Talk about first impressions: telephone greetings are critical. Prospects are deciding whether or not to do business with you. Irate customers are deciding how helpful and competent you are. Yet many companies convolute the telephone greeting to the point that employees hate saying it, and customers and prospects dread listening to it.
When it comes to phone greetings, there is power in simplicity. For best results, incorporate three easy elements into your business phone greetings: pleasantry, brevity, and sincerity.
Remember to Be Pleasant
A pleasant phone greeting is essential to a successful call because it sets the stage emotionally. In general, listeners tend to mirror or "catch" the emotional states of speakers. It is a principle of communication that holds true whether one is speaking to a group of 1000, a small meeting of 10, or a single customer over the telephone.
In other words, people respond in kind. If we answer the phone gruffly, chances are the caller will become gruff. If we answer the phone pleasantly, chances are the caller will be pleasant, and we all know which caller is easier to work with.
Causing or Increasing Customer Irritation
Imagine you are a customer calling a place of business. If the person on the other end of the phone sounds irritated it may make you feel your call is not important or aggravate an already problematic situation.
When the caller is a customer, their response tends to be that of irritation. Even if they were not angry when they called, receiving the negativity from the other end of the phone may be just enough to push them towards the anger side of the scale.
Killing Them With Kindness
Many have been on the opposite end of the line as a customer who was irritated over their customer experience. Perhaps they call to complain about an order or service. We call the company expecting to "let somebody have it". However, the person who answers the phone is so nice and professional we can't bring ourselves to yell at them. We hate when that happens. This time we've caught their professionalism.
One of the easiest ways to attain an emotional state quickly, such as being pleasant, is to use body language. Research conducted by John Grinder and Richard Bandler suggests that body language helps create emotional states. If we carry ourselves with slumped shoulders, frowning face bowed head, averted eyes, and shallow breathing, we will probably feel depressed. If we smile, breath deeply, pull our shoulders back and look straight ahead, we will probably feel good.
Professionals would do well to establish a ritual before answering the phone. To sound pleasant, you need to carry yourselves accordingly. One phone greeting ritual can include sitting on the edge of the seat with shoulders back. Take a deep breath, smile and let the phone ring twice before answering. Another ritual may include standing before you answer the phone. This can help if you need an extra jolt of energy.
Stand on your head. Do jumping jacks. Do whatever is necessary to attain a pleasant state before answering the phone. (Within limits of course.)
Be Sincere With Phone Greetings
Don't use phone answering scripts. They sound insincere, irritate callers, and discourage employees. Scripted greetings usually include some kind of slogan. "Hello. It's a beautiful day here at the XYZ Company."
At some point, saying, "It's a beautiful day..." is going to be a stretch or insincere. The other risk is that the caller is irate.
You want the greeting to be natural, which also makes it easier to sound pleasant consistently. The key elements of a telephone greeting are your department or company name, your name, and an offer of assistance, as in these sample business phone greetings.
- An example of a switchboard business phone greeting might sound like, "XYZ Company. This is Bob. How may I direct your call?"
- A greeting from someone in the accounting department might sound like, "Accounting. This is Bob. How may I help you?"
State the company or department name so that customers and prospects know they are in the right place. Always state your name because it is a sign of authority. Stating your name implies that you are accountable. It also creates a personal touch. Lastly, end your business phone greeting with a question that expresses your desire to serve the caller.
Keep Business Phone Greetings Brief
Keep your telephone greetings short. Excessively long greetings are unprofessional for many reasons. They don't sound pleasant or sincere because technically, they are impossible to execute. Employees hate them, and those feelings come through. Callers hate them because they waste their time. Fortunately, by following the guidelines above, brevity is assured.
Telephone greetings are a powerful part of doing business. To be successful, keep phone greetings simple. Practice a ritual to be pleasant. Remain unscripted. Be brief.