Dec 24, 2010

Top 10 telephone etiquette tips for customer service providers

A warm, helpful, professional and friendly voice on the phone can build customer loyalty, or if missing, drive them to a competitor. Extend the common courtesies to your callers and create a reputation of legendary service to keep your customers coming back.
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A warm, friendly, professional greeting including company names, dept name (if appropriate) and the person’s name who answers the call. It is suggested that the greeting end with a helpful statement that assures the caller you are willing to help.

Ex: ABC Shutter Company, this is Jon, how may I assist you?

One of the most important techniques in telephone etiquette is to actively listen to the customer. Listen for both the content as well as the intent. Usually the customer tells you both in his/her opening statement. By listening actively to the customer’s opening comments, you can then RESPOND with a statement that assures the customer you HEARD.

Customer: This is Mary Smith and I would like to speak with someone to arrange for an estimate on hurricane shutters. I just moved into my home here in Florida.

Service Provider: Yes, we can arrange for an estimate for you. I will be connecting you with Bob Jones in our Sales Department. Will you please stay on the line while I connect your call?
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In other words, walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. In the customer states: I don’t want to wait for Bob Jones, I’m on my lunch hour and very busy, besides, this is my 2nd call and no one answered in the sales department. Don’t you want my business? Pause for a moment to be empathetic and response: Yes, we do want to serve you, Ms Smith and I apologize for the inconvenience. Since you are on a lunch hour, I will find someone to speak with you immediately, or I will be happy to have your call returned this evening to your home. Which works best for you?

Although probing is not a technique that may come naturally to everyone, it is a required skills for anyone serving customers over the phone. Keep it simple and remember the basic open questions … Who… What… When… Where… How.  I have found the phrase:  Tell me more about…works miracles when trying to discover information.

Ex: If the customer is unwilling to wait any longer, then offer to have the sales rep return the call at a time that is most convenient for the CUSTOMER. Make the commitment, and follow up with the Sales rep to insure the commitment is met. If not, your company just lost credibility and possible additional referrals!

Ask permission to place a caller on hold and get the caller’s attention when you return. Most of us can remember all too clearly a time when we were placed on eternal hold and wondered if we had been forgotten. A simple rule to remember: call the customer by name when you return to the line and wait for her to respond, then continue.

Ex.  May I put your call on hold while I pull a copy of the invoice? To gain the customer’s attention when you return to the line, call the customer by name and wait for her response.

Ex: Mrs. Smith? (Pause for her to respond)...Thank you for waiting, I do have the invoice information for you.

TIP: if you know the wait time will be a few minutes, tell the customer before you leave the line. You will save on customer irritation and possible repeat calls. To the bottom line of a business, you could lose revenue and productivity.
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All companies have their own set of rules and terminology. These can sometimes be perceived as hot buttons for some customers as most of us do not want to hear quotes about what you can and cannot do from the company manual. Nor do customers want to hear your refer to a simple order as FORM 1979-M.

If you know you can’t do what the customer is asking, just tell him/her what you CAN do. There are usually alternatives that a customer will be willing to accept, IF you just take time to offer!

Since you are not face-to-face, the most important measure of good communication in this case is voice quality and tone. Keep it positive and enthusiastic. Remember, the image the customer has of the person who is answering your company’s phone is the image the customer has of YOUR COMPANY. Is it flat, monotone or upbeat and perky? Is it abrupt, indifferent or polite and empathetic? You want to hire NICE people to answer your phone who will be NICE to your customers.

Before the caller hangs up, make sure your customer service associate has expressed sincere gratitude for the customer’s patronage.

Ex: Thank you for choosing ABC. We appreciate your business, Ms. Smith.

Run an extra mile for every customer – every time! Take time to extend yourself in some way to make a positive, lasting impression on the customer. Maybe when you pull the invoice, you notice that she has been a loyal customer for 6 years… or perhaps she just moved to a new location. Offer to send address change cards, or send a thank you card in the mail for her loyalty. Be your company’s ambassador and watch your company flourish. Providing exceptional telephone service is nothing more than following “the Golden Rule” what we all learned as a child.



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