17 Terrific Telephone Tips
by Emily Huling, CIC, CMC
The telephone remains the most effective communication means following face-to-face conversation. Through voice, we sense attitude, emotion, and interest. Here are some tips to help teach or remind us how to make the most of this tried and true communication tool.
- Never e-mail negative news. Pick up the phone and call.
- Utilize a frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers document to assure accuracy and consistency in responding to routine inquiries.
- Respect customers’ time by preparing for outgoing calls. Create a list of questions or issues to discuss. Anticipate their questions or objections to be ready to respond knowledgeably and quickly.
- Use “I” instead of “you” when requesting information. “I need this information” sounds better than “You need to give me this information.”
- Take ownership of the call. Customers do not like to be transferred. If you do need to transfer a call, introduce the caller to your colleague. Do not place callers in voice mail without their knowledge.
- Use phone conversations to build and personalize relationships. Inquire about the weather, family, vacations, or hobbies. Look to find common interests.
- Be warm and cheerful in energy, words, and tone. “I’m so glad you called!” “We really appreciate your business.
- Pick up the line quickly. The phone should ring no more than three times. If you are going to be away from your desk, program the phone to roll into voice mail or to an associate’s line.
- Don’t sound like a recorded message. I called a person recently who answered the phone and identified herself. I hesitated a minute and said, “Oh, you’re alive!” She laughed and said many people mistakenly think she’s her voice mail message. That’s not a good thing! Answer the phone with enthusiasm.
- Identify yourself confidently. If you’ve ever been greeted by someone who sounded as if they weren’t quite sure who they were, you know what I mean. Using first and last name is the most professional way to distinguish yourself.
- Eliminate distractions immediately. Don’t try to finish something on the computer or read a report while you’re on the telephone. Half listening is rude and can create misunderstandings and extra work.
- Outgoing voice mail messages need to be current. Callers want to hear an upbeat, informative, and brief message that expresses accountability. “This is Emily Huling. Today is __________. I’m in the office and will return your call shortly.” “This is Emily Huling. Today is ________. I’m away from the office and will (will not) be checking messages. I’ll return your call ________.” For immediate assistance, dial _______ to reach _________.” (Include coverage disclaimer as appropriate.)
- Personalize the call. “What can I do to help you, Sally?” Calling people by name shows you are listening and makes them feel important.
- Listen well. Take notes, repeat back what you’ve heard, ask questions, and summarize the conversation. Avoid confusion and errors with good listening skills.
- Never leave the phone off the hook. You have no control over what your caller may hear. Always put a call on hold when you need to step away.
- Let the caller end the conversation. A simple, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” allows the caller to close the call. Doing that prevents the caller from feeling dismissed.
- Thank them for their business. People who do business with you want to know you appreciate their patronage. Tell them.
Emily Huling, CIC, CMC helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales, service, and leadership organizations. She is the author of Selling from the Inside, Great Service Sells, and Kick Your “But.” Visit www.sellingstrategies.com to learn how Emily’s programs and materials can benefit your organization.
Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc.
P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682