In this article, we’ll take a look at a number of telephone etiquette tips that customer service professionals should keep in mind to ensure quality customer service.
Match Cultural Norms
Depending on how customers are reaching you (i.e. business calls via toll free numbers), customer service professionals may need to be able to accommodate the cultural norms of callers. This can be tricky, as the caller’s beliefs are not always known beforehand. Therefore, it is important to avoid any controversial topics (i.e. religion, politics, sexual matters, etc.) and keep matters professional.
If your business uses virtual phone numbers that funnel international calls to and from a call center, it is important that customer service professionals have a working knowledge of what’s permissible or what may lead to a faux-pas (or worse).
Identify Yourself at the Start of Every Phone Call
At the start of every phone call, it is important for professionals to identify who they are and what the purpose of their call is. This includes a quick greeting (“Hello”), followed by a short introduction of the professional’s occupation (“This is Tom from Chase Banking”), and then the purpose of the call (“I’m calling you today because there has been some recent activity in regards to your checking account”). It’s also helpful to have a confirmation of whom you’re talking to, ensuring that the conversation isn’t wasted. Similarly, for inbound calls, a greeting followed by your occupation and an open-ended question (“How may I help you today?”) is sufficient.
Use the Correct Tone of Voice
Customer service professionals serve as the public voice of a company, so the tone of their voice should be neutral or reflect the spirit of the company (ex. a surfboard company vs. a banking institution). It’s important to not sound anxious, nervous, aggressive, pushy, or any other negative connotations that can affect the tone of their voice. Instead, professionals should speak with confidence, expertise, and authority when speaking with customers. Even if a customer is provoking a response, it is best to default back to a neutral stance to avoid exacerbating a person’s mood. Last, the overall volume of the call should be normal and consistent, as soft voices can be mistaken for weakness and loud voices can seem overly authoritative.
Know the Purpose of the Call Beforehand
It is important for professionals to be aware of the purpose of the call beforehand, whether that is for inbound calls or outbound calls. For inbound calls, this may not be an issue in call centers that prompt professionals, but it should be kept in mind that generally, the caller has a problem that needs to be resolved. For outbound calls, clarity of purpose is paramount. Customer service professionals should have a list of items that they want to discuss so that subsequent calls aren’t necessary. This includes reducing small talk to a minimum and not meandering off-topic unnecessarily.
Avoid Interruptions and Distractions
Customer service professionals need to focus in order to deliver the best quality of communication to customers. Therefore, things that can interrupt the flow of a conversation or distract them away from the matter at hand are a detriment to delivering customer service. This obviously includes irrelevant noise, like side conversations with people in proximity. There can also be other distractions, like rustling papers, eating food, the unprompted tapping of a computer key.
However, there are other types of interruptions and distractions, like an agent’s phone, a computer screen that isn’t tuned to the task at hand, or handling the call in an environment that can break focus. Be wary of such disturbances; they can have a lasting, negative effect.
Remember that the person on the telephone takes precedence and deserves the type of respect that comes with undivided attention. If the distraction demands attention, it is important for professionals to excuse themselves to the caller with a phrase like, “Excuse me for just a moment. I will be right back,” and either place the caller on hold or handle the situation in an efficient manner.
Speak Clearly and Slowly
When speaking to customers, it is important to speak clearly, both in terms of pronunciation and in the choice of words. Broken phrases, idiomatic phrases, slang words and such may be used in non-professional settings or to form rapport (during sales calls, for instance), but it is best to clearly form words in a deliberate fashion. Furthermore, the rate of speech should be also deliberate and match the caller. For instance, New Yorkers have a tendency to speak in a fast manner; speakers from the southern portion of the United States speak slower so customer service professionals should attempt to mirror the caller’s preferred rate of speech with attention and care.
About the Author
Tom Senkus is a freelance writer with over 15 years of experience, focusing on the telecommunications industry. For more information about his work and listed services, visit his website at www.tomsenkuswriter.com