Telephones are so ubiquitous and accessible that we take them for granted. Each time you speak on the phone, however, you are communicating more than the mere words you utter. Your language, tone of voice, grammar and disposition also communicate something of your company brand. Likewise, each time any member of your staff speaks on your behalf on the phone, you are, for better or worse, engaged in marketing. With that in mind, it is worthwhile acquainting yourself and those speaking on your behalf with a few important but simple rules of the road for telephonic communication.
Tone of Voice – Whether you are answering a call or making one, your tone of voice conveys your general attitude about your business, your clients and life in general. Speak clearly and sound interested – sullen and bored is no way to go through life. Be friendly, courteous and helpful – it’s that simple.
Speed and volume -Speak in a normal volume at a slightly slower pace than you would in person as your listener has no visual cues to assist with understanding what you are saying. When leaving a telephone number, speak s-l-o-w-l-y to give the listener time to write down the number.
Focus – pay attention to your call. Don’t speak to others, eat, chew gum, or type as you speak. If you must speak with another person in the room, identify what you are doing so the person on the phone clearly understands who is being addressed.
Timing – remember time zones and call at reasonable hours. If at all possible, avoid mealtimes including lunch. Be brief and to the point, respecting the listener’s time.
Answer promptly and identify yourself. If you must put the party on hold, politely ask for permission. Simply barking “hold please” into the phone is a good way to put some business on hold permanently. Use the hold button to prevent the caller from hearing in-office conversation. When you place someone on hold, return to the caller every minute or so and explain the wait or offer to take a message and to have the necessary party return the call.
Speak formally – Don’t use short, snappy phrases and keep proprieties in mind. If the party called is not in the office, or otherwise unavailable, protect their privacy and be tactful in promising a follow-up when they are available.
Hanging up – end the call with a brief summary of action items to assure that the caller has been understood. Ask if there is anything further you can do to assist the other party and, if possible, allow the other party to hang up first. Place the phone gently into the cradle, don’t slam it down.
Messages – be prepared to take messages and pass along messages as quickly and accurately as possible.
Diary and follow up – it never hurts to diary your calls for future reference and to help insure prompt and accurate follow-up of action items. Consider emailing a summary of the conversation to the caller as a confirmation that their message was understood and that proper follow-up can be expected.
Call Yourself – Do yourself a favor and call your office. If you have a staff, listen carefully to their performance and determine if their telephone demeanor needs work. If you have voicemail, listen carefully to ensure the recording and message fairly and well represent you and your company.
Because travel agents now accomplish such a large percentage of their business and transactions over the phone, proper etiquette is important. Your telephone persona may be the only contact the caller has with your company, so polish and perfect your telephone technique.
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