Phone answering skills are crucial for businesses. The phone is still most business's primary point of contact with customers. And the way you answer your company's phone will form your customer's first impression of your business. You might surf a company's website, send an email for more information or a quote, but ultimatley you will still need to have a real conversation with a representative of the company.
Did you know that with the advent of IM (email and texting) there has been a marked decline in both the ability and comfort level of the younger generation to simply converse on the phone! We all see people texting constantly but to think that it could actually be affecting our oral communication skills is kind of scary.
So I would argue that now more than ever the ability to answer the phone properly can set your company apart and help you win business. Listed below are 12 tips to keep in mind:
1) Answer all incoming phone calls before the third ring.
2) When you answer the phone, be polite and try to be enthusiastic. Your voice on the phone is sometimes the only impression of your company a caller will get. Think about how you would like to be greeted on the phone. Would you prefer someone cheerful, seeming happy that you called - or - someone abrupt and cold, or even annoyed. It is obvious what the answer is but I am amazed at the wide range of experiences one could have.
3) When answering the phone, welcome callers courteously and identify yourself and your organization. Say, for instance, "Good morning. Okanagan Telephone. Susan speaking. How may I help you?" No one should ever have to ask if they've reached such and such a business. You would think that this would be a no-brainer but it is not.
4) Enunciate clearly, keep your voice volume moderate, and speak slowly and clearly when answering the phone, so your caller can understand you easily.
5) Control your language when answering the phone. Don't use slang or buzzwords. Instead of saying, "OK", or "No problem", for instance, say "Certainly", "Very well", or "All right". If you're a person who uses fillers when you speak, such as "uh huh", "um", or phrases such as "like" or "you know", train yourself carefully not to use these when you speak on the phone.
6) Train your voice and vocabulary to be positive when phone answering, even on a "down" day. For example, rather than saying, "I don't know", say, "Let me find out about that for you."
7) Take phone messages completely and accurately. If there's something you don't understand or can't spell, such as a person's surname, ask the caller to repeat it or spell it for you. Then make sure the message gets to the intended recipient.
8) Respond to all your calls/messages within one business day. This one is important! People are busier than ever these days and when they leave someone a message the expectation is that that business will get back to them. The last thing a potential customer wants to do is try and remember who he got a call back from and who he did'nt.The early caller can get the contract, the sale, the problem solved... and reinforce the favorable impression of your business that you want to circulate.
9) Always ask the caller if it's all right to put her on hold when answering the phone, and don't leave people on hold indefinitely. Provide callers on hold with progress reports every 30 to 45 seconds or at the very least an Oh Hold audio source of some kind. Offer them choices if possible, such as "That line is still busy. Will you continue to hold or should I have __ call you back?" A business telephone system will certainly provide a more professional "On Hold" experience.
10) Don't use a speaker phone unless absolutely necessary. Speaker phones give the caller the impression that you're not fully concentrating on his call, and make him think that his call isn't private. The only time to use a speaker phone is when you need more than one person to be in on the conversation at your end. This is especially important for prospects and customers that you do not yet have a relationship with. Even with advances in full-duplex speakerphone technology the party on the other end typically knows they are on a "Hands Free" call.
11) If you use an Automated Attendant/Voice Mail to answer calls when you can't, make sure that you have a professional message recorded, that does the same thing as tip #3, and gives callers any other pertinent information before it records their messages. Update your company greetings as needed. For instance, if your business is going to be closed for a holiday, update your automated attendant greeting to say so and to say when your business will reopen. This is a fine line because in my opinion there is nothing better than a completely up-to-date greeting menu, but on the other hand there is nothing worse than a company playing old, outdated information. If you are planning on changing greetings on a regular basis (for example X-Mas shutdown) make sure you give yourself a reminder to change it back.
12) Train everyone else who answers the phone to answer the same way. Check on how your business's phone is being answered by calling in and seeing if the phone is being answered in a professional manner. If they don't pass the test, go over this phone answering tips list with them to make sure that everyone at your business knows how to answer the phone properly.