Phone etiquette is a dying art. In many businesses, the ringing of a phone is gradually being drowned out by instant messaging, Facebook notifications and online live chats with customers. But when a customer does call, it’s still important to know what to say and do when you pick up the phone, even more important because you’re speaking personally with that customer. And that personal conversation will leave a lasting impression. So, how can you make sure that it will be a positive one?
Smile! You’re on the phone
Here are five steps to make sure that the phone remains a productive – and positive – way to interact with your customers and keep them happy.
1. Know who’s calling before you answer. In addition to simple caller ID, with today’s phone systems and advanced voice applications it’s possible to actually identify a caller before you answer the phone. Being able to pick up the phone and say, “Hello, Mr. Smith. How can I help you today?” scores major points with customers. The ability to integrate your phone with your CRM enables you to know who you’re about to speak with before you pick up the call. You’ll also have on-screen access to their information and purchasing history at your fingertips, so you’re automatically ready to assist them.
2. Take good notes. You should be able to add notes directly into the customer's record using your CRM database. If you don’t have a centralized database to add notes to directly, be sure to have an old-school message pad and pen handy to write things down. This sounds simple, but you need to ensure you always have somewhere to record information you gather from a call, including the person’s full name, time and duration of call, why they called and their contact info.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask again. If you don’t hear something correctly, or if you think you’ve missed a piece of important information, don’t be afraid to ask the caller to repeat what they’ve just said. If they have to spell out their name three times before you get it down, it’s better than recording the wrong information and making a mistake with an order. People with difficult to spell or pronounce names are used to having to repeat them, so don’t worry about offending a caller by getting it right.To gain bonus points, if they tell you how to pronounce their name, listen carefully and repeat it to them to make sure you’re pronouncing it correctly. Then “sound out” how to pronounce it in your notes to make sure you get it right the next time they call.
4. Remember, every caller is your first. If you’re speaking to your fifth frustrated customer calling with an issue, remember that you’re the first person they’ve spoken to about it. While you may have been fielding complaints all day, the customer you’re speaking to hasn’t.
The best advice we’ve heard is to smile as you answer the phone, and don’t take things personally. It’s a lot more difficult to be in a bad mood even when you’re forcing a smile. If you’re having a bad day, or you have three other calls on hold, don’t take it out on the customer who’s calling in. If you’re in a rush, solve their problem as quickly, politely and efficiently as possible. And always thank them for calling.
5. Clearly identify “next steps.” This is the most important thing. Never leave a call open ended. Before hanging up, it’s important that both you and the caller have the same expected outcome, and that it is clearly defined. Even if you’re agreeing to call back later, make sure that is clear. This gives the customer some form of ‘resolution’ even if the problem they have called in about wasn’t completely resolved on the initial call. By agreeing to the next step, they feel you are working with them and are getting closer to fixing their issue.
The phone: It’s personal
Other than talking face to face with a customer, the phone is the most personal and direct way to interact with them. It offers a level of personalization and customer satisfaction not available via other forms of contact such as IM and online chats. Following the five steps detailed above will help drive customer satisfaction forward by making the calling experience a painless and pleasant one.
For information on more ways to delight your customers and improve business workflows, visit our website at www.vertical.com.