Customer Service 101: Phone Etiquette for Small Businesses
Phone etiquette is essential to maintaining customer satisfaction and representing your brand professionally. Here’s what small business owners should know about managing the phone lines.
- Telephone customer service has a significant role in both client pleasure and the professionalism of your business.
- The decorum needed for customer service is sometimes unstated but is always anticipated by your clients.
- Your customer service may improve and internal resources may be freed up if you outsource the administration of your phone lines to a contact center.
- The target audience for this article is small business owners that want to boost their phone-based customer care and are thinking about outsourcing to a contact center or answering service.
Being on the phone all the time is a fact of life in small company. Correct etiquette is essential to making a good impression on everyone you engage with and conveying your professionalism, whether you’re speaking to clients or business partners.
According to Gail Goodman, president of phone service training firm Phone Teacher, “if you are the owner of a small business, make sure that everyone who talks to consumers on the phone or answers the business line is trained.”
However, training never ends. Owners of businesses and the management group must see to it that staff members regularly follow the company’s phone rules and guidelines.
Your difficulty could be that you are unable to specify what it is that individuals ought to do, Goodman said. But you can tell when something is off when you hear it.
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What is phone etiquette, and why is it important?
Your use of greetings, word choice, tone of voice, active listening, greetings, and general politeness over the phone are all examples of proper phone etiquette. Frequently, a potential client will get their first impression of you over the phone, and the way you speak to them might determine whether you keep them as a client or lose them.
Having excellent phone manners when providing customer service has the following advantages:
Making great, long-lasting first impressions:
Customers evaluate your company based on how you deal with their calls, manage their requests, and respond to their inquiries. Establishing and sustaining a great connection with your consumers depends on effective communication.
Compensating for the lack of nonverbal cues:
Since neither side can read the other’s body language or other nonverbal indications when speaking on the phone, it can be challenging to understand consumers. You may close this gap by establishing phone etiquette guidelines and teaching your employees how to follow them.
Developing a great reputation:
Outstanding phone manners frequently result in excellent customer service, which may help your firm develop a stellar reputation. This is due to the fact that 72% of your consumers, who may have dealt with your company, tell at least six others about their finest customer service encounters. This can eventually help your business establish a reputation for offering excellent customer service.
Poor phone manners result in poor customer service, which results in client turnover. Additionally, you don’t want a constant stream of clients: According to Harvard Business Review, acquiring consumers is five to twenty-five times more expensive than keeping them.
Identifying new customer needs:
A customer care personnel with excellent phone manners might go beyond addressing urgent issues to discover additional consumer wants. When discussing a technical problem, a consumer may say, “I wish your business also supplied this product or service.” If your team lacked phone manners, you might not have discovered it until you tried to apply it.
When speaking with consumers over the phone, it’s crucial to project professionalism through your choice of words, tone, and body language. Maintain proper conduct at all times, and make sure your staff does the same. Key is consistency.
Examples of phone etiquette
There are a lot of phone etiquette examples, however these are some typical ones:
Immediately introducing yourself and your business:
The professional equivalent of saying “hello” is this. Making an introduction will establish your credibility and let the caller know who they are chatting with.
Speaking clearly and calmly:
It’s critical that your clients comprehend you and do not sense any time pressure. Speaking slowly and clearly also conveys to them that they have your full attention.
Listening and taking notes:
A caller should be given adequate time to express their problems or desires rather than being rushed, and any pertinent information should be noted. In this manner, you may more effectively assist them in solving without being overpowered by the discourse.
The way you communicate to your consumers will affect how they feel. For instance, if you talk monotonously or appear bored, your clients won’t feel heard and may even stop engaging with you. They will be more willing to return the favour if you are nice and enthusiastic.
10 phone etiquette tips for businesses
Here are 10 phone etiquette guidelines for small company call centers to get you started.
1. Be consistent.
Make sure everyone regularly answers the business line. When a consumer calls in, their only concern is whether they dialed the correct number. You should only say hello once. Train employees to introduce themselves politely by first mentioning the firm and then their own names. It is presumed that you need assistance, therefore save yourself some time and omit the extra five words. “Hello. The Mary Mittens. This is Becky, that’s all.
2. Never interrupt.
Don’t interrupt a client who is whining. Although it might be challenging to do so, teach your staff to pay attention to every detail of the issue, no matter how long it takes. Even if call center personnel may eventually transfer the call to another member of your team, it’s still crucial to hear the entire narrative to make the consumer feel cared for.
3. Get to know the hold button.
Does everyone in your organization know how to operate the corporate phone system? You should use the hold button. Never hold the phone against your chest to mute the mouthpiece so you can talk to each other on the phone. Clients could hear information that you don’t want them to.
4. Get to know the transfer button.
You must understand how to pass someone forward to another team member. Declare to the client, “I’m transferring you because Jane will be the greatest person to handle this.” Inform the client that it will take some time if you need to find Jane or explain the situation to her. Say something like, “Can I put you on hold, please? It will take me about three or four minutes to get Jane up to speed.”
Yes, most people will answer. Then Jane has to answer the phone knowing something about the issue rather than having to start from scratch.
5. Keep customers informed.
It’s crucial to teach this to your staff. They must offer the customer a list of what they intend to perform before setting a lengthier deadline than is required. Why? They know you stood up for them when you repair the issue in less time than you promised. By then, you’ll have a committed client. If it takes longer than you anticipated, they will be furious.
Say, “Mrs. Smith, this is what I’m going to do, for instance. We’ll hang up, and I’ll call the supplier right away. I might have to wait a day or longer before I find the appropriate individual. Then I’ll say that I need another widget in emerald green for you. It can take another week for things to be delivered to our store. At that time, I’ll give you a call and you may choose to have it sent or come pick it up. I’m sending you a return label to send the damaged item back in the meantime. Within two and a half weeks, I should have a replacement for you. I’ll give you a call when it arrives.
6. Smile when you talk to customers.
Did you realize that a grin can be heard? Make sure your staff sounds excited to chat with consumers since research demonstrates that smiling when speaking on the phone changes your voice tone in a discernible way. Since clients cannot see staff members’ body language when they are speaking over the phone, it is worse if they sound glum. When speaking on the phone as opposed to in person, words and intonation are considerably more crucial.
7. Learn how to handle angry people.
First, refrain from urging someone to cool off. Nobody likes to seem insane, but it’s impossible to avoid it when a customer is so enraged. It may seem strange, but if the consumer starts out loud, your customer care representative should talk a little louder at first.
Such such as “how dreadful,” “you’re perfectly right to be upset,” or “I can’t believe this – how terrible” should be used to reassure the listener. The customer will feel heard. When the caller’s voice gradually returns to normal level, the customer support agent should once more imitate the client’s loudness. When the client has quieted down, utilize approach number five to explain how you will address the issue.
8. Answer after the first few rings.
Never allow a call to go to voicemail. In fact, rather of making a caller wait, you should answer after a few rings. If they are kept on the line for an excessive amount of time without assistance, customers sometimes become upset or even hang up. It’s preferable to take the phone than to ignore it for several minutes while you attend to another caller, even if you only put the person on wait.
9. Eliminate background noise.
Background noise is really unprofessional and disturbing. Make sure you are in a quiet location, such as a call box or private office, and avoid using the speakerphone to block out background noise. Try taking the call somewhere else if your usual workstation is too loud, and ask individuals around you to speak quietly.
10. Ask questions and take notes.
Ask the caller if you are unclear of their identity or what assistance they want from you. Make sure you take notes on their name, firm, and phone number and that you comprehend all they are asking or wanting. For instance, you should write down the message they want to send, along with the recipient’s phone number and complete name, so you can deliver it appropriately if they are attempting to reach someone who is not now accessible at the organization.
Mistakes to avoid on the phone with customers
Here’s what not to do while you’re on the phone with consumers now that you know what to do.
1. Don’t interrupt your customers.
This one pretty much speaks for itself. Why would you interrupt your consumers when you wouldn’t in a normal conversation? Wait for them to complete speaking before you really engage in conversation.
2. Don’t give answers you don’t have.
It’s acceptable to lack knowledge; in fact, your quest for knowledge begins with your ignorance. Telling a customer, they’ll be put on wait until you talk with the appropriate team member will avoid giving them the wrong response. So come back with the appropriate response. This will ensure that your staff is consistent when the consumer calls again in the future. Consistency reduces the likelihood of consumer misunderstanding and annoyance.
3. Don’t lean on scripts.
Scripts can provide your customer care representatives ideas for what to say when they answer the phone, but that should be the extent of their use. Following then, your staff should use its expertise of phone etiquette and other training to skillfully handle the discussion. Instead of reassuring and retaining customers, an overly prepared discussion might leave them feeling disregarded and disappointed.
4. Don’t transfer the customer too often.
Transferring someone to the appropriate person for their enquiry is necessary if necessary. However, you shouldn’t pass the consumer around to various members of your staff.
You must be very confident that you are transferring the consumer to the appropriate team member before transferring. This spares that team member from having to transfer the caller as well. Multiple transfers might make the consumer feel overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated, which is bad for business.
5. Don’t keep your customer service in-house if you don’t have the capacity.
Let’s imagine that despite your best efforts, you just aren’t able to balance your need to deliver excellent in-house customer service with your budget and schedule constraints. If so, you can select a call center provider to handle all of your customer care needs over the phone. Additionally, your staff will have more time to take care of a variety of other business requirements when they aren’t on the phone all day.
Great phone etiquette makes a great business
Running a reputable, prosperous company requires more than just producing unique goods or offering dependable services. A factor in the equation is how you deal with consumers, even over the phone. Whether you maintain your customer phone line in-house or outsource it to a contact center, good phone manners are essential. And with the help of this manual, it will be simpler to uphold that etiquette during each and every client encounter.