professional. We all know that it never pays to argue with a customer. Treat all callers as your most valuable customers. Never loose sight of the fact that chances are the caller does not need you, but rather needs your products or services.
6. Always identify yourself and or company…
Answering the phone with a simple hello! or good day! is definitely not enough. The caller should know whom he or she is talking to without having to ask. Isn’t it easier to engage in a friendly conversation when you know whom you are talking to? Don’t you find it frustrating to realize that you have been talking to the wrong person or have been connected to the wrong department and realize that you will need to repeat everything all over again? A pure waste of time for everyone involved.
Try something like ” Customer Service Department, John Doe speaking, how may I help you?”
7. Always attempt to get the name of the caller and use it as often as you can during the conversation…
This will allow you to establish an instantaneous and usually more pleasant relationship with the caller. It will further help you retain the person’s name, which to most people is the sweetest sound in the world. What a great habit to develop!
8. Always listen attentively…
Most people will usually share more information than is actually necessary. In listening attentively you will gather much needed information to better serve as well as better connect with the caller. This never fails to impress. Everyone loves to feel listened to.
9. Always validate the information you have just received before you answer any questions…
In validating the information first, you are ensuring that you are actually catering to the caller’s needs and or concerns. Furthermore, it proves that you were listening and eliminates potential misunderstandings.
10. Always ask questions rather than interpret…
Never assume! Unless you are 100% certain what the caller is talking about or saying, ask as many questions as you need to.
11. Always check with the caller every 20 to 60 seconds when you place them on hold…
We have all experienced those moments when we hang up out of frustration because no one gets back on the line. The caller might have decided to hold but then changes his or her mind and now would like to either leave a message or be transferred to someone else.
12. Always offer to call back or take a message after checking the third time…
Even when the caller decides to keep on holding, You never know when he or she will change their mind.
How well have you done? TOTAL POINTS ______