Practice Good Phone Skills

As a business professional you spend a lot of time on the phone. Every such conversation is an opportunity to strengthen relationships and build business, and because of that, your phone skills need to be top notch.

Here are a few tips to help ensure clients come away with a positive experience after having phone calls with you:

  • Know your phone system – Can you confidently put someone on hold for a moment or transfer a call without accidentally hanging up on them? When someone can’t work a telephone, it may leave doubts about competence in other areas. If you aren’t comfortable using your phone’s features, find someone to help you practice the mechanics.
  • Answer quickly – We know that if a call isn’t answered in three rings or less, it’s probably going to voicemail. Instead of that, callers sometimes hang up with the intention of trying later—or perhaps calling someone else. If you’re there when the phone rings and can answer, do so without delay.
  • Identify yourself – Don’t assume the other person knows your voice or that the correct parties are connecting. State your name, and when placing the call or answering a direct line, provide your company’s name. Learn the convention at your office and follow it for consistency. For example, “Thank you for calling (your company’s name), this is Mary Jones. How can I help you?”
  • Speak clearly – If you’re someone who normally talks fast, slow down. However, it’s not as important to speak slowly as it to fully enunciate your words, so don’t mumble. Also, don’t eat or drink when you are on the phone. Not only does that make you harder to understand, it’s rude and it might even cause you to choke. On a more positive note, try physically smiling while you speak. Believe it not, listeners can actually “hear” a smile.
  • Leave efficient voicemail – From time to time, you will have to leave someone a message. Immediately identify yourself: name, company and phone number. Summarize the reason for your call as briefly as possible; save the details for when the actual conversation takes place. When you conclude by asking for a call back, provide your name, company and phone number again, just in case something wasn’t clear the first time.
  • Get permission before disrupting a call – Sometimes you simply can’t continue a conversation right then. Ask the other person if it’s okay to place them on hold, wait for their approval, and thank them for the disruption. Unless it’s urgent, they will probably agree; but if not, take their implied word that urgency is of prime importance. If the interruption requires more than three or four minutes, ask for permission to call back, then be sure to do so as quickly as possible.
  • Give the other person plenty of opportunities to speak – You can’t learn anything from a conversation when you’re only one talking. Listen carefully while the other person is speaking and never interrupt before they’ve finished a thought. When you do talk, ask questions along the way to help keep your client engaged.
  • Know what you plan to talk about – If you know the topic of conversation prior to the call, don’t simply rely on memory to cover all the points you plan to address. Conversations may go in any direction and it’s easy to lose track. Jot down a few notes that you can check off to ensure you don’t hang up before covering everything.
  • Set expectations – While you have clients on the phone, be sure to share what you (or others on your team) will be doing for them and provide a timeline. This will reinforce the value that’s being provided and help them understand when they can expect an issue to be resolved. Keep in mind the mantra to “under promise and over deliver,” and give yourself some wiggle room.

As a final note, remember that you aren’t just speaking for yourself when conducting business over the phone; you are also representing your company as a whole. We rely on everyone to make the best possible impression when talking to contacts so that they know they’re dealing with an effective professional organization.

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