By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Speaker; Customer Service Expert; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training
Ah yes, speakerphones. Conference calls. Lots of people on one call and so forth.
Normally, if it’s a conference call, all parties are aware they’ll be on a speakerphone. Sort of a given. But what about the random call where you gather up 4 to 6 folks to make a call to “JOE” and then you put him on the speakerphone and he wasn’t expecting it?
Here are some friendly tips for speakerphones. A few ‘niceties;’ guidelines, if you will. Reminders. Refreshers. Things you probably know already, but others may not.
Start the call ONE-ON-ONE. Use the handset to ‘start’ the call; then ask the called party if they’re OK with being placed on a speakerphone. When you make a phone call and start the conversation on the speakerphone without asking, you’re 3 points behind the 8-ball and those 3 points can be very difficult to get back.
Once the called party you need is on the line, ask if they mind being put on the speakerphone. And yes, it’s a good idea (and a considerate one too) to explain WHY you’d like the call put on the speakerphone. (Example: “Bob, I have some notes I need to go through in a folder while we’re talking, it’ll be easier if I can put you on the speakerphone…do you mind?”) (Or, “Bob, Judy and Bill are also in the room with us, I’d like to introduce you to them. OK to put you on the speakerphone?”) And certainly, if and when there are others in the room with you, let the people on the other side know who is on your side of the call. Makes it much easier. Introduction of everyone is a good idea as well.
Note to Self: Sending an email ahead of time advising who’ll be joining the call, with their titles, is a nice touch.
Note to Self: When you want to put a single caller on a speakerphone, ask permission. (Though as we said, conference calls are a given.) The chances are very good the caller will agree. They’ll also appreciate the fact you asked, without putting them on ‘display’ before asking.
If you’re NOT alone in the office, tell the caller that, too. Example: “Bob, I have Sue, Bob and Mary here with me to help in the decision-making process. I’d like to put you on the speakerphone so everyone can hear your thoughts.” (As mentioned, names and titles are also handy to have from the other party.) But be aware, if last names are long and difficult to pronounce, again, consider emailing that information ahead of time.
When you put the call on a speakerphone with others in the room – and this is KEY: It’s important everyone identifies themselves each time before they talk, not just the first time. Especially if there are more than 2 of the same sex or same name. Voices are often easy to confuse. Over the speakerphone 2 people can sound incredibly alike. If this is a ‘first time’ meeting with others in the room, it’s best to identify yourself before starting to talk. Example: “Hi, this is Nancy, Director of Meetings. Look forward to a lively discussion today.” No matter how many times Nancy speaks, she should identify herself each time if there are other female voices. (Same with males. Though the last name is not necessary every time.) If she’s the only female on the conversation with 5 males; well, that’s a no brainer.
Note to self: When there are several folks on a speakerphone, conversations can get confusing. It’s nice to identify each time you talk.
It’s a good idea as well, to have someone “head up” the conversation. Someone who can be in control when and if it gets too noisy or too much talking by one person. (Yes, it does happen.) Someone needs to be ‘in charge’ of the call. Might want to decide that ahead of time before the call is made. And you also might want to remind the people on the call to MUTE themselves if they are listeners only.
Note to Self: The more folks you have on a speakerphone/conference call the more confusing it can get.
In closing the phone call on a speakerphone, one person should take the time to pick the receiver up and thank the person(s) on the other end. Make your closure of the call an impressive one. A personal one. A good one.
Note to Self: Not 8 people yelling “bye,” “have a nice day,” yada, yada, all at once.
A nice closing might sound like this from a predesignated person: “This is BOB and from all 8 of us on this call from Telephone Doctor, thank you. It was a great call and we’ll be back in touch to follow up on June 9, as promised. Thanks so much.”
And while we’re on the topic, when YOUR phone rings, answering the phone on a speakerphone isn’t real customer friendly. Remind me sometime to share a wonderful story about a high level executive friend of mine who always answered his phone on his speaker and put everyone on speaker whether they wanted it or not and how I got him to stop.
Finally, consider closing the call by picking up the receiver and making it personal and friendly to create a great lasting impression. We never terminate a phone call on a speakerphone.