Today's sophisticated phone systems can make things easier for businesses that have a high volume of calls, but those same systems are often frustrating for callers who just want to talk to a person.
When customers finally do reach a member of your staff, it's crucial that the person answering the phone treats callers with the utmost courtesy. Simply put: treat your callers in a way that you would want to be treated on a business call.
Here are some key points to follow when conducting professional telephone interactions that will help you and your employees create a business phone culture in your company.
Transferring a telephone call is more than just knowing what buttons to push on your telephone system. If you're transferring a call because you need to escalate the situation to a supervisor, be clear with the caller about what's happening and why.
If your phone system allows, stay on the line and introduce the caller to the next person, ensuring that the call gets connected and the caller feels respected. Before handing off, ask whether the caller has any additional questions or needs anything further from you.
Placing a Caller On Hold
When a caller is placed on hold, a minute seems like forever, no matter how pleasant your company's hold music might be.
Try to wait for a pause in the conversation before telling callers you're putting them on hold—that is, avoid interrupting callers if at all possible.
Make sure they understand why you're putting them on hold, and be truthful about how long it may take. Apologize for the inconvenience, and if they're unable to hold, it's best for you to call them back rather than asking them to call you back.
And try to be empathetic to your caller; no one likes being put on hold, so be as polite as the situation allows.
Ending a Call
There are several reasons you may need to end a phone call before the caller is ready. If a caller is abusive or uses rude or threatening language, you don't need to tolerate such behavior.
Tell them you're ending the call because of their offensive language, but don't engage in insults or back-and-forth. Be sure to report such calls to your supervisor.
If you need to end a call because a caller is simply long-winded (which is more often the case), wait for a pause and try to end things politely. You can say something like, "It has been lovely speaking with you, but I have to take another call now."
Ask if the caller has any other questions before letting the person go, but be clear that you are terminating the call.
Creating Individual Voice Mail Greetings
A voicemail greeting is a statement of who you are and what your company values. A short and abrupt voicemail greeting doesn't create a good first impression, and a long, drawn-out greeting frustrates callers.
Try to get to the point efficiently: state who you are, the name of the company, and why you're not able to answer the call (out of office, on another call, away for a period of time).
You don't need to provide too many details—just enough so that the caller knows he or she has been heard and that you'll return the call.
Writing a Script for an Automated Attendant
The first thing your customers and business associates hear when they call your company will be your telephone system's automated attendant.
Present the numbered options assuming that your caller is not familiar with the company and needs guidance. Make sure callers know that if they have a direct extension for a specific person, they can reach that person directly at any time.
For all other callers, try to use the most familiar numbers for each extension ("Press zero for the receptionist," for example). Describe the department before giving the number—for example, "For customer support, press five."
Writing an Automated Attendant Script for After-Hours or Business Closures
If your business closes after a certain time or on the weekends and no one is available to answer or assist your callers, create an after-hours automated attendant greeting. Tell your callers upfront that the business is closed, and at the end, ask them to call back. Remember to include your normal hours of operation.
Leaving a Professional Phone Message
Voicemail is a standard part of nearly every business-class telephone system, and knowing how to leave a professional voicemail phone message—in addition to how to answer one—reflects positively on your company. All employees who use the phone as part of their job should know how to leave a professional phone message.