Used with permission of Joel H. Weldon & Associates, Inc.
Forget the research evidence, the dozens of pages of documentation and the years of prodding by communications consultants. Do your own survey right now. Pick up your telephone and call ten companies or businesses in your area that provide some sort of customer service, such as banks, brokerage firms, business equipment or insurance companies. Ask to speak to “a manager.” If you get through, explain that you called to evaluate their telephone techniques. Then give the manager a brief report, hang up, and record your findings.
Chances are your research will prove that the most common errors you encounter in telephone answering are among the “dirty dozen.” Here they are:
1. Letting the phone ring too long.
2. Not identifying the company name or department.
3. Inability to transfer calls properly.
4. Disconnecting calls.
5. Asking the caller to repeat requests more than once.
6. Leaving the line without an explanation.
7. Not using the caller’s name.
8. Leaving someone on hold too long.
9. Sounding like the caller is being screened.
10. Getting angry at irate callers.
11. Irritated or annoyed tone of voice.
12. Anything that wastes the caller’s time.
One major service organization interviews over 50 applicants before selecting the one they hire to answer their phones. They know that their telephone receptionist is going to talk to more customers than any salesperson or manager ever will!
In this day and age of impersonal voice mail, isn’t it even more important to invest the time, effort and money to ensure that your organization is making the best impression possible? Why not call your own main number and see what happens!
Here’s what you can do:
1. Have your phone answered with an unhurried and clear statement of your company name, the receptionist’s name, and an offer to help… “Hello, thank you for calling ABC Corporation, this is Debbie. How may I help you?” or “Good morning, ABC Corporation. How may I help you?” Much better than just “ABC!” And the “HOW may I help you?” not “CAN I help you?” promises the caller some kind of action or result.
2. Don’t leave a caller on hold for more than 90 seconds. It’s the most people can handle comfortably. They get fidgety after 45 seconds, so be sure someone breaks in every 30 or 40 seconds and explains the delay or what action is going on. If the delay is prolonged, offer to take a message and have them called back.
3. There’s no excuse for getting angry or annoyed at any caller, especially at someone who is rude or irate. Just be glad you don’t have to live with that crabby individual every day!
4. Smiling will improve your tone of voice immensely. A smile can actually be heard over the phone, so remember to smile—no matter who is calling!
© JOEL H. WELDON & ASSOCIATES, INC.