Professional Phone Etiquette: Do Your Employees Know These Dos and Don’ts?
Emails, chatbots, text messages, and responses to comments on social media are now all part of customer service. However, nothing can replace a phone call when it comes to resolving real customer or client issues. Now, this is all well and good but do your employees know the dos and don’ts of professional phone etiquette?
Phone communication should needs to be on-brand. If your employees are working in an indie record store or the top office of a law firm – people are expecting a certain experience when they call. Your staff will need to be trained in order to make sure there are no lapses here.
Below we have outlined:
- The Do’s
- The Don’ts
- Tips for Improvement
It is part of your responsibility to ensure phone training for your staff is thorough and has an emphasis on getting it right for your customers.
1. Be Clear
Once you pick up the phone, you need to state your name clearly. We have all had the experience of calling a company to get the following:
The speed at which the introduction is made makes a huge difference to the listener. Speak clearly and leave a reasonable amount of space between each word.
When people call your company, they have a reason, so a simple introduction given at a reasonable speed is going to be ideal.
“Hello, thank you for calling (X company) my name is Sandra – how can I help you today?”
Sure, saying it 900 times a day can get tedious, but having to repeat it on the same call more than once means your staff hasn’t done their job.
Your staff will also likely have to end up leaving voicemails from time to time. Voicemails should be left in the same way, clearly, and make sure that they say the number where the call can be returned twice!
2. All About Them
Unsurprisingly, the calls your company receives rarely have anything to do with your employees directly.
These calls are all about the business and the caller. Your customer service team are like little bridges solidifying the relationship between customer and company.
The key is, you need to know how your customers like to be addressed.
In your files, you will likely have their full name, and prefix in your records.
Early on in the phone call, you can ask what they would prefer to be called. You can address them correctly for the rest of the call. FYI: this includes gender pronouns.
There is listening, then there is active listening – only one of them will help get to the crux of the issue. Active listening isn’t a skill that people naturally have.
Our instincts tell us to instantly jump in and help someone as soon as we think we know what the problem is. But when you actively listen, you tune in to what they are saying in a more connected way.
With active listening, you can catch the tone, the issue, and be able to better judge what the ideal outcome is for the customer.
When all of the information has been given, it should be repeated back to ensure that it is correct. There will be little if any, miscommunication with this technique.
Active listening is something that you should have engrained into your employees and benefits everyone in the long run.
4. Smile Through the Phone
And have a cheery disposition. If someone answers the phone and sounds sad or aggressive, they are likely to find the same tone reflected by the caller.
Tone of voice leads the conversation from the moment someone starts talking. As a business owner, you need to train your staff on how to keep a consistent tone throughout the entire call.
In some cases, callers get aggressive and even occasionally abusive, learning how to maintain a cool head and a steady tone can often diffuse the situation quickly.
It is also important to let your employees know that if someone is being extremely rude or using abusive on the phone, that they can escalate the call to upper management or simply tell the caller that they will call them back at a better time and hang up.
If you notice your staff is communicating at a high volume, you may want to tell them to lower their voice when taking calls.
If someone calls your business with a question or problem, they don’t want to hear a voice that is borderline yelling at them. It can come off as aggressive and is jarring.
On the other hand, talking too softly can cause customers to get frustrated because they can’t hear what the other person is saying.
We do know that some people are naturally loud, and others quiet. So this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Make sure that you work on having your staff maintain a clear and consistent volume.
The best way to do this is to have them train with someone who is able to maintain the right amount of volume on the phone
This one isn’t directly related to talking on the phone, but what to do with your phone in meetings.
If you and your team are often in the offices of other businesses, make sure the standard protocol is to have their phones on silent and tucked away for the duration of the meetings.
Now, if you are in the digital industry and phones are needed to present things to clients or do some quick math, that is acceptable but make sure the phones are still on silent and laid face down on the table when not in use.
You want to display that the people you are meeting are worth your time and full attention – so give it to them.
7. Encourage Note Taking
There is often a lot of information given really quickly to people who are taking calls.
Make sure that your crew taking calls always has access to a notebook and a pen at all times. They may need to write down essential information to pass along, and possibly go back over it with the caller before hanging up.
This one seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people are still scrambling for a pen and paper when a call comes in.
You can also take advantage of call recording technology. A lot of phone companies offer opportunities to choose additional features like call recording in custom VoIP packages. Call recording is super handy and you can ensure that you won’t miss a single detail of a customer or client call ever again.
Note: If you do opt to have call recording, you need to let customers and clients know that they are being recorded before jumping into the conversation.
Your staff member will probably need to put a caller through to a different department at one point or another and put the caller on a brief hold.
If this is going to happen, rather than just saying something like “Hold please,” make sure your staff is always asking for permission to put the person on hold.
This allows the person calling to feel that they are in full control and that they aren’t being told what to do. Placing people on hold without an explanation, or without permission can often display the wrong attitude – even if unintentional.
Not everyone who calls will have an easy to deal with situation, and your staff won’t always have the answers.
In this case, you should encourage your team to be honest. This gives them the space to try and find a way to resolve the issue, find the right department, or call in help.
It should be noted that many callers expect staff to know everything (and assume they are in the right place), so this should be handled with care.
Transparency is key. Have them show that they are working with the caller – this goes a long way towards finding a resolution without anyone getting aggressive.
There is almost no situation, other than a conference call, that people need to be on speakerphone.
The quality of the call becomes lower, there can be echoes on the line, and the caller might feel like they are exposed. The privacy of the call is lost.
Unless it is absolutely to have someone on speaker, don’t do it.
2. Chewing Gum and Eating
Although having fresh breath is nice, chewing gum or sucking on mints while on a call is a firm no.
In addition to that, if the call is professional, slurping a drink or eating lunch when on a call.
Make sure that you are providing your staff with reasonable comfort breaks so that they aren’t trying to eat falafel and talk to a customer about broadband issues. It just doesn’t look or sound good.
Doing this is really unprofessional, and a sure sign to the customer that there are more important things than their phone call.
While keeping a sunny disposition is useful, and laughing at appropriate jokes in fine, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
Using profanity or slang will paint your business in a terrible light, and it could easily lose you valuable customers. Callers are often trying to resolve an issue and will want it handled in a professional manner.
Now, if the customer makes a joke, it is totally fine to chuckle but your staff needs to remember that they are there to get a job done.
4. Hold On!
Most people don’t mind being put on hold for a minute or two, but there is a point where it will begin to aggravate them. Nine times out of ten placing someone on hold should not be required, but that isn’t always avoidable and varies based on industry.
When you do put someone on hold, ensure that you are going back to them at regular intervals to make sure that they know you are still working on their issue.
Just like in-person, people can tell if you aren’t paying attention on the phone.
If they are asked to repeat themselves often or hear chatting, it can be an upsetting experience for the caller.
Office noise and other things going on in the background can be a distraction, but the caller should get all of the attention.
How to Improve
Excellent customer service and phone etiquette will lean heavily onto how you want to be seen. Your brand reputation hinges on first impressions and experience.
If you don’t have the time to teach your staff how to manage calls better, then you can hire in a specialist, or outsource your customer service team completely.
Proper etiquette is a must, but if you want to bring your staff to a whole new level, the following tips are the icing on any cake.
When you first bring on someone to take calls, they may feel apprehensive and nervous but over time, they will start to relax into the position. In those first days, they may have some bad calls and that is okay, continue to help them improve!
You should also provide a wide range of recorded conversations for training purposes and pair new hires up with your customer service masters!
When you take part in a conversation with a chatbot, you are likely to have some sort of moment where they ask if there is anything else they can do. And, you will likely get a survey to click and say how satisfied you were.
Well, when your team is in charge of the calls, you ideally want to round off any conversation (even a stressful one) in a similar way:
Can I assist you with anything else today?
Yes – work through the next issue No – Thank them for their time and tell them to have a great day.
It is that simple.
Finally, it is often the case that people’s very first dealings with your company will be with your team who mans the phones and the experience has to be a great one. It is more likely than ever that people will leave an online review talking about the service they received.
You may have a rockstar team of people who already know how to handle calls with ease but this does not matter if calls are being dropped and the sound quality is bad. In this case, you may need a new phone system and we can help with that! Click below to learn more about our business phone solutions or contact the team at Lingo by calling 888-202-0056 and find out which phone system is right for your business!