Effective Telephone Communication
The telephone plays a vital, but often undervalued, role in any business. The telephone is your primary source of contact with both your customers and suppliers. The success or failure of this contact depends on the communication skills of everybody who uses the telephone, so it’s imperative to have effective telephone communication skills.
Before we answer any call, it is essential that we are fully prepared in advance. This goes beyond having a pen and paper ready or ensuring that your PC is up and running. More than this, it is vital that we are focused and in the right frame of mind to take the call and engage with the person on the other end of the telephone.
ANSWER THE PHONE
A professional greeting is required here, usually stating your name and department or name of the business. Many businesses will have a preferred way to greet any callers, but the challenge is to ensure that all members of staff use the same greeting, consistently. A general open question such as “how can I help you today” is a great way to end the greeting.
EXPOSE THE CUSTOMERS NEEDS
This is all about questioning. Good ‘open’ questions will start to get the customer talking and giving you information. “How can I help?”, “What seems to be the problem?”, “Explain to me what’s happening” are all great examples. Follow up your questions by listening effectively and then probing further, to really drill down to the customer’s needs and requirements.
DETERMINE THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION
This will be dependent on the customer’s needs, but there are some key areas to consider at this point of the call:
* Don’t pass on the blame if there’s a problem – apologise if it’s your fault
* Don’t make promises you can’t keep, or they will come back to haunt you
* Double-check all information with the caller in case you have misinterpreted any points
GET THE CUSTOMERS AGREEMENT
Back to questioning here, but this time we need ‘closed’ questions to be effective. The idea is to get the customer agreeing with what you are suggesting and in a position to proceed. “How does that sound?” and “Are you happy with my suggestion?” are good examples, and as long as you have truly understood the customer’s needs, they should start to agree with your suggestions.
END IN A PROFESSIONAL WAY
Summarising the conversation is a good way to end the telephone call. Not only does it bring the call to a recognisable close, but it will also ensure that both parties know what will happen next. Try to end on a positive note and emphasise how you have enjoyed speaking to the customer. You may also wish to leave your name and details as a reference for the customer in the future.