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Business Telephone Success


business telephoneYou know what it's like when you are in a hurry and need information now. You call a service provider hoping to get through and have your question answered immediately. "Don't bother me with unnecessary information," you think. "Just tell me what I need to know...right now!"


In our fast-paced business world, we want our needs understood on our timetable, not the product or service provider's. The telephone is a vital tool for both the customer and your business.



I telephoned a well-known optical company recently to obtain information on a specific product. The receptionist stated the company name, her name and then proceeded to give me a 30-second sales pitch about their latest model of sunglasses. I was irritated by her imposition about a product I was not interested in buying. The unwanted advertisement was an invasion of my time without my permission. I have not phoned them since and it is unlikely I will ever purchase their products.


A salesperson from a company I had initially contacted left a message on my voice mail. He stated the phone number rapidly and flippantly at the conclusion of the message. I had to listen to the entire message three times before I could record the number correctly. I was annoyed. I returned the call only because I needed product information.


A friend requested a return call by 11:00 a.m. the next day. She left her room number at a well-known hotel chain. The switchboard operator promptly rang room 303 when I called. After 16 rings (over a minute at peak long distance fees), the operator again asked how she could help me. "Could I please leave a message for room 303?" Her response was "oh, she checked out." I asked "why didn't you tell me when I originally asked for her room." Her response was swift and high pitched. "Who is this?" I repeated my original question. Her voice got louder. I got madder. We were soon in a no win situation.


The previous examples demonstrate poor telephone usage. Every person has at least one telephone horror story. The telephone can be a company's most valuable tool to attract new customers. It can also lose existing and potential customers.


A recent study indicates good phone skills made good business sense. Eighty-four percent of the customers calling are more willing to purchase goods and services from businesses that display positive telephone techniques.


A big 50 percent of the customers will not do business with a company that has poor customer service on the telephone.


The image of your organization is immediately on display as soon as the telephone is answered. A staff well trained in positive phone techniques may make the difference in obtaining more customers, keeping current ones content and increasing your bottom line.


There are simple techniques organizations can use to make a difference in their telephone image. To enhance the image of your company, practice the following telephone methods:


Answer no later than the third ring. People are accustomed to having their call answered by the third ring due to the response system of the average telephone answering machine. It is even better to answer the phone by the first or second ring if possible. A prompt phone response indicates you value a customer's time. A prompt response time will create a reputation for efficiency for your company.  


Smile! A smile is heard over the phone. The voice is lighter. A smile presents an upbeat attitude and conveys you are glad the customer called. Customers feel wanted and appreciated.  


Identify yourself. State your company and name immediately. The caller will then identify who they are, with little or no prompting. People like to know with whom they are talking and doing business. Giving the customer the information they want initially removes an invisible barrier. A friendly self-identification helps people feel at ease. If you list your cellular phone on your business card, don't forget to identify yourself when answering.


The same telephone techniques you use in the office are applicable for a cellular phone.  


Be professional, upbeat! Help put your customer in a positive state of mind. Good manners and respect for the caller displays your professional image. Project your voice and articulate clearly. Thirty-eight percent of a verbal message is communicated by voice quality.  


Eliminate background noise. Music or outside noise is magnified on the other end of the phone line. Outside noise also prevents you from using your best listening skills. If the customer is irritated or angry, listening is the most important skill you will use. Background distractions can prevent you from hearing the caller clearly and may escalate an already tenuous situation.  


Remain totally focused. It is real easy to play a computer game, continue working on a letter or even doodle. All of these activities keep you from focusing on your customer. If you are not totally focused on the caller, you may miss important information. Additionally, people really do have a phone sense and can tell when you are totally concentrating on the conversation or only half listening.  


Listen, listen and listen again. Use reflective listening to encourage the customer to share information. Repeat the caller's statements in your own words. The customer then has the opportunity to indicate you have received the information they sent correctly. The caller wants your undivided attention. Acknowledge their comments with a simple "yes," "ah huh" and "I understand." Empathetic listening indicates you are interested and really do care.  


Transfer calls only when absolutely necessary. People feel put off when transferred. If transfers multiply, the caller's opinion of your organization soon dwindles. To ease the transition, ask the caller's permission to do the transfer. Explain your reason for doing so. Request their phone number just in case you loose them in the transfer process. After a transfer, check with the individual you transferred the customer to and establish if they were able to help them. If not, you have the opportunity to once again call the customer and establish their exact needs. Your attention to detail will indicate to the customer you are conscientious and will always keep their needs in mind.  


End the call on a positive note. Thank them for calling or indicate "I enjoyed speaking with you." People reflect on the last few minutes of a conversation more then the beginning. If the call is ended on an upbeat note, the individual will have positive feelings about you and your organization.  


In 1990, over 300 billion telephone calls were being made on an annual basis in the United States. This is expected to at least double by the year 2000. The average executive conducts at least 50 percent of their business using the telephone. The telephone is a tool that can enhance any business's image or turn customers away. If an individual calls your company only once, they will base 90 percent of their impression of your organization on that one call. Take the time to create a favorable business image and make a lasting impression with positive telephone skills.

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