Most of us use a telephone in the course of our work. Here is some great advice I picked up at a workforce development conference on how to excel at using this device to communicate with colleagues, clients and customers.
Before you answer, be prepared (this includes knowing how to use the phone/system features):
1. Turn away from your computer, desk or other work.
2. Have pens, pencils and notepaper handy.
Answering the phone:
3. Answer calls promptly, by the second or third ring.
4. Smile as you pick up the phone.
5. Assume your “telephone” voice, controlling your volume and speed.
6. Project a tone that is enthusiastic, natural, attentive and respectful.
7. Greet the caller and identify yourself and your company / department / unit.
8. Ask, “To whom am I speaking?”
9. Ask, “How may I help you?”
In the Course of the Conversation:
10. Focus your entire attention on the caller.
11. Enunciate /articulate clearly. Speak distinctly.
12. Use Plain English and avoid unnecessary jargon and acronyms.
13. Use action specific words and directions.
14. Use the caller’s name during the conversation.
15. Always speak calmly and choose your words naturally.
16. Use all of your listening skills:
a. Focus your full attention on the caller and the conversation.
b. Listen “between” the words.
c. Use reflective/active listening to clarify and check for understanding.
17. If there is a problem, project a tone that is concerned, empathetic, and apologetic.
18. Avoid the Five forbidden Phrases.
a. “I don’t know”. Instead say: “That is a good question; let me find out for you” or offer to connect the caller with someone who could provide the answer. If a call involves some research, assure the person that you will call back by a specific time. If you do not have an answer by the deadline, call back to say, “I don’t have an answer yet, but I’m still researching it.” There is no excuse for not returning calls.
b. “I/we can’t do that.” Instead say: “This is what I/we can do.”
c. “You’ll have to” Instead say: “You will need to” or “I need you to” “Here’s how we can help you.”
d. “Just a second” Instead say: Give a more honest estimate of how long it will take you and/or let them know what you are doing.
e. “No” Instead say: “find a way to state the situation positively.
19. Use “LEAPS” with the emotional caller to vent.
Listen; allow the caller to vent
Empathize; acknowledge the person’s feeling
Apologize when appropriate, even if the problem is not your fault, you can say, “I am really sorry this has happened” and mean it.
P (Be) Positive
Solve; suggest/generate solutions that you can both agree on and/or ask what you can do to help and, if reasonable, do it! If not, find a compromise.
Concluding the Call:
20. End the conversation with agreement on what is to happen next; if you are to follow-up, do so immediately.
21. Thank the caller for calling; invite the caller to call again.
22. Transfer ONLY when necessary; get the information yourself.
23. If you must transfer, avoid the use of the word “transfer.” Say instead: “I am going to connect you with”.
24. Explain why you are “transferring” the call.
25. Give the caller the person’s name and direct number.
26. Stay on the line and introduce the caller.
27. Identify yourself and for whom you are answering the phone.
28. Practice political sensitivity.
29. Indicate the period of time the person will be unavailable.
30. Write down all the important information given.
a. The name of the caller. Ask for spelling if unclear.
b. The (correct) telephone number of the caller.
c. The massage. Ask for clarification if necessary.
31. Read back what you’ve written to be sure you’ve understood the message correctly.
32. Always assure the person that you will deliver the message promptly.
33. Deliver the message in a timely fashion.
Never, Never, NEVER
34. Eat, drink or chew gum while on the phone.
35. Leave an open line:
a. Place the caller on hold
b. check back with the caller frequently: every 30 – 45 seconds.
36. Put a smile in your telephone voice and let your personality shine!