By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Keynote speaker; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training; Phone Skills Expert
I work with all kinds of companies, executives and staff. For whatever reason, there’s usually a group of folks who feel they’re exempt from telephone skills training.
And yet, one thing they all have agreed on is there’s always room for refreshers and good solid tips. So, without any further ado, here are some good, solid tips for everyone on effective telephone skills.
1. DO acknowledge all your phone calls. If you’re unable to return a phone call yourself, have it returned on your behalf. Not returning a phone call is like not using your turn signal – rude and sometimes dangerous. (Not returning calls also labels you as rude.)
2. DO place your own phone calls. Or if you absolutely need to have someone else place a call for you, at least be ready when the person you called gets on the line. It’s legendary bad taste to get a call from someone’s assistant and then be put on hold to await Mr./Ms. Self-Important.
3. DO handle delivering bad news yourself. Not able to deliver a product on time? Canceling an agreement? Best to give it yourself when at all possible. Having someone else give your bad news is what Telephone Doctor calls “distance induced bravery.” If you have a job that entails delivering ‘not so good news,’ learn how to do it yourself rather than passing it off.
4. DO identify yourself when picking up the phone. (Even when you know who it is.) “Hello” isn’t exactly a business greeting on the phone. Everyone likes to know who they’re talking with . . . don’t you? “Hi, this is Bob” will work just fine.
5. DO expect voice mail. Expect your called party not to be available. “Be prepared” is not only for the Boy Scouts. It’s for all businesses. Be prepared to leave a detailed message with full disclosure of who you are and how to reach you.
BONUS TIP: Leave your phone number twice . . . and slowly.
6. DON’T make employees lie to your callers by having them say you’re not there when you are. Or in a meeting when you’re not. FACE the music. Or better yet, TRAIN your staff to handle the call. “Sam is in the office; however, he’s unavailable.” Then they should offer assistance. It’s much healthier than fibbing.
7. DON’T be too busy to be nice. We’re all busy. Being busy does not give you carte blanch to be rude.
8. DON’T hide behind voice mail. It was not intended as a screening device or to warehouse calls.
9. DON’T use a speakerphone when picking up the phone on an initial greeting. Echo-y voices should not be the first thing a caller hears. If you need to use a speakerphone, always ask if they mind being on the speakerphone.
10. DON’T make a full-blown sales presentation on a cell phone while in the car. Too much chance for distraction; and of course, an accident. And do I need to remind you? Don’t TEXT while driving.
BONUS TIP: DON’T leave bad news on voice mail. It’s best to leave a message saying you need to discuss a situation about the delivery (or whatever). Leaving bad news on voice mail is again, distance induced bravery.