August 3, 2011
If the majority of your customer communications take place by telephone, then consider this as your new job title, “Director of First Impressions.” It’s important for you to take complete ownership of your phone etiquette. It not only reflects on you, but also can shape the caller’s impression of your whole department. And impacts the organization’s bottom line.
Think about the times when you’ve dreaded calling another department or co-worker. Or the times you’ve called an organization only to be left with the feeling that the major concern the person on the other end of the line had for your call was to find a way to pass the problem on to someone else. You can most likely recollect phone calls that left you feeling frustrated or irritated. These situations probably occurred because individuals using weak words or expressions greeted you.
The language you use can make or break the quality of each call. There are certain words and phrases that are so weak or offensive, they can quickly turn off your caller and spell trouble for you.
Here are examples of weak words and expressions to avoid:
“You should have…” or “Why didn’t you…?” or “You have to…?”
These expressions sound like you’re blaming the caller rather than focusing on the source of the problem. They also tell your caller that you’re not willing to take ownership. This may cause the caller to think you’re being condescending and they will often get defensive. Rather than pointing out your caller’s mistakes, focus on what you can do to fix the problem by saying, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Let’s see what I can do to help you get this resolved.”
“I will try to get that to you.”
The word to look out for here is “try.” “Try” is a weak word that gives your caller the feeling that his or her request is not going to be handled well. It can also be interpreted as a lack of competency and professionalism. Be positive and prepared to commit by saying, “I will get that done for you.” Make sure, however, that you have the resources and authority to follow through on your promise.
This expression can make you sound flip or too casual. The more appropriate response is to ask, “May I put you on hold?”
“Yeah or Yup.”
Remember, you are a professional. The correct word to use is “yes.” You will sound crisper, more educated and actually friendlier.
“Uhh, umm, ya’ know.”
These are filler words that are often interpreted by customers as a lack of knowledge or education. If you are not sure how to answer your caller’s question, say, “That’s a great question. May I put you on hold while I find the answer?”
Even small lapses in proper phone etiquette can leave your customers questioning the professionalism of your organization. If they occur frequently, your customers may consider taking their business elsewhere. Learning proper business telephone etiquette is not difficult. You begin by identifying those words and phrases that are guaranteed to annoy customers and learning to replace them with words that build trust and rapport.