There have been so many technological advancements over recent years that have benefited businesses, from crowd-sourced funding for start-ups to time-saving ‘tap and pay’ with Visa contactless.
Social media platforms have revolutionised the way businesses communicate, interact and advertise to customers, while home automation is changing the way consumers make purchases online, without the need for a screen.
As we look to the future, virtual reality presents a unique opportunity for companies to reach their customers, and product delivery will become easier and quicker than ever. Amazon – which is already offering evening delivery slots in certain areas – has recently filed a patent for a delivery drone that responds when you call or wave at it! Yet, throughout all the advancements, and since its introduction in the 1800s, the telephone has remained instrumental to businesses large and small.
No matter what future tech is on the horizon, if your business or place of work is a service provider or selling products, the phone will keep ringing.
While it’s advisable to experiment and adopt new technology and practises to improve and progress a business, it’s important to master the age-old form of communication.
Phone etiquette – knowing what to do and what not to do when answering the telephone – can still be hugely influential to a business, so it’s important to brush up on your skills. Here we share our top tips.
1. Do find the right environment
Just as important as telephone answering is the environment in which to do so. If it’s an arranged call, be proactive and book a meeting room and tell colleagues you don’t want to be disturbed.
Some business phone systems are often set-up to forward unplanned calls through to mobile phones, which presents the possibility of having to answer in a noisy environment, whether this be a loud, relaxed office or out of office perhaps on a train platform.
Where possible, if you can get to a quiet space before answering, do so – ideally your office has designated ‘quiet areas’ for taking calls. If you have no choice but to answer, apologise for the noise and ask if they want to continue or would rather receive a call back once you’ve got to a more suitable location.
2. Don’t start a call the wrong way
Try to answer calls in as few rings as possible,after several rings some callers may get progressively more frustrated with each unanswered ring.
Sit up straight, compose yourself and smile when answering – this will add positivity and enthusiasm to your voice.
When you answer the phone, greet the customer according to the appropriate time of day and thank them for calling. This will put the customer a little more at ease before voicing a complaint or asking a question. Then, swiftly identify yourself and your business correctly – a caller shouldn’t have to ask if they have reached the right business. Likewise, make sure to take note of the caller’s name and address them throughout.
3. Do speak clearly and hold the slang
Don’t try to hide a regional accent, this will make you more recognisable and relatable to a caller but try to always enunciate clearly.
Concentrate on sustaining a regular and clear volume and pace, mumbling is more difficult to understand than accents are, while speaking too fast can be difficult to follow regardless of how eloquent the individual is.
Your business phone voice should always be a bit more formal and contain less slang than you would normally use (in order to come across more professional). Say “just a moment” rather than “hold on a sec” if you have to check on something and cut out fillers such as “um” and “you know.”
4. Don’t use the speakerphone feature unless you have to
Using a speakerphone should never be the first choice, it doesn’t give a confidential and private reassurance to the caller.
If using a speakerphone function is unavoidable (because multiple individuals are needed on a call, for example) then be sure to explain this first and ask if they are ok to be put on speaker. Explain who will be in the room with you before placing them on speaker.
5. Do listen carefully to the caller’s request and be patient
Ask the customer guided questions to determine how you can best help. It can be frustrating when a caller goes off on a tangent, but maintain good phone etiquette – listening is just as important a skill! Avoid interrupting at all costs as this will do nothing to help a newly developing relationship. It will be helpful to summarise what they’ve said and repeat it back to them to be sure.
6. Don’t neglect a caller on hold
Phone etiquette dictates you always ask the caller if they mind being put on hold before doing so. It’s reassuring for the caller to be updated every 30 to 45 seconds if possible. It’s important to not be too quick to place a caller on hold, give them chance to explain and do your best to resolve a query yourself first. If they’ve already had a long wait, in the call queue, then they will be hesitant to go on hold.
If you are placing a caller on hold, in an attempt to connect them to someone better equipped to help them, then use this justification.
If it looks like they will be on hold for a while, offer an alternative where possible such as “would you like to hold, or should I have X call you back?” and remember to thank them for waiting.
7. Do make useful notes throughout
When it comes to telephone answering in business, you never know who will be on the other end of the phone. It may be the best lead you will have all year but the appropriate person isn’t available to take it. Always have a pen and pad at your side and take note of anything remotely important to relay back or refer to later.
8. Don’t forget to confirm everything before ending a call
Regardless if it’s a new lead or you’re just taking a message for someone, make sure you check the information back before ending the call. Confirm spellings of names and triple check any contact information by reading emails and telephone numbers back to them.
After confirming, ensure to close the call professionally, summarise the nature of the call and the actions you and the caller (if applicable) will be putting in place to get to a satisfactory resolution.
Repeat when and how you will next be in contact with them, this may again present the opportunity to triple check that contact information and finally thank them and say goodbye more formally than you would normally.
Telephone conversations have been a staple for every business and this form of communication will be here to stay. As such it’s important that businesses have employees trained for answering calls in a professional manner, using the above etiquette that best represents and generates the correct leads for the business.