From a sells perspective there is one tool we use as an organization that provides us the best opportunity to earn business for the company. This is a smile. We may use phones to converse with customers, but it is our smiles that win the customer over. It is our primary tool. It is the most effective method to building relationships with our customers.
There are certain rules in properly using a smile over the phone, particularly with clients in the US, that will insure that the customers first impressions will be a good one.
Here are some of those:
1. Answer the phone between the 2nd and 3rd ring. Answering on the 1st ring does not give the caller time to collect his or her thoughts, but letting the phone ring too many times makes a caller angry. The long wait indicates the call is not important, or the company is over-worked.
2. Answer with a scripted, practiced greeting for professionalism and consistency. For example: “Good afternoon — Thank you for calling The/Studio. This is Suzanne. How may I assist you today?”
3. Ask the caller’s name and use it at least one or two times in the conversation. It builds connection between the two parties on the phone and also helps you remember the person. This is actually something I do when I meet a person face-to-face as well. I am terrible with names. This practice helps me remember the person’s name so if/when I meet them later I do not have to ask them for their name again.
4. Remember to say “please” and “thank you.” Being polite goes a long way in earning trust and building the relationship.
5. Listen actively and do not interrupt, even if the customer is complaining. Many times, the caller just wants to be heard.
6. Speak in a pleasant tone of voice. Smile and sit up straight – this improves your tone. Customers can “hear” a smile over the telephone line. They may not see the smile, but trust me they can hear the smile over the pone. Consider standing up and walking around while talking – this better fills your lungs with air and raises the pitch of your voice. I often was picked on because I always had a remote headset for my phone. People could always walk past my office and see me walking around my desk while on a phone conversation.
7. ALWAYS ask before putting a customer on hold. Keep hold times to a minimum and check on the customer often if the hold time is taking longer than two minutes. When you return to the caller, thank him or her for waiting.
“Mr. Jones, may I place you on hold while I check on your order?”
“Thank you for holding, Mr. Jones. Here’s what I discovered.”
8. Never let your personal bad day reflect in your voice or your conversation with your client.
9. Do not eat, chew gum, shuffle through papers or gulp beverages while on the phone. Personally, this drives me freaking crazy… Nothing says you really do not care about what I say than someone smacking on the other end of the phone conversation.
10. Avoid using speakerphone, especially in small spaces where the voices will echo. Speaker phone picks up many distracting noises and the customer is uncomfortable discussing his or her business to an unknown audience. A really issue when using Skype.
11. Know where your mute button is and use it if you have to cough or sneeze. Yuck.
12. Use the hold button when transferring to another employee, so the customer does not accidentally overhear conversations being held nearby.
13. At the end of the call, strive to have the customer hang up first. Psychologically, it is best for the client to be in control of the disconnect. Your client should never hear a dial tone before you do.