Over the years I have come to rely on a few “golden rules” of telephone management. I hope you find these useful for your business, job, internship, or whenever you are dealing with a CSR (Customer Service Rep.) in your personal business, or even just ordering a pizza! Excellent phone skills should be used all the time in order to develop excellent communication habits.
1) Use polite words and intonation e.g. please, thank you. Yes it can get over-used here in Canada, but nevertheless, it helps set the tone of the conversation from confrontational to friendly. Politeness gets you further than shouting, regardless of what you have heard. Nobody likes a bully, and we are always going to assist a polite person first, rather than a raging bull!
2) Be sincere. Be believable and trustworthy. Faking it with just polite words but having a sour tone in your voice won’t fool anybody. They need to feel that you truly care, and are trying to do a good job, help them out or deal with their problem. You can’t fake it, so be sincere. Control your emotions.
3) Never demand anything or order anyone to do something. Always ask. Do you like being pushed around or subjugated? So why do it to others? For example, instead of saying “I need to talk to Mr. Roberts now” you should say “Is Mr. Roberts available? I would really like to speak to him.”
4) Be professional and diplomatic. Be “P.C”. That stands for “politically correct” which basically means not using offensive or judgmental language. This rule may not be as obvious to those from a uni-lingual and/or uni-cultural country. In Canada, you never know what the person on the other end of the telephone line looks like, what religion they may have, what ethnic background they or their family or spouse is (since not everyone’s’ accent will tell you) etc. Don’t take a chance on offending someone and embarrassing you and your company. Pretend that every phone call is recorded. These days, most are!
5) Remember that with angry customers or staff, it really is nothing personal. How could it be? They don’t know you! You are a “filter” for your company. You should problem-solve with the person, not just “pass the buck”. We all hate it when we tell our story to a person and then they transfer us to a new person, then again and again. No wonder some people get angry! So stop the passing and deal with the problem at its core level. Take some conflict management training if possible, or buy a helpful book on such techniques, especially if you know that your job will routinely deal with complaints.
6) Always be aware that you are a reflection of your company. As a new employee you should read your company profile, mission statement, values, policies etc. so that you are always aligned with the desired corporate image. It is important to note that customer loyalty is based on personal treatment and relationship, not the price, product or history. One bad experience from a CSR having a bad day can kill a longtime loyalty to your company.
7) Make room. When you are picking up the phone quickly scan your area to see if you are have room to sit comfortably and write. Also, ensure there is paper and a couple pens nearby, so you can take notes without scrambling for these items during the phone call.
8) Avoid distractions. Obviously you should not be trying to multi-task a handful of things while talking on the phone. Concentrate on the call, listen to your callers’ needs or complaint, and give sincere helpful responses. They can certainly tell when you are not paying attention or when you are doing other things at the same time. No one likes to feel unimportant. And how do you think they feel when they hear you tapping away at your keyboard, or fiddling with your keys? Ignored.
9) Silence is golden. If a person is calling to complain then often the best course of action is at first for you to just listen, and let them get the compliant off their chest. Most likely you are not the first person they have told this story to, and so they are in a hurry to tell you their story to a person who can help them solve it. Stopping them will only create frustration.
10) Be clear and concise. When you are giving answers, explaining policies and procedures, and when you yourself are calling a company for an explanation or delivering a complaint, please have prepared quick, concise statements. Do not beat around the bush or speak too vaguely. It does not help anyone. Be polite but be reasonably direct. Make your comments short and sweet!