To provide great customer experience, it is essential to professionally communicate with your customers. One way for an organisation to deliver this, at all times, even when under pressure in peak times is to remember who you are, your tone of voice and how you want to be recognised.
We will outline practical ways to focus on your professionalism when talking on the phone, to help develop essential telephone skills within the workplace and represent your company in a positive manner.
The first and foremost action to consider when interacting with a customer is to make them feel welcome. This initial touch point with your customer will help to determine their overall perceptions of the upcoming call. By answering the phone in a friendly tone, this will encourage a positive start to the conversation.
Once greeting the customer, you should immediately introduce yourself, and your role. This creates the beginnings of a relationship and generates a professional environment from which to engage. The customer will be reassured that they are speaking to a real person.
Smiling whilst talking on the phone impacts the way each of us speaks. In most situations, listeners are able to identify when an advisor is smiling, and when they’re not. As customers are not able to see the customer service advisor over the phone, it is imperative to use as many techniques as possible to deliver a pleasant and positive experience.
Smiling on the telephone can also help to engage the user with your responses towards a situation. Therefore, by having a friendly tone from smiling this helps to set up the phone call as a whole. This can actively aid in resolving issues that may have arisen, creating a positive overall corporate image for the organisation.
When interacting with a customer, it is important not to frustrate them by minor issues, such as them not being able to hear your responses. When answering queries on the telephone you should practice the optimal level of noise, so your customer can comprehend what you’re saying with ease. This should be neither too loud that your customer is resorted to holding the phone away from their ear, missing essential information, or too low that they struggle to hear what you’re saying.
It is also crucial to say your sentences clearly, and not too fast. The last thing you want to do is confuse the customer, and leave them feeling puzzled with what you’ve been saying and feeling distracted. Ensuring speech is at a normal pace, and checking to see if they have any questions or would like you to repeat anything helps the customer to feel valued, and that you’re not rushing the conversation.
Quicker you pick up the phone the better
As an industry standard, answering the phone on the third ring is advised. This gives the customer enough time not to feel an element of the surprise and to throw them off by answering the phone straight away. On the other hand, letting the phone ring on will inevitably frustrate the customer and is likely to lead to negative feedback for the customer service section, and the overall business.
Use appropriate terminology
The main part of telephone etiquette is using professional terminology, to improve the full customer experience. Phrases throughout a conversation can include;
- “May I put you on hold?”
- “May I say who is calling please?”
- “I am having a little difficulty hearing you. Can you please speak up?”
- “I need to transfer your call to [department] so that they can answer your question. May I do so?”
Select the type of tone to suit your brand when answering the phone, and ensure this is consistent across all communication with customers. If you’re looking to be less formal, there are more casual alternatives, such as; please could you let me know your name? Or please hang on a moment, I’ll put you through. This is completely brand dependent and should be decided by the company in advance, before acting on site-wide company training.
Depending on the sector, if you are too formal, some customers may find it hard to feel comfortable speaking with you, but if you are too informal, this could also be as being rude – so it is great to find the happy medium to effectively communicate with your target audience.
Ensuring you have control of the call is vital so that the customer gets the best outcome in a timely manner. Allow the customer to offload on frustrating situations they may have experienced with the business so far, and be sympathetic when need be. However, to effectively control the call, it is important to find actionable solutions to resolving any issue they have experienced. This will put the customer’s mind at ease that they are being taken seriously, and any issue they have experienced will be resolved.
In alignment with the skills mentioned above, do not interrupt the other party at any point. Be respectful to the customer and listen to them when speaking. A way to reassure the customer that you are actively listening is through affirmations. Affirmations such as agreeing with the customer as they speak, stating you understand and following the line of conversation will remind the customer that you’re listening to them.
The hold button can sometimes be feared by advisors due to wanting to give the customer the best possible service and fear putting customers on hold can be perceived to be down to lack of knowledge or training. Hold buttons are great to determine who would be best to transfer the call to solve the problem. Before putting the customer on hold, always ask for permission. This gives the customer a level of control, and by explaining why they’re being put on hold removes any negativity and develops a level of transparency.
Studies show that 60% of customers believe that being on hold for one minute is too long and they will hang up as a result of not being kept informed. If you are completing an activity, such as retrieving a file or speaking to a senior member of staff regarding the issue, be sure to check in every minute.
If the task is known to take longer give the customer an accurate time frame and again and ask if this is okay to wait whilst on hold or prefer a callback. Most of the time, when being given a true time frame, whilst the issue is being resolved, the customer will not mind waiting.
Learn how to handle escalating conversations
As a skilled customer service representative, it’s important to know how to deal with a conversation that may be intensifying. Always be inquisitive to gain a holistic picture of what has happened to lead the customer to reach this point. To be effective at this skill, you must listen to the customer and be compassionate towards their situation, as opposed to proving that you’re right. When representing a company, it is necessary to be empathetic, as opposed to escalating the conversation further, but also to be knowledgeable and therefore offering reassurance that the problem can be resolved.
Conclude the conversation
When ending the telephone conversation, summarise the actions and if necessary the estimated time frame of getting back to the customer. Address the customer by their name and continue to stay polite and warm as the phone call ends.
An effective phone call can create a positive and long-lasting relationship between a business and its customers. In many cases, a telephone call can help to adjust their perception of the company whilst conveniently resolving a situation. Because of this, knowing how to answer the phone and telephone skills are imperative to business success.
If you’d like to find out more about outsourcing skilled call agents to improve your business’s telephone call etiquette, contact us today.