You’re at your office desk, Outlook open on your desktop; emails are popping in every 7 minutes or so – you’re on track, things are running smoothly. Heck, you even have WhatsApp open on your computer; you keep in touch with your family and friends without having to touch your phone… your boss will never know. And then the phone rings; and it’s not Sarah from the downstairs office asking you what you’ll be grabbing for lunch. Alert, alert… it’s an external call.You’re at your office desk, Outlook open on your desktop; emails are popping in every 7 minutes or so – you’re on track, things are running smoothly. Heck, you even have WhatsApp open on your computer; you keep in touch with your family and friends without having to touch your phone… your boss will never know. And then the phone rings; and it’s not Sarah from the downstairs office asking you what you’ll be grabbing for lunch. Alert, alert… it’s an external call.
Panic, reluctancy and a little bit of attitude fly your way. “Why couldn’t they send me an email?” you think to yourself as you pick up the phone and fumble through an awkward conversation your millennial mind has no capacity to follow through on. Relief strikes as soon as it’s over but you quickly notice your manager peering over your shoulder – wondering what on Earth you’ve just shared with a potential client. It’s time to brush up on your business phone call skills;
Here are 12 tips on how to answer every work-related call professionally:
1 – Pick up on the second ring
This might sound like a strange one; but answering a call too quickly can catch the client by surprise while delaying your connection is usually considered rude; but more importantly, it’s really annoying for the user at the end of the line.
Finding that simple balance between speed and delay will make you seem efficient, organised and on your game. Most importantly, do your best not to miss a call – customers hate having to call back simply because there was no answer.
2 – Crack a smile when you answer the phone
Even though they cannot see you, the customer on the other end will know whether you’re smiling or not. They can sense it in the pitch and tone of your voice; this is what you and your managers would like to ‘sell’ to current or potential clients; happy staff in a happy environment.
Be sure to use friendly language too, but not too friendly – remember you’re speaking to a client not your mate.
3 – Be appropriate but tactful
It’s always to greet your customers, but the good old traditional “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” may not work for your international clients; so play it safe with a simple “Hello” – introduce the company you’re representing and yourself and offer up your assistance; for example; “Hello PhoneBox, Andrew here, how can I help you today?” Sirs, Madammes and other gender specific titles can also be avoided in this day and age – keep yourself out of trouble by keeping it general. Not easy; keep your cool and give it your best shot.
4 – Get your customer’s name on record
You’ve shared your details, the company details and all so now it’s time to get your customer’s name on record. It’s super important to get the right details as more often than not you’ll need to relay the information to another department or give the client a call back with updates or further details. You’ll want to address them correctly.
The best way to do this is by asking, “Who am I speaking with?” and then address them with their name immediately with the next question; “Thank you Clare; can I have your contact details too, please?”
5 – Articulate – no one likes a mumbler
There’s no need to swallow your words; the chances of you running through the conversation are slim. You’re more likely to repeat yourself if you’re not pronouncing your words correctly. Make sure you’ve got a good connection on your phone line – if not get in touch with your technical department to have it sorted out as quickly as possible.
6 – Avoid slang and too many fillers
This might decrease the level of professionalism in your conversation.
7 – Empathy is always key
Most conversations heading your way will come in the form of complaints, struggles or problems. Even though you simply represent the company and did not create any of the issues your clients are dealing with; they are still the customer and the fact is that your company’s service failed them in some way.
Even if you really don’t care about the problem; adopt an empathetic tone of voice and dig deep into the problem; everyone wants to feel like they’re being listened to – it will pay off eventually.
8 – Be realistic
While being empathetic your clients’ issues, don’t make any promises you can’t keep. Guaranteeing something that simply never follows suit will only aggravate the situation and could cost you your credibility with clients and your employer.
9 – Breathe and keep your cool
It’s a known fact that customers can be, at times, very, very rude to customer service representatives. No matter how arrogant or demanding your conversation might get; be sure to keep the informalities restricted to their side of the conversation only. Always be courteous and remember to breathe.
Being the bigger person will make you feel better at the end of the day.
10 – Hold please… really… again?
Avoid putting people on hold like the plague. It’s a cliché that we see in most Hollywood movies, angry consumers having to wait for what seems like days until they’re passed on to the next representative like a pair of hand-me-down shoes.
If this has to happen, make sure it’s brief and apologise for the wait, no matter how short it was.
11 – Ending on a positive
A simple “Thank you for calling” is always welcome. Asking if there’s anything else you could help the customer with is always a nice touch if you’ve just helped them sort out a problem. It must be said though, that if you’ve had a mouth-full of complaints coming your way; the worst thing you could tell a client is, “Is there anything else I could help you with?”
It might be better to say; “I apologise for this issue, I will report it to my superior.” This gives your client hope. Do make sure you follow through with this too.
12 – Let the client end the call
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to let the client end the call – never cut them off; they might want to share something else that you may be able to help them with. Professional business phone calls can be stressful, always remember to achieve within your limits and put your best foot forward with every call.