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So now we understand the general rules we need to look at the other aspects of dealing with a customer over the telephone.

When it comes to telephone language you should never forget the value of the tone of our voice can provide. The words that we use can often unwillingly give off a negative message to our callers.

Ensure that you speak clearly and precisely, make allowances for the possibility that the customer may have a poor signal on their mobile phone or that you may have called them at an inconvenient time for them to speak. Ask them ‘is it a convenient time to speak?’ If it isn’t, then agree a time to call them again.

When answering a telephone call, consider that this may be the customer’s first contact with the company and remember that first impressions count!

Telephone calls should always be answered within 2 or 3 rings and when you do answer it you need to greet the customer, Identify yourself and the company that you work for. The perfect greeting is ‘Good morning’, Good afternoon’ or ‘Good evening’. If you use this then please ensure that you are using the right greeting for the time of day!

There is no need to state your full name, simply your first name and ensure that you state the full name of your company or department rather than an abbreviation. Check your company’s policy in regards to the greeting that they prefer.

The greeting should give the customer the impression that you are professional, pleasant and willing to help them. Remember to smile when you talk.

There is a simple process to follow when transferring calls and this is to let your customer know that you are planning on doing this, who you are transferring them to and why you are doing this. It is also advisable to ask their permission rather than simply telling them that this will happen.

By taking the time to do this you can ensure that the transfer is being made for the right reason and allows you to clarify that what you are doing is correct. You may well have misunderstood the customer and this will allow the problem to be quickly resolved and corrected.

Never place a customer in a queue and transfer them without an introduction. Call the department who needs the call and introduce the customer and their query before transferring them through. If you are waiting for the call to be answered then return to the customer and explain that you are waiting for this call to be answered.

When you do get through to that department, go back to the customer and advise them of the name of the person that they are being transferred to, the department and if useful their direct telephone number.

If you are not sure who a customer needs to be transferred to then take their name, number and find out where the call needs to be directed and ensure that the customer gets a call from that department.

There will be times where a customer requires to speak with a specific individual who may not be able to handle their call. Always ask first if it there is anything that you can help with, it may be something really straightforward for which you can assist and therefore, avoid the customer waiting for a callback.

If you are unable to help then you will need to take a full and comprehensive message.

There are many ways to record a message, this includes telephone forms, workflow tools and emails. Whatever method that your company decides to use, you will need to ensure that the following information is recorded;

•  The caller’s information - Ensure that you document the correct name with the correct spelling, where they are calling from and their telephone number.

•  Time and date - Document the precise time and date that the customer called so that the receiver can prioritise this in accordance with any other messages taken.

•  The message - The message should include why the customer called and what assistance it is they require. If this is a follow-up call try to obtain a reference number where one has been provided.

•  Required action - Try to ascertain and document what the customer needs to happen and how soon they need it by. If this message is urgent, try to see if anyone else can help. 

This information should be recorded whilst you are speaking with the customer to ensure that this is not forgotten or mixed up with anyone else’s information.