When your phone rings, there can be only four types of people who want to connect with you – our family, friends, colleagues, or clients.
Let’s imagine a scenario where your friend called you. After answering the phone, you would probably say, “Hey man, what’s up?”
When your father calls you usually greet him by saying, “Hi Dad, how are you?”
If it’s a customer who called, you ask them, “Hi, my name is XYZ. How can I help you?”
Have you noticed the change in your greeting from person to person? You were giving a personal touch to your family and friends but you sounded formal while talking to the customer.
It’s not just you but everybody else works like this. Unknowingly, we change our tone, the firmness of our speech, and our volume, depending on who we converse with.
In normal day-to-day scenarios, you rarely worry about how you sound on the phone. But when it comes to answering professional calls, you should be mindful of your words, language, pitch, and so many other things.
This article will teach you phone etiquette tips that may come in handy while answering professional calls. But before you jump in, understand why these etiquette skills are necessary.
Why Professional Phone Etiquette Is Important
As discussed earlier in the article, phone etiquette doesn’t have much importance in informal conversations. But they become extremely necessary when you get a call from your existing clients or they become more challenging when a new customer calls you.
Do you think that when you pick your phone to answer a first-time caller and say “Hey man, what’s going on?” they still want to do business with you? That’s unlikely to happen. They might hang up the call and won’t call you again.
Hence, you should sound professional even before you press the answer button or pick up the receiver.
You may say that these are just bizarre claims, but these are supported by actual stats:
- According to a study, 42% of customers left their brands and joined competitor brands because the staff was not helpful and even rude in some cases.
- Another survey conducted by RightNow showed that 73% of customers stayed with a brand just because customer representatives were polite and used a friendly tone. Keep in mind that having a friendly tone does not mean using slang or inappropriate language over an official phone call. Later in this article, you will know how to keep the right attitude in a professional call.
So, to retain your current customers and keep generating new leads, you have to understand the techniques of a phone call. These etiquettes will help you sound more professional and of a decent business-standard.
You need to properly design and implement a set of rules or guidelines to follow when answering these calls.
This does not mean that you have to be repetitive in terms of questions and replies. You cannot foresee what a customer might or might ask of you. What you can do instead is structure your do’s and don’ts in such a way that suits most calls.
Here are some professional phone etiquette examples for better understanding:
- “If you don’t mind, can I put your call on hold?”
- “I’m so sorry to hear that sir, but unfortunately, I’m not an expert in this domain. Can I transfer the call to the concerned person?”
- “Thank you for calling us. Have a great day!”
13 Tips for Answering Calls Professionally
Every individual or company has a different set of clients and customer base. One set of rules may not apply to certain individuals. This tells us that a set of guidelines for answering all professional calls is required.
Here are helpful tips that you can add to your telephone etiquette rules. You can always modify them accordingly.
1. Answer Within Three Rings
One of the most important professional phone etiquette tips is to answer the phone within three rings. Generally, your caller will hang up if you don’t answer at the right time. Three rings are optimal for a customer.
This rule exists for three main reasons:
- This ensures that you get to answer every single call while you’re at work. Remember, the customer is not calling you to hang up. They are calling you to talk to you.
- The second reason is to be able to answer the call as soon as possible. However, picking up at the first ring may only convey that you were desperately waiting for the call.
- The last reason is to give you enough time to mentally prepare yourself for the call. You can remind yourself of the guidelines, take a deep breath, and finally answer the call.
Three rings are more than enough to not let customers wait on you – and at the same time, you’re better prepared.
2. Introduce yourself
Now that you have picked up the phone, what will be the first words that should come out of your mouth? Many professionals often face this dilemma.
Here’s a thumb rule that will help:
The first thing that you should do is to introduce yourself. You may not do this while answering an informal call like when you are calling your family or friends. But in the case of official calls, it’s different. Giving a proper introduction is a must.
You can start by saying your name, followed by your designation, and lastly your company. This will assure a customer that they have called the right company.
You can say, “How can I help you?” at the end of the introduction to give warmth to the conversation.
You may have heard similar sentences before when you contacted customer service.
One thing that is worth mentioning here is that you need to control your pace. If you race your words, you will sound gibberish and lose a potential lead. Therefore, you need to stay calm, take a deep breath, and start a great conversation.
3. Speak Clearly
Have you heard a radio presenter? They often speak clearly and in a comfortable manner. You might wonder, how can they convey their message so neatly? It’s simply because they were taught to focus on verbal communication only. These presenters are behind a microphone in a far off studio. Nobody can see them. Their voice is the only medium through which they can connect to the world.
The same rule applies to phone etiquette. The person on the receiving end cannot see you. You have to build rapport through verbal communication only. Understand that you are judged based on your voice, temperament, and other phone etiquette skills.
4. Watch your Tone
You should always keep a constant tone of voice while having a conversation. Do not raise or lower your voice. Adjust the tone so that the person on the receiving end does not think of you as rude or you do not have to repeat yourself again and again.
Your tone is also a reflection of your mood. You might feel angry, sad, pushy, or anxious, and if you let your feelings take control of your tone, you might drive a customer away. So, make sure to set your feelings aside.
Some people handle this problem by sitting straight in a chair or standing up. That’s because leaning on a chair might lower their voice and they might sound lazy, unattentive, or in some cases bored which is undesirable.
5. Use Language Carefully
Your language reflects your personality.
If you use casual language, the customer might interpret that you’re taking them casually. On the other hand, if your language is professional and well structured, the caller will believe that you have a sound knowledge of the topic at hand.
In addition, be respectful at all times. There will be instances where customers might be angry. They may even scream at you or use slang languages. Even in those situations, you have to remain calm and keep your composure. After listening to your peaceful language, the customer may find assurance and calm down.
Remember, you are the one who is pulling the strings of the chariot. You are the lead in the conversation.
6. Stay Positive
This tip is especially helpful for dealing with frustrated and angry clients.
When you are talking to such types of callers, it’s your responsibility to calm them down and understand where the anger is coming from. But if you jump straight to the point, they might get more agitated.
Here’s what you can do: Calmly ask them about the problem they’re facing. Try to understand the problem, identify the source of the anger, and try to relate to the customer.
Isn’t that something that you do with your friends? The only difference here is that you have to do it professionally and with a smile. This is why phone etiquette matters.
7. Listen and Take Notes
It’s natural for a human being to lose interest in a call. You’re probably doing it for the whole day. You might feel tired, bored, or something that might have happened in your personal life that made you distracted and disturbed.
It happens all the time.
But you can’t afford to let your personal life mess up your professional one. So the question is, how can you take back control?
According to telephone etiquette rules, you are advised to listen to your caller attentively and take notes. There are several benefits to this strategy. Since you have to take notes, you will be focused on the caller’s words. Another advantage is that your caller won’t have to repeat themselves. Repeating the same thing, again and again, can irritate them.
Proactively listening and taking notes can help you summarize your customer’s problem, thereby helping you to understand them even better.
8. Never Interrupt
It will be tough for you to restrict yourself from interrupting but saying something while another person is talking shows that you’re being unprofessional. You can say whatever you want, but only after your customer finishes their sentences.
This tip is, however, subjective. If the customer is talking to you in a rude manner, using slangs, and not even listening to a word you’re saying, and consistently crossing the boundary, then you can hang up the call.
But it should be the last thing that you do. Before that, you should try and listen to the whole story and give appropriate feedback.
9. Avoid Using Speakerphone
Using a speakerphone is more convenient than holding a receiver. Your hands are free, you can type on a keyboard, take notes, check your phone, and do whatever you like.
But you should avoid this temptation. If you use the speakerphone, the caller might hear background noise which can distract them while talking to you.
So in professional phone etiquette’s rulebook, using a speakerphone while talking to a customer is a big NO.
10. Do Not Mislead the Caller
Given the nature of your task, every person on the other side of the call is stuck at some problem. They’re counting on you to resolve the issue. So the situation will be that they will ask you a query and you are expected to offer a solution.
But there will be situations where you don’t know the solution yourself. So, how can you proceed with the call?
The first thing that you should do is acknowledge the fact that you’re incapable of solving the problem. It’s completely OK. You are human, the same as everybody else. Accepting your limitations will make you work towards the solution.
The next thing to do is ask the caller politely whether you can put them on hold and assure them it won’t take too long. Chances are, the caller will permit you to do that since they’re waiting for a solution. They can wait for a couple of minutes to get rid of the problem.
In the meantime, you can look for a solution. If you find one, resume the call immediately and thank the caller for their patience and not disconnecting.
If you can’t find a solution, you have to take the next step which is transferring the call. There may be someone in your team who is capable of handling such a problem. Let them take the call. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
But keep in mind that you need to let your caller know that you are going to transfer the call and ask for their permission first. The recommended practice is to tell your caller that you are transferring the call to higher authority personnel. This way the caller can be assured that if you cannot provide a solution, the other person can.
11. Respond to Voicemails
You’re not available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It’s understandable. But what will a customer do when they want to contact you?
They often leave a voicemail. Let’s consider the customer’s point of view. They left a message, now they are expecting a reply from you. If you fail to respond to that voicemail, the customer will leave and you could lose a potential client.
To avoid such unfavorable situations, check your voicemail daily. You could do it twice a day, once before starting your work and one at the end of the day. Your customer will appreciate your response and you can retain them easily.
12. Keep Callers Informed
You must discuss your next steps with your callers. Whether you’re putting them on hold, transferring the call, or taking another step, you need to inform them.
After hearing your plan of action, the caller might express a sense of relief. This tip will help you to build trust among your callers.
13. Say Thank You
End every call by appreciating the caller for their effort and time taken for the conversation. This will add a new layer of warmth to end the conversation.
It’s even better if you can wish them a nice day. A little personal touch at the end goes a long way in your professional calling experience.
Many of the tips above are taught as a part of phone etiquette. As a customer service rep, it’s your job to make a person comfortable. At the same time, we should carefully handle every situation during calls. Apply these tips and create a stronger client base from a single phone call.