Call centers, customer service centers, and phone calls between business partners. In the professional world, we’re using phones more than ever to help us sell, connect, and deliver customer service. For customers or business prospects new to your brand, they expect a level of phone etiquette at work that you absolutely must deliver.
Whoever answers the phone for your business becomes a point of contact and a representation of your brand. Here’s a few guiding tips and strategies for phone etiquette at work.
1. Answer within three rings
No matter what position you’re handling when it comes to the phones, always answer within 3 rings or less. You want to be available to callers. Stay focused and answer immediately. No company wants a customer waiting on endless ringing or being sent to voicemail when you should’ve been ready to pick up and get to business.
2. Don’t wait for an introduction
After picking up, confirm with the person your name and where they’ve called. You shouldn’t answer, ‘Hello?’ because this is not good phone etiquette at work. Ensure a positive start to the call by letting the customer know they’re in the correct place. If they’ve misdialed or are speaking to the wrong person, the person on the other end will know right away and you can direct them, if needed, from there.
3. Who and why
If you don’t know already by the time they come on the phone, the first step to any call is to identify who is calling and learn why they’ve picked up the phone. By learning and acknowledging the motive to a phone call, this dictates how the conversation will go. Whenever you are answering the phone, there should be an underlying sense of urgency and sympathy in tone.
4. Be inviting
How you greet a customer on the phone sets the tone of the conversation. Communicate that you’re friendly, intelligent, and happy to help. Some people say smiling when you’re speaking on the phone makes a difference and they wouldn’t be wrong. If this is a customer’s first interaction with a company, a welcoming tone makes for an excellent effort at getting the conversation off on the right foot.
5. Be enthusiastic
Be excited to help! Being polite is a huge part of proper phone etiquette at work. If you need to apologize, don’t hesitate to do so. Look for opportunities to drop in powerful and positive words like ‘absolutely’, ‘wonderful’, and ‘delighted’. In customer service, you can’t be too helpful. It’s not possible! Unless this sort of enthusiasm will clash with your brand, be excited, be creative, and have some fun with it.
6. Match the caller
Speak at the caller’s pace. Match the way you respond to how they’re talking. If they want to ignore formalities and get down to business, go with them on that. If you’re with a customer with English as a second language, you may need to go slower and articulate more clearly. These efforts are to ensure you aren’t intimidating your caller.
7. Be confident
A productive phone conversation at work hinges on you being confident on the phone. A caller should feel like they have your full attention. To have confidence, you must be well trained and knowledgeable in what you’re talking about. If you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with advising them you will get the customer their answer. When you’re confident, you’re ready to handle almost anything.
8. Do not say ‘I don’t know’
‘I don’t know’. Those are no-no words in customer service. You don’t want to appear like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead, say something like ‘That’s a great question!’ or ‘I want to make sure I find the correct answer for you’. This communicates that you’re confident in being able to help the caller, even when you don’t know what the answer to their question or concern is.
9. Ask permission
Callers should feel like they’re in control of the conversation and they should be! After all, they called you. Let them take the lead. Instead of saying ‘I need your phone number’, ask for permission and say, ‘May I ask for your information’ or ‘May I please get your phone number’. Even when it seems unnecessary and politeness taken to the extreme, it still puts your customer first and in control.
10. Say thank you
‘Thank you’ goes a long way in showing appreciation. Try to use it throughout a conversation to keep the positivity going and to keep the discussion moving in a positive direction. Thank yous tend to reflect friendliness and can help bring a conversation down from an aggressive place towards something a little more peaceful.
11. Define the next step
In every call, make clear what the next step is. Whether it’s to book an appointment, to connect a caller to a sales representative, or to schedule a visit, your direction should be verbalized. By defining the next steps the customer is to take, you’re ensuring there’s no confusion on what’s expected moving forward.