How to Win Friends and Happier Customers Answering the Telephone
Achieving customer service success all begins with strong connections established during one-on-one interactions over the telephone. Did you know that about 66% of all customer
communication still comes from phone calls? Also that 80% of companies say they deliver superior service only about 8% of customers actually agree?
These same companies may actually deliver superior service, however, just one bad experience can have a long-term negative impact on your business.
In fact, just one unhappy caller on average tells 16 people about their bad experience. When you consider that 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, it’s even more important than ever to create a positive experience right from the start.
It’s crucial to realize that everyone who answers the phone, from the front office to the top level, is a customer service representative. It doesn’t matter if you are a local restaurant, an investment strategy consulting business or you are selling furniture, no matter what business you have, customer service plays a large part in your success.
For many of us, good customer service is as easy as just using common sense however if that’s the case why do so many businesses struggle to get it right? In this article, I have outlined four key areas in which little improvements can make a huge difference when building customer connections.
Positive greeting to start
I understand the challenges people face answering the phone. The key for me is to have a positive greeting right away. Like a nice professional, warm smile that you can actually hear. Some people clearly don’t like their jobs or they’re just angry. My biggest worry is running into these people.
As a customer, I am just trying to find someone with a helpful voice, not someone who can make my day worse. Are you aware that studies show 78% of customers have abandoned a transaction or purchase because of bad customer service? These statistics are why it’s so important to make a good impression right away and answer every call politely.
Here are some clear tips for answering calls politely. Keep it brief by using a short greeting. Your company and your name, and don’t forget to smile – callers hear the smile in your voice. Ask the caller’s name and listen and empathize to build rapport. However, you may not always be able to help the caller yourself and you will have to transfer the caller to someone else.
Efficient call transfers
You know what annoys me? I explain my situation to someone and I think I’ve been very articulate with my problem and then they’ve passed me to someone else and I have to repeat the whole story, one more time.
Then, they may pass me on, to yet another person and I have to repeat again. This is where it gets absurd, and I feel like I am in a loop of repeating myself over and over again. It’s similar to when I’m in the middle of a sentence, and I hear “hold please” and then immediately sent to the telephone timeout. I mean to cut someone off like that is just rude, right?
The way we all handle callers and especially how we handle call transfers is often the difference between building or destroying a great customer experience. When you are transferring calls, always ask permission to put a caller on hold, and then wait for a response. Don’t say “transfer” to the caller. Say that you’ll connect them to the right person.
When transferring, speak briefly to the person receiving the call to introduce the situation, and be sure the transferred call is picked up quickly. Yes, there will be times when you need to take a message or transfer a call to voicemail. The way that you handle this could keep or cost you a customer.
We all have been there. I call, and they want me to leave a message. So I’m leaving my name and phone number and the reason I’m calling, and suddenly, I hear “got it” and they hang up before I’m even done with my message.
Don’t just palm callers off to voicemail, or if you do give me the option of taking my message, then sound like you are happy to give the assistance I need.
When taking telephone messages, always be specific about when the person who is out will return. Do this without divulging personal details, such as they are at lunch, etc. Be prepared to take messages with pen and paper or immediately on computer.
Always record the caller’s name, the time and date, and reason for the call and their phone number or preferred contact method.
Feel free to ask for clarification or additional details if necessary, and assure the caller that you’ll deliver the message promptly. End by repeating the message back to the caller, to confirm.
Handling annoyed callers
Unfortunately, not every caller will be happy and pleasant. They may be impatient but how you deal with this can change them from good guy to the bad guy, and quickly.
Firstly, when you encounter an annoyed caller, avoid getting emotionally drawn in. It is your job to stay calm. A calm demeanor and genuine desire to resolve the issue, is the key in defusing a volatile situation.
When you’re dealing with an annoyed caller, don’t take the complaint personally. Always listen and let the caller vent without interrupting them. You should then acknowledge the callers emotions, remain calm, look for an immediate solution and take ownership of the problem.
As a caller, I hate the feeling of being ignored or interrupted or bounced to the back of the line because nobody even knew I was there. The biggest thing about customer service that really annoys me is the feeling of being ignored. I understand that in a busy office it can get hectic with phones ringing and people coming to your desk for help, however, don’t panic, just work on prioritizing and keeping cool.
The secret to providing great customer service over the telephone begins with a simple commitment to helping people. When you keep this philosophy in mind, and that callers are not an interruption to your day, rather they are an important part of your day, you’ll be well on your way to building strong connections. I know when I’m consistently treated with great respect I’ll keep coming back. Good luck!
About Lauren Clarke
Lauren writes for a number of influential blogs and clients, across the globe. When not blogging, you can find her with a glass of Australian red wine in her hand, reading a book. Lauren’s recent work can be found here.