Your voice is the only means of communication over the telephone.  Watch your posture, the tone of your voice and facial expression as they all affect the way you sound.  If you slouch while speaking, your voice may come across as strangled, tired or   breathless.  To sound chirpy and interested, smile when speaking on the telephone.

The customer is not an interruption to your work.  He is the purpose of it all!

1. “Ring…ring…ring…”

Answer your call before or on the third ring, even if the telephone is not at your desk. Do not answer the call in a rush.  Take a deep breath before you pick up the receiver.  You will sound more relaxed and ready.  Check how you sound.  Nobody likes to listen to a voice that sounds grating, high-pitched or uninterested

2. Greetings

Extend a professional greeting with a cheerful and pleasant voice.  Just a ‘hello’ is acceptable at home, but not in the office.  .

When you answer a call in the office, it is your responsibility to let the caller know that  he or she has reached the correct company, department and person.  So it is only proper that you answer the company’s line with a professional greeting, followed by your name and your department’s name.

Example :  “Good morning, this is Joan from Accounts.” The receptionist manning the switchboard of course needs only to greet, announce the Company’s name before putting a caller through.  If you recognise the other person’s voice, use his or her name in your greeting. Use it again during the conversation and when ending the call.  This shows attentiveness.

3. Putting on Hold

Do not put a caller on hold without seeking his permission first.  Ask “do you mind holding while I get your file” or “would you rather I call you back?”

The golden rule of course is never to put long-distance calls on hold.  If you are placing   the call on hold for more than 60 seconds, explain why.

4. Multiple Transfers

Do not transfer a caller from department to department without letting him know what you are doing to him.  Tell him that you are going to transfer him to (person’s name) at (department) and if the line should be cut off, to call (give caller the extension numbers) the right department directly.

5. Do not screen calls unnecessarily

Some secretaries ask the usual questions like “may I know who’s calling?” or “what is this about?” to finally say, “sorry, he’s not in!”

6. Please call back

It is one of the sins of Customer Service to say “Sorry, he is not in.  Can you call back?”  It is your responsibility to take down a proper message with brief details for that person. So never ask someone to call you back.

7. Sorry, come again

When you cannot hear the other party, or unclear about what has been said, don’t say ‘huh”, “come again” or “I’m sorry”.  Say “I beg your pardon” or “would you please repeat that.”

8. Difficult Names

When dealing with long names or difficult names, use phonetics to help you remember   the correct pronunciation of the name.  Nothing is more annoying to the caller than hearing his name being mispronounced after he had already spelt it out for the person who took the message.

9. Interrupting with ‘Yes I know’..

Do not cut a caller off before he has finished talking.  Always listen to what the caller has to say.  Be patient with the slow speakers or callers who are not sure about what they want.  Use questions to clarify the caller’s enquiry or problem.

“If I understand you correctly, you wish to ……” or “Am I correct to say that you wish to   …….”.  Rephrasing what the caller is saying helps you understand his need.

10. Returning Calls

When returning a call, be well prepared or you will annoy the other party or end up embarrassing yourself.  Get to the point quickly about the purpose of the call after you    have announced your name and where you are from.

11. Acknowledgment

Avoid using words such as ‘yeah’ or ‘yep’; say ‘yes’ instead.

12. Can or May?

“Can I help you?” should be changed to “May I help you?”

 13. “How can?”

When a caller asked for something unusual or out of this world, control yourself and do not allow yourself to sound incredulous.

Example :

A customer wants his complaint resolved on the same day when it usually takes three     days.    Don’t say : “What?! How can?”  or “That’s impossible!”  Match the seriousness of his tone and say : “I understand how anxious you are about this.  Let me check with the manager and we’ll get to it straightaway.”  Even if the answer is ‘no’, the customer is satisfied that you have tried to help.

14. Mobiles

When answering a business call on your mobile, it is only professional to greet and mention your name.

15. Voicemail

Messages should be returned in a timely fashion.  Generally, a message should be returned within the half hour.  Some companies tell the callers that “your call is important to us” but makes the customers feel otherwise.

Some people are still not used to talking into machines.  It is considered impolite not to   leave a message when you reach an answering machine or a voice mail.

A short message like this will suffice : “Hi, this is Richard.  Please return my call at (telephone nos.).  Thanks”.

16. Personalised Voicemail

When you are going on vacation, change your personal greeting in your voice mail.  Surely, you cannot keep saying “sorry I can’t come to the phone now….” for five whole days!  Inform the caller the length of your absence and give them the name of another colleague to contact should they need assistance.

Never allow your voice mail to be full.  It gives the impression that you have not been at work or you just don’t bother.

Remember the golden rule – what you would not do to someone face-to-face, you should not do it to him over the phone.  This includes talking to someone else while talking to the caller, propping the telephone on your neck while speaking and munching away while talking.

Always let the customer know you are still listening.  Use ‘hmn, uh-huh, etc” to let him know he is not talking to himself.

Every caller is a customer; even your colleague from another department is considered a ‘customer’.