Phone Skills that Can Make or Break Your Business

Joel Goldstein - Monday, July 06, 2015

In general, “the rep behind the phone is the one that sets the tone.” When customers call, the phone skills your customer service agent displays are what forms the main impression for the client. You want to ensure that the impression is a positive one. Here are some basic tips for gaining phone skills that will effect a quality, courteous phone call.


First Impressions Last

First impressions do count, and they affect the tone of the entire call. First impressions don’t start from the greeting, they start from the ring of the phone. When should you pick up the phone? You don’t want to startle the client by picking up right away, yet you don’t want their mind to start wandering, either. The optimal time to answer is between the second and third ring.


Greeting Ethics

Your greeting is the first thing the caller will hear. Make sure they hear what you want them to think of you. Take a deep breath just before you answer, so that you sound energetic. Shallow breaths can cause you to sound tired on the phone. Introduce your company and yourself, slowly enough they should be able to make out what you are saying. A cheerful “Hi, Garen Insurance, this is Katie”, will make the caller feel comfortable and able to trust you. Adjust your tone to sound friendly, empathetic, and personal. Smile as you talk, as that will naturally make your tone friendlier and more enthusiastic. Plus, your client will pick up on it.


Your Tenor Sets the Tone

No one wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot. When customers call, they want to hear a considerate, friendly voice standing behind the company. You may be answering phone calls all day, but the biggest mistake you can easily make is slipping into an automated voice tone. This causes the customer to assume you are disinterested, unhelpful, and failing to grasp what their problem or point is. No matter what you say, your automated tone will slaughter the assistance you offer. Instead, work on answering phone calls with a blend of warmth, friendliness, and courtesy in your tone. Smile as you talk. Do people tell you your voice sounds monotonous?. Pretend you have to talk over a large crowd to make yourself heard. This will improve your inflection and make your voice sound more dynamic.

 

Utilize Empathy

When the customer calls, picture yourself in their shoes for a minute. What would you want the customer service representative to respond? For example, if you work for an appliance company and someone complains that their new washing machine is broken, ask yourself, “If this happened to me, what would I want to hear, and how? What would I not want to hear?” You probably would not want to be asked in an arrogant or accusatory tone if you put the detergent in the wrong place. You would likely appreciate the customer service rep commiserating for a brief moment before trying to figure out what went wrong.


A Sample Phone Call with great phone skills.

Ring Ring:

Katie: (takes a deep breath). Hello, Gotub Appliance, this is Katie, how can I help you?

Mike: Hi, this is Mike, my wash machine isn't turning on. I tried every knob, but can’t get it to work.

Katie: Oh my, that must be aggravating. (Pauses and takes a deep breath). Okay, let’s figure out what caused this to happen.

Mike: I already tried everything.

Katie: Mike, before we get really technical, do you mind checking if the plug is in the outlet?

Mike: OH. OH. Thats it!!

Katie: That's perfectly normal; it happens to the best of us.

Katie: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Mike: I’m good.

Katie: Wonderful, enjoy the rest of your day.Thank you for calling Gotub Appliances!


Notice the empathy that Katie consistently exhibited throughout the conversation. She expressed sympathy, used words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ to convey that she was on the same team as him, and made sure he didn’t feel stupid about his error.

 

Conversation Courtesies

The most crucial quality in a conversation is focus. Close the Solitaire game on your screen. Wear headphones if there’s too much noise in the room distracting you. Take out a pad and pen so you can write down necessary details. Listen carefully so that you don't have to keep asking them to repeat themselves. Concentrate on what they’re saying and what they really mean, and don’t be tempted to interrupt. Customers can discern whether or not you really hear what they’re saying, and an unheard customer is a disgruntled one.


The Call’s Conclusion

The way you end the call is the last thing the customer hears. Make sure that the opinion he or she finalizes then is a positive one. Again, firmly avoid an automated “Have a nice day.” Rather, thank them for calling, briefly summarize the problem you solved or the business you conducted, and thank them for their continued business. Saying “Thank you for calling Print Place. I’m glad we were able to help you resolve your printer’s error message”, will conclude the call with a sincere, positive tone that demonstrates that you listened and helped them.

 

Ultimately, the formula for a successful, pleasant phone call can perhaps be isolated to the following: Tone, Empathy, Focus and Personalization. Your phone skills are what will form the chief impression of the company for your customer; be sure that impression is awesome.

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