One of the very first classes we taught at Community Business College almost 18 years ago was proper phone techniques.
Why? It might seem so obvious how to handle phones that people don’t even need to think twice about it?
But, that’s part of the problem – phones have become so ubiquitous (one of our Words Of The Day), that they’re taken for granted and almost seem to drift into the background of everyday life. That means that a lot of common sense can be ignored, especially in today’s business environment.
We taught the class because employers told us that one of their greatest pet peeves is when a potential customer is turned away because of a louse phone call experience.
Is it still relevant? Sure is. We just posted today’s Frank and Ernest cartoon about phone messages on our one of our Pinterest boards.
So here are the Community Business College Top 10 Tips for Presenting a Professional Phone Image.
1. Speak Clearly and Slowly. Because speaking on the phone has become second nature, it’s easy to end up with words that run together. Speaking a bit slower than you usually do is a good trick top help you contemplate the words you are saying and help your listener absorb your meaning. Remember, too, that now some voice mail systems are transcribing what you say and sending it to the recipient via e-mail. Computers are notorious for switching words that sound alike. You don’t want to ask someone to “make copies” and end up having them think they have to “make coffees.”
2. Listen Carefully. The ability to listen is always a valuable skill but even more soon the phone. The secret trick here is to repeat information back to the other speaker when they ask you questions or when you are taking a message. Not only does it mean the message is clearer, but you’ll sound smarter to the person on the other end of the line.
3. Don’t Get Distracted. This tip is a corollary to #2. It’s easy to think of phone calls as less important than a personal visit and to start doing other things while the person is talking. Some cell phones these days let you play games. Avoid this temptation. The mind cannot have two masters: it will love one and despise the other with sometimes embarrassing results (i.e. “huh? What did you just say…I missed it”).
4. Keep Your Listener In The Loop. Need to place callers on hold? Ask first. Let them know why and what you are doing. If the hold is longer than you thought, pick up the phone and keep the caller informed. If the hold goes on longer, don’t hesitate to inform your caller and give the choice of holding longer or receiving a call back. The trick is to think of it this way – how long would you care to hold if you were on the other end. The Golden Rule works on the phone as well.
5. Be Concise. Keep phone calls brief and to the point. Try not to get side tracked. Each phone call, whether you are the caller or the receiver, has a point. Try to always come back to the point to make sure the business gets done. This can also be a timesaver because you won’t need as many follow-up calls to cover what you missed in the first call. The trick is to jot down the goals of the call and keep referring to that note as the phone call progresses.
Office machines may one day make phone calls and message obsolete but there are still millions of phone calls to take place before that happens.
Want to learn more? Take an office skills class from a professional instructor. Or brush up on a quick customer service phone skills course. Classes are now online for the convenience of our students, especially working adults with busy schedules.