Although email communication has become a popular choice for many people in our industry, a great portion of client communication still relies on use of the telephone. By hearing the voice, words and inflection we use (or don’t use), clients are able to get an idea of our confidence, what kind of a day we are having, and how we feel about them, our business, and a whole variety of other things. The power of voice to convey more than just words is extremely powerful and it is important to control that image as much as possible.
- Answer the phone as quickly as possible. When you call a business, and the phone rings….and rings….and rings…. many clients or prospects will think, “wow, they are so busy they may not have time for me” or “if they can’t answer the phone quickly now, how responsive will they be if I have a serious issue?”
- Be ready to write notes during the call. I don’t know about you, but every time I’m on the phone with someone I have to write down some information of some kind at one point or another. It sounds unprepared to have to say, “hang on, let me find a pen.” I keep a notepad and a pen next to my phone so I am always ready when a client calls. When I’m out and am taking calls on my mobile device, I have a notepad and pen handy, that I can grab quickly if I need it without putting the client on “pause.” Of course if you are fluent in tech, you can use a CRM like ClientBase or an app like Evernote.
- Have a solid opening greeting. “Good morning! Thank you for calling Journeys By Steve, this is Steve speaking. How may I help?” is my typical opening greeting. First, I greet the caller appropriately (Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening!), I thank them for calling (they had a choice, and they chose to call me), I let them know they’ve reached the right company and also who at that company they have reached. There’s nothing I personally dislike more than calling a company and asking for someone only to be told that I am already speaking with him or her. We’ve already wasted time with a question and answer that wasn’t necessary. It sounds petty, but in our business, time is money.
- If you must put someone on hold, ask their permission. No one likes being put on hold for any amount of time, especially if your hold music is enough to drive you to insanity after a few minutes (Disney, are you reading this?). It’s a best practice to avoid doing so at all, but if it’s unavoidable, ask first. “May I put you on hold for just a moment, please?” And for heaven’s sake, don’t leave them there longer than absolutely necessary. If it is inconvenient, offer to call them back at a better time after you have done what needs to be done.
- Proper grammar matters. Although we all speak colloquially in our everyday lives, when we are representing our company we want people to have the best impression that we can give them, and speaking with proper grammar provides that impression. In a business setting, people tend to think more highly of those who speak more formally.
- Control your tone. A large part of communication with others involves body language, and this is missing entirely from email, and to a large degree from phone conversations as well. This makes it much more important to ensure we use the proper tone of voice. Smile when you talk – it comes through in your tone. Likewise, if you are angry, or annoyed, that will come through the phone as well. Keep your voice calm and steady, and watch the emotions you have while on the phone. Some people swear that standing up improves their phone tone!
- People like hearing their name. So use it often. First, it shows that you listened at the beginning of the call when they introduced themselves. Second, it creates a connection between the two of you that helps the call be a more positive one. Third, it will go a long way to helping you remember their name in the future.
- End your call with sincerity. Say “Have a great day!” or “Thank you again for calling, Mr. Smith!” Anything other than the standard “good-bye” will stick in the client’s mind and produce a better perception of goodwill and positivity.
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS has been a travel professional since 2005 and currently owns Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles. In addition, Steve heads up WordPressForTravelAgents.com, an email-based WordPress education system designed specifically for the busy travel professional. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.