Give a warm welcome. Be sure
to identify your firm, your employer or department
and yourself. In the greeting, let the last word
your caller hears be your first name. Here’s an
example of an effective greeting: “Good morning,
accounts receivable, this is Mary.” Each person has
a unique reason for calling, but all callers need
some kind of help. Forcing them to give you data
(such as account numbers) before they are ready can
start a call off on the wrong foot. Instead, engage
in a little small talk first—something like: “OK,
Ms. Jones, I can help you with that. May I have your
taxpayer number?” |
Sound cheerful on the phone.
Always use a pleasant tone of voice
when interacting with callers—even on the days you
don’t feel like it. When you smile as you answer
that ring, it adds a positive edge to your
Provide an explanation.
Typically, people don’t like to be
put on hold but usually are more reasonable when
they know why. Always ask their permission and
tell them what you will be doing while they’re
waiting. For example, you might say, “Could you
hold for a moment while I check your file?” Before
pressing the hold button, make sure they agree.
Be polite. Always remember
to use a courtesy phrase such as “thank you”
throughout the call, particularly when callers
have given you permission to place them on hold
and before you press the hold button. A little
courtesy goes a long way toward making a positive
first impression or maintaining positive client
Take responsibility for transferring.
Clients don’t enjoy being
transferred multiple times when they phone your
firm. Take the time to get callers to the right
person on one transfer. Accomplish this by serving
as liaison with a coworker before actually
transferring. Tell your coworker the client’s name
and reason for calling. Your coworker then either
can accept the call or recommend another person.
All the while the caller is safely in “phone
limbo,” unable to hear what’s going on. Once you
find the right person, get back to the client to
say to whom he or she is being transferred and
give that person’s direct phone number. Then,
complete the transfer.
Keep emotions in check. If
you encounter irate clients on the phone, stay
cool and let them tell you what’s wrong. The worst
thing you can do is to get upset and say something
inappropriate. While callers are talking, jot down
the facts and repeat them back when they finish.
Confirming the facts tells clients you were
listening carefully and helps calm them. Once the
caller has related the problem, provide ample
assurance your firm will resolve it and, if
possible, a timetable for doing so.
Eliminate negative phrasing.
Callers usually want to hear some
form of the word yes (“Yes, we have a copy of your
2001 federal return,” for example). Words such as
can’t, don’t or won’t not only
are forms of no but also may sound as though
you’re unwilling to help. Tell clients what can be
done rather than what can’t. They will accept the
information sooner and you will be able to move on
to another telephone call.
Fill the silence.
Sometimes during a call you need to
look up information or enter data into a computer,
and this may cause some uncomfortable silence
during the call. Clients can’t see what you are
doing and will sometimes fill the silence with
innocent chatter. You can help ease the wait by
briefly explaining what you are doing. For
example, say, “OK, Ms. Jones, I am looking up the
invoice right now.” Callers usually will remain
silent when they know what’s happening.
Don’t get lazy with voice mail.
When leaving voice-mail messages,
watch your pace and always include your name and
phone number (said very slowly) early in the
message. Continue with your message, then repeat
your name and phone number at the end. This
formula allows the recipient to verify the phone
number without having to save the message and
listen to it again.
Practice effective wrap-ups.
The end of the call is as important
as the beginning. The last words you say are what
the client will remember the most. A good habit to
get into is to summarize the call briefly (“I’ve
got your request in, and Ms. Brown will get back
to you this afternoon after 3 p.m.”), offer
additional service (“Is there anything else I can
help you with today?”) and give a personal, polite
closing (“Thanks for your call, Mr. Thompson.”).
Hang up last to avoid the risk of hanging up on
the client if he or she suddenly remembers
something else to discuss with you.