January 26, 2010

3 Rules to help you create a great telephone experience

By F Kamaruddin

Does everyone in your organization know how to answer the telephone the way they are supposed to?

Unless you have been living the life of a hermit in a cave deep in the forest for the last few years, the amount of time you’ve spent in telephone calls would be more than five minutes a day, according to Wikianswers. Regardless of what your company does, people will call your office every day. When people deal with your organization over the telephone, what’s their experience? Is everyone managing every phone call successfully? Or do you have some people with the great knack of handling telephone calls well while the rest can’t even be trusted to answer a ringing telephone? There is a way to improve this picture. We have three rules of effective listening to help you get started now in creating a memorable positive experience for your callers.

Rule 1. Effective listening starts in your mind. An open one, that is.

The telephone is a touch point; a chance for other people to get to know your brand and what your organization is about. Granted, an incoming phone call could be a complaint, but it could also be a long-awaited special offer or a new customer who’s just heard about you. Seeing the ringing phone as the enemy that interrupts your work will stop you from listening actively to the caller’s tone and words that correctly reflect his mood. You will miss his sense of urgency or jump into the wrong conclusions. Have you ever done that? Remember, that call you pick up could be the fifth or fifteenth for you but may very well be the person’s first call of the day. How will you use that one chance for making the right first impression?

Rule 2. Listening involves more than hearing.

Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
This means you need to really pay attention to how something is said. Let callers complete their questions and statements. Acknowledge verbally. Use recaps and probe gently to get all details. Listen to the tone of the caller’s voice to get a better idea of the mood he/she is in or if the caller’s in a rush. Keep a notepad with you to jot down key points. Check and clarify each point you noted. Even if it’s a simple task of asking the person to hold the line while you forward the call to your colleague, how you deal with the call influences the caller’s experience.

Rule 3. Listen to you, too.

How you respond to callers shapes their responses to you. Are you speaking too fast? Too loud? Too soft? Do you mumble? Does the tone of your voice sound pleasant to the ear? Is it too high? Too low? Just right? Do you sound alert or too bored to care? Your caller will hear it. Roll your shoulders back. Relax your facial muscles around your eyes and mouth before answering that phone call, and your caller will hear the smile in your voice and will feel assured that you are the right person to help her.

Next month, we’ll talk about the one ‘Do or die’ element that you need to have in place to help everyone in your organization manage all calls effectively. In the meantime, have you called your office lately? How would you rate that experience?

Faz has 14 years’ experience managing training and development projects. An avid mind-mapper for more than 15 years, she designs and develops programs and content and is a Consultant in McGirvanmedia (Asia) Sdn. Bhd.

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