Having basic phone skills such as answering the phone in a professional manner and greeting the customer is important, but knowing how to speak properly, listen to your customers, express empathy and maintain a positive attitude through-out the day will be key to your success as a Customer Service Representative or Office Professional. Below are 6 basic skills that will help ensure your caller is completely satisfied with the service they receive and that they hang up with a positive impression of your company.
1. Prepare for the Call
It’s important that you learn the features of your office phone system prior to handling calls as you do not want to practice on the customer. Most companies will provide basic training on how to use their phone system or pair you up with a more experienced person who can explain the features to you. It’s important to practice these features until they become second nature to you. If you’re using a microphone, hold it directly in front of your mouth. Save your eating and drinking, except for water, for break-time so you’re focused only on answering the call. Make sure you are sitting comfortably and have a note pad handy so you can take notes as you listen, to capture key points of the call.
2. Greet the Caller
You only get one chance to make a good impression, so formulating your initial greeting when answering the company telephone is critical. Remember, you are the first voice they hear when they contact your company. If your greeting is friendly and professional, the caller will begin to form a favorable and positive opinion of the company. If your greeting is unpolished and unfriendly, callers will form a negative opinion of your company.
Experts agree that the following initial greeting will make your customers feel welcome and appreciated:
- Greet the caller in a friendly and enthusiastic manner such as “Good morning or good afternoon”.
- State your company name. For example, “This is Office Skills Training”.
- Introduce yourself to the caller. For example “This is Mae Smith”.
- Offer your help. For example, “how may I help you”
Example” “Good morning. This is Office Skills Training, Mae Smith speaking. How may I help you?”
Don’t forget to smile before you answer the phone as this will be reflected in your tone of voice and will be great for maintaining a positive attitude, not only during the call but through-out the whole day.
3. Listen Carefully
Actively listening and actually comprehending what the customer is saying is a skill that can be developed with proper training and practice. Give your full attention to what the customer is saying. Take the time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate. Do not interrupt the caller at inappropriate times.
4. Speak Clearly
When talking over the phone, you’re unable to rely on the nonverbal expressions that are so important in face to face conversations. Therefore, speaking clearly and in an upbeat, positive and enthusiastic tone is extremely important at all times. Do not speak too fast as the caller may not be able to hear you. Remember to vary your tone of voice as this adds emphasis to what you’re trying to convey to the customer.
Your job is to be courteous, cheerful, polite, able and willing to show empathy to callers. Never argue with customers, rush them through a call or otherwise provide poor service.
5. Keep a Positive Attitude
Maintaining a positive attitude, both in person and on the telephone, is very important in the Customer Service profession. A positive attitude is the key to your success in your job and experts agree that maintaining a positive attitude is a choice you can make on a daily basis. While you may not have any control over many things that happen in life, you can, in fact, control your attitude by incorporating some of the following positive choices into your daily work life:
- Dress for success and smile while talking to your customers. Your attitude isn’t just reflected in your tone of voice but also in the way you look, stand or sit and in your facial expressions. You’ll find that your attitude towards customers may influence your own behavior as it’s hard to hide a negative attitude.
- Be Friendly and courteous to all callers at all times. Remember that you are representing your company and first impressions count.
- Try to reflect on your pleasant customer experiences through-out the day and not on the unpleasant, negative ones. You’ll be amazed at how much this will improve your attitude.
- If you encounter an assertive, angry, upset customer, don’t allow your attitude to slip and become negative. Take a moment to reflect on how this impacts your attitude and then make a choice to retain a positive attitude as this will make the rest of your day much happier.
6. End the Call Professionally
Ending the call is just as important as the initial caller greeting as this is your last opportunity to make sure the caller is completely satisfied with the service they received and that they hang up with a positive impression of your company. Here are some tips:
- It’s important to thank the caller for calling and provide a brief summary of the outcome of the conversation such as “Thank-you for calling Mr Rogers. Your order for overnight delivery has been placed and you can expect it to be delivered within the next 24 hours.”
- Let the caller know you appreciate their business. Example: “Thank-you for calling Mr Rogers. We very much appreciate your order and it has been a pleasure doing business with you.”
- Offer to help in the future by letting the customer know how to contact you or your company. Example: If you find you need additional assistance, please call us back at 800-333-1212.
- Say Goodbye but always let the caller hang up first. Example: “Goodbye Mr. Rogers. Thank-you for calling.”
References: Telephone Courtesy & Customer Service: Be Your Company’s Lifeline to Customers (Crisp Fifty-Minute Books)
Need to improve your telephone skills further? Take the Essential Telephone Etiquette E-learning course offered by Phone Skills Trainer on officeskills.org.
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