Friday, August 14, 2009

Eight Essential Telephone Etiquette Tips

Even in these days where we communication mainly by e-mail or SMS, the first contact a customer has with your company is often through the good old telephone.

Make sure it's not the last with these eight simple etiquette tips.

Answer the phone within 3 rings
Answer on the first ring if possible. If you don't answer fast enough, your caller may hang up in disgust and call your competitor.

Calm down before you answer the phone
This is particularly important if you're having a heated discussion with a colleague or dealing with looming deadlines. Take a deep breath to regain your composure before you pick up the phone.

When you answer the phone, begin with a greeting
(Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon) followed by your company name and then identify yourself. E.g. "Good morning, Widgets Inc. Mary Lee speaking."

Starting with "Good morning" or "Hello" starts your conversation on a cordial note, and allows the caller to hear your company name and your name clearly.

Smile when you speak on the phone
This may seem odd when the caller can't see you, but it really does make a difference in your tone of voice and your attitude.

If you need to transfer a call, tell the caller who you are transferring them to before putting them on hold
Tell the caller the name of the person to whom he or she will be transferred, or at least the name of the department. E.g. "I'll transfer you to Zahara / Sales." If possible, give them that other party's direct number before putting them on hold. Don't just say "Hold on please" and leave them to wonder what's going to happen. Also, accidents do happen and you might get cut off. When they call back they will be able to dial or ask for that other person directly.

Use the mute button wisely
Most modern telephone systems have a mute button. Make sure you know how to use it. When you need to transfer a call or if you need to put the caller on hold to look up something, make sure to push that mute button; don't just put your hand over the mouthpiece. You never know what might happen that you won't want a caller to overhear.

Don't keep them on hold forever
Never keep a caller on hold for longer than 20 seconds. Even if you haven't found the answer for them, check every 15 seconds or so to make sure they're still on the line – and to let them know that you're still on the line. Nothing turns off a potential customer faster than thinking that they've been forgotten.

Hang up last
When winding up a call, make sure the caller hangs up before you hang up. He or she may think of something to ask at the last moment, and you don't want to risk leaving them talking to a dial tone!