I was inspired to jot down my thoughts further to a call I made to a solicitor’s office today… and I have yet to figure out what his receptionist said when she answered the phone. As the caller, I wondered whether I called the right business. Meagre. Mumble. Monotone. That is not the first impression I want any of my clients or associates to have calling my business. This may sound harsh, but we as busy consumers, expect more – much more. Especially as business owners, we expect our employees to speak clearly, slowly and in a tone and manner that allows them to be easily understood. This is particularly important for mature/senior or ethnic callers who may have difficulty hearing and understanding.
So, here are some dumb-ass, easy-peasy telephone suggestions to remind you or someone you know on how to make and receive calls like a boss:
- Ok, you’ve heard it a million times – Smile before you answer the phone. Cheesy? NEVER! Your smile will be conveyed in your tone and in your manner and use a confident, cheerful and professional voice. It will also put you in a better mood.
- If your caller is one of the more “difficult” varieties, keep calm and take notes. It’s always good to pause before responding. If the caller is offensive, it’s ok to end the call and when you answer again, transfer up.
- Open your mouth when you speak so your words come out clearly, slowly and in a normal conversational tone. Seriously, as Aussies we tend to mumble and not move our lips when we talk. Remember that when a person can only hear you and not see you, what you say and how you say it becomes very important.
- Select your words carefully. Instead of “prices”, use “fees”. Instead of saying we will “call you back at our earliest convenience” (which sounds kinda pretentious and not in the client’s best interest), add “today” or a specific time to the end of that statement. Offer a more positive approach.
- Words matter. Choose words carefully or risk conveying an unintended message.
- Never eat, drink or chew gum when answering or talking on the phone. This is simply bad manners, and sounds terrible.
- Never use slang, poor language or curse – unless you work in my office! (just joking). Avoid the use of the words “yeah”, “yep”, “jus (sic) a minute”, “hang on”, etc. Instead say “yes please” or “no thank you” as appropriate, and “may I place you on hold?” Plain old simple good manners will never go out of style!
- Listen and transcribe messages very carefully. Remember we have two ears and one mouth for a reason – and it is extremely important to listen first to avoid having to ask for information again. Your job is to be focussed when the headset/handset is to your ear, or speaking to a valuable caller. Ask each and every person to verify the spelling of their name, even if their name is Sue Smith. You never know when that person will be Soo Smythe. You don’t have to ask them to spell their name, but confirm the spelling as you are taking the message. **Phone numbers should be repeated back to the caller to confirm that numbers have not been transposed.** If using a manual message taking system, your handwriting should be easy to read. Remember to jot the date and time on each message just in case it ends up in a file and referenced in the future. Also, just taking an email address down can help with understanding your caller’s identity.
- If you’re taking a message, help make sure the person returning the call is prepared well. There is nothing more embarrassing or frustrating than grabbing a stack of phone messages only to discover you have no idea what the call was about. If you’re transferring a caller, say something like “I’ll just transfer you to Kirsten now, however can I just give her a brief description/headstart as to what your call is regarding?” I love this approach, every-day-of-the-week!
- Patience and courtesy are sweet virtues. Most of us will experience an upset caller – don’t react negatively. Just listen carefully, take notes and get them off your line and to an appropriate decision maker who can help them. You shouldn’t try to solve the problem for them unless you have the authority to do so.
- Monitor and minimise the incoming caller hold time. I don’t know anyone who likes to be put on hold – especially me. So, make sure if you’re using on hold music or messages that they are properly toned and tuned in.
- Always focus on the caller. If you are interrupted, put the interrupter on hold, not the caller. They had your attention first and deserve to be served. If you work in a busy office and often answer multiple lines at once, you will have to put a caller on hold if you don’t have a routing system. In most offices, the phone is not permitted to ring more than TWO times before another team member answers the call.
- When you make an outgoing call, clearly identify yourself and your business. Instead of “Is Mrs Smith there?”, say “Hello, this is Kirsten Lowis from Zoom in Business, is Mrs. Smith available please?” Words!
- When you leave a message, particularly on messagebank, speak slowly! State your full name clearly, and if necessary spell your first name and say your phone number slowly and twice. Most people speak too fast on a recorded message, and don’t even consider the (often hilarious) translation of voice-to-text! Saying your phone number twice gives the recipient the chance to listen and write information down. Saying “zero” instead of “o” or instead of “double 2”, say “2, 2” – it can really help with conveying a telephone number clearly.
- Finally, keep your messages short and succinct. No one wants to listen to an endless message when inevitably all that information will need to be repeated when the call is returned.
I hope this might just give you a nudge to review your own voice message, listen to your receptionist answering incoming calls, or overhear your top salesperson working a deal!
Go for it!