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The Secrets of Business Telephone Success
By Eileen O. Brownell   Printer Friendly Version

Understand the technology you work for so well that you control it, instead of letting it control you
-- George W. Dudley

Recently I phoned a well-known optical company to obtain information on a specific product and service I was interested in purchasing. The poor woman who answered the phone not only indicated the company name and her name, but proceeded to give me a sales pitch about their great sunglasses. Frankly I did not care and I was irritated, she had invaded my time with a long introduction.

A sales person left a message on my voice mail requesting I return his call. He stated the phone number so fast at the conclusion of the message, I had to listen to the entire message three times before I retrieved the entire number.

A friend recently requested I return a call by 11:00 a.m. the next day. She was traveling and left her room number at a well-known hotel chain. The switchboard promptly rang room 303. After 16 rings (over a minute at peak long distance rates), the operator once again asked how she could help me. When I indicated I wanted to leave a message for room 303, her response was, "Oh, she checked out." I was upset and asked, "Why didn't you indicate that when I originally asked for the room." Her response was swift in a high pitched yell, "Who is this?" I repeated my original question. Her voice got even louder. I got madder. We were soon in a no-win situation.

The telephone can be a company's most-valued tool or its undoing. The initial contact made via the phone can attract customers or turn them away. A recent study conducted by Nancy Friedman, 'The Telephone Doctor' indicated good phone skills made good business sense. Eighty-four percent of the respondents were more willing to purchase goods and services from organizations that displayed positive telephone techniques. A big 50% of the respondents stated they would not do business with a company that had poor customer service on the telephone.

Simple telephone techniques can be used to make a difference in a company's image via the phone. Try these simple methods to enhance your company's telephone image:

Answer by the third ring. People are accustomed to receiving a response by the third or fourth ring due to the average telephone answering machine response time. Your prompt phone pick-up indicates that you value a customer's time. Your prompt phone pick-up will create a reputation of business efficiency.

Smile! A smile can be heard over the phone. It presents an upbeat attitude and conveys to the customer your are glad they called.

Identify yourself. State your company name and yourself immediately. The caller is more willing to identify who they are without your prompting. Additionally, people like to know to whom they are talking.

Be professional and upbeat! Put your customer in a positive state of mind. Project a professional image with good manners and respect for the caller. Be sure to use quality voice projection. Remember 38% of any verbal message is communicated by our voice quality.

Eliminate background noise. Distracting voices, music or outside noise is magnified on the other end of the line. Outside noises can also prevent you from using your best listening skills.

Listen, listen and listen again. The caller wants to know they have your undivided attention. Encourage them to share information. Repeat their statements in your own words. Acknowledge their comments with a simple "yes," "ah-huh," and "I understand." This will indicate you have listened and really do care about what they, the customer, have indicated.

Transfer calls only when absolutely necessary. People feel put off when transferred to another individual. If transfers continue to multiple, the caller's opinion of your organization soon dwindles. To ease the transition, ask the caller's permission to do the transfer and explain your reason for doing so. Then follow-up to make sure their needs were fulfilled.

End the call on a positive note. Thank them for calling or indicate, "I enjoyed speaking with you." People reflect on the last few minutes of a conversation more then the beginning. If the call is ended on a positive note, the individual will have positive feelings about your company and want to continue doing business with you.

Leave a simple message. If you must call and leave a message for a client, be sure to state your full name, company and phone number at the very beginning of the message. State them slowly and articulate clearly. Only state it as fast as you can personally write it. Then repeat your number at the end of the message. Be brief and to the point. Avoid rambling for more than a minute.

By 1990, over 300 billion telephone calls were being made on an annual basis in the United States. The average executive conducts at least 50 percent of his or her business on the telephone. It is an important tool that can enhance any business -- or turn customers away. If an individual calls your company only once, he or she will base 90% of their impression of you on that one call. Take the time to make a successful impression with positive telephone skills.

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