“First impressions matter when you want to build a lasting trust,” says the associate professor at Ohio State University, Robert Lount. “If you get off on the wrong foot, the relationship may never be completely right again.”
So how does one go about making an excellent first impression? One way to do so is to effectively manage your personal image at all times. Whilst we all know about dressing in the proper attire, adhering to high standards of personal hygiene, and greeting people with a warm smile, what happens when your first interaction with a potential client or customer happens not in person, but over the telephone?
Instead of using body language and presenting yourself as a professional physically, you must use voice skills and telephone etiquette, both of which are easy enough to understand. Mastering both voice skills and proper telephone etiquette is essential for anyone who talks to customers over the phone on a regular basis, primarily those employed as receptionists or in similar roles.
Voice skills best practices
Along with mastering the elements of voice – cadence, intonation, volume, and pitch, you must also learn voice skills best practices. Here are a few of many to consider.
Avoiding sounding boring and monotonous over the phone is important, yet it’s an aspect of mastering voice skills that many people fail to pay adequate time and attention to. To make your over the phone speech come across as effective and as interesting as you know it to be, a variety of simple techniques can be applied.
Inflection is well known for its effectiveness at conveying information and meaning, but so too are pauses, in fact, pauses are one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal. Pauses can be used for effect to highlight a preceding statement, and they can also be used to increase attention before delivering an important message.
Some advocate using lengthy pauses – as long as five seconds, however, generally speaking, pauses should actually be cut off after two or three. Overly long pauses fail to deliver the authority and confidence the speaker wishes to convey, and could also encourage the other to interrupt, leading to a breakdown in the conversation.
Varied vocal pace
Varying your vocal pace – speeding up and then slowing down, can help you to deliver a lengthy message without the other person losing interest. Still, you must always check with the listener to ensure they are keeping up with what you are saying, and not losing patience with the length of the message you are delivering.
Telephone etiquette best practices
The first point that will be made here about telephone etiquette best practices is consistency, which makes this an opportune moment to make another point, that each of your staff members who answers the phone receives the right training.
The need for training is ongoing, and identifying the right training options for your staff requires you to ensure everyone is consistently applying your business’s specific phone policies and the best practices that you have identified as important.
One of the most important telephone etiquette best practices, your phone lines should be answered with consistency. This is as simple as training your staff to answer the phone using your business name, then their own name, for instance, ‘Hello, Petersfield Pet Store, this is Karen speaking.’
Use telephones correctly
Nowadays business phones come with a wide range of features, far too many features in many cases, so it’s essential that your staff are trained how to use the phone’s features correctly.
This will help to avoid negative, avoidable situations taking place, like transferring the call to the wrong recipient, ending the call prematurely, or not actually putting the caller on hold so they can still hear you talking in the background.
Don’t interrupt callers
No matter how long a customer is taking to get to the point, it’s important that your staff understand the importance of not interrupting customers on the phone, even if it’s proving incredibly difficult to put up with their complaints and negative attitude.
In a day and age of social media interactions, customers who feel spurned over the phone when their complaints aren’t given the attention they feel they deserve are often the most likely to take to Facebook or Twitter and share a list of grievances that you may rightly consider filing a defamation lawsuit over.
But by then the damage will be done because your customers would know all about the incident and may start to look elsewhere for the products and services they need.
Answer the phone promptly
Calls should always be answered by the third ring, but not on the first. This is seen as a telephone best practice because it ensures the caller doesn’t wait too long, plus it also avoids the shock that often ensues when a call is answered on the first ring.
Get the closing right
So much is made of the need to get the call introduction correct and adhere to a consistent message, but what about the closing, isn’t that just as important? Yes, indeed it is, you should place just as much importance on ending the call professionally as you do on starting it professionally.
A great way to end a call is to thank the caller for calling and use their first name or surname, for example, ‘Thanks for your call Michael/Mr Jones, goodbye.’
As a leading UK call centre, Netcall Solutions understands the importance of conveying the impression of professionalism over the phone. To have your calls answered by highly trained and experienced receptionists at our modern, UK-based call centre, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Netcall Solutions team today.