Despite an array of digital communications now available to customers when they need to contact a business, picking up the phone in the hope of speaking to an actual person remains the most popular.
In fact more than 50% of customers across all ages say they typically use the phone when trying to get in touch with a business’ service team – according to research by Zendesk.
How a business answers the phone can set the tone for the customer experience and getting this first step wrong immediately puts you on the back foot.
And if the customer is already frustrated before they talk to you – this bad experience could put them over the edge and cost you an existing customer or a new sale.
It’s probably obvious but answering the phone in a business setting isn’t the same as answering your personal phone.
We all talk about being more personable and human in business, but a business caller isn’t getting in touch for a chat, they’re looking to resolve an issue and your job is to do it as efficiently and professionally as possible.
So, with that in mind, here’s a few phone etiquette rules from Face For Business you definitely shouldn’t ignore for your business:
Your customer’s time is valuable and it’s important you recognise that when it comes to answering the phone quickly. No customer wants to be sat around listening to a phone ringing when they’ve got a problem to solve.
Answering the call within three rings – or two – should be standard practice.
It’s quick enough so that you’re not making a customer wait too long, but it’s also given the customer enough lead time to prepare for the call. This is important because some research has suggested answering the call too quickly can actually catch your customer off guard and result in them getting flustered.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘phone voice’ to explain how some people’s voices change when they answer a call. You don’t have to sound like someone from the set of Downton Abbey, but you should always speak slowly, clearly and enunciate when answering a business phone.
You don’t want to frustrate a customer immediately by making it hard for them to understand you.
It’s often said that up to 90% of communication is non-verbal, but when you’re answering the phone, surely that doesn’t matter?
Well, you’d be surprised.
How you act on the phone in terms of your attitude, even posture, can help you come across more professionally.
One of the biggest things you can do to improve your enthusiasm and not come across like a customer has bothered you by calling, is smiling.
Research has shown that smiling when answering the phone translates to more enthusiasm and a friendlier sounding voice.
Like we’ve said, people who call your business aren’t calling for a chat so while the customary “hello”, “hi” or “hiya” might work for your parents and friends, you don’t want to leave customers wondering whether they’ve actually called the right number.
Instead, you should introduce yourself and the company immediately:
“Hello, ABC Company Adam speaking how can I help,” is simple but gets you off on the right foot so the customer knows they’re speaking to the right person.
When a customer is calling with a problem they need the confidence that you’ll be able to deal with it or at least point them in the right direction.
When they call, listen carefully to exactly what they’re saying – it sounds obvious but it’s easy to get distracted if you’re in a busy office with lots happening.
Once you know the problem, if you can help then do so in as clear language as possible, don’t baffle them with your in-depth knowledge of industry acronyms and jargon, just get to the point.
If you can’t help them, explain that they need to speak to someone else and either transfer them (more on that soon) or take a message (again, more on that to come).
If you’ve ever been a customer on the end of an awkward call when the person on the other end of the line is trying and failing to transfer you because they don’t know how the phone works, you’ll know it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
And when you’re being sent around the houses and end up back where you started or, worse, get accidentally cut off, it’s not likely to end with you making a purchase is it.
Take the time to learn how the transfer feature on the office phone works and make sure you have a list of extensions handy that you can reference.
There’s nothing worse than getting a vague message when you’ve missed a customer’s call and it’s equally annoying to be the customer when you do get a call back but have to repeat all the information from the first call because the message wasn’t taken correctly.
When you can’t help a customer directly and the person they need is unavailable, it’s essential you take an accurate and complete message to help your colleague deal with the call back effectively.
Key information to take includes:
– Customer name
– Time they called
– The query they had (take as much detail as possible)
– Phone number
– Email address
How you end a call can be just as important as how you started it and abruptly putting the phone down isn’t going to leave a great lasting impression on the customer.
Once you’ve dealt with their initial enquiry and resolved it as best you can at the time, ask if there’s anything else they need help with.
If they do, go through the process again. If they’ve got no other issues, take the time to thank them for calling and sign off the call properly.
When you’re busy in business it’s not always easy to come across as positive and as helpful as you’d like.
When you’re running around trying to get things done and the phone goes it’s all too easy to answer it like the caller is a distraction from what you’re trying to do.
And as any office worker knows, when a colleague is busy, they’re not always going to think about taking complete messages when they’re trying to get on with their day.
When these problems start to accumulate and become more common, one solution to consider is investing in a professional call answering service.
With this service at your side you never need to worry about dealing with incoming calls because your team of virtual receptionists and call handlers can deal with it all for you.
At Face For Business all our call handlers go through a thorough training programme so they’ll always be on hand to answer calls professionally and ensure you and the customer gets the outcome you want.
If you’re interested in using a telephone answering service but aren’t sure if the investment will be worth it – get in touch about starting a free trial.