Your telephone is not just a communication tool. It is often the first opportunity you have to showcase your professionalism, and I see it as the image projector of how you conduct business overall.
Telephone etiquette tips to ensure a positive client experience, every time…
Answer with a smile
Although this is an age-old tip, it really works. Make sure you speak clearly and are smiling when you answer the phone. This not only puts you in the right mindset to assist the person on the other side but also lets the caller feel good about phoning.
Always identify yourself at the beginning of all calls.
When in your office, answer the telephone by stating your business name, then your own name, e.g.“Be Virtual Assistant Wise good morning, this is Francis speaking”.
You may even add “…how may I assist you?”. If you allow family members to answer the phone on your behalf during office hours, inform them of the way you want it done.
From a cell phone, simply say, Hallo, and state your name: “Hallo, Francis van Wyk here”. Do not answer using words such as “yeah” or “yes.”
As a general rule of thumb, a business telephone should be answered by the fourth ring, preferably sooner. If the telephone rings so long that the caller wonders whether you are there or not, you are not practicing telephone etiquette.
Be prompt in answering the phone, be warm and enthusiastic and treat each call as if it is the most important call of the day.
Don’t interrupt when the caller is speaking
Never interrupt a person when he/she is talking to you and never give the impression that you are rushed. Listen closely in order to understand their needs and requests. Give the person time to explain his or her situation. Remember, listening makes the clients feel that their needs are important. Don’t sound bored or indifferent. Put energy into your voice, even if you are not having the best of days.
And don’t become distracted by e-mail popping up on your computer screen or other household activities … pay full attention to the caller.
Ask permission to put a caller on hold
If you have to put a person on hold (for what-ever reason), first ask their permission and get back to them as soon as possible. Say something like: “May I put your call on hold for a moment while I pull the information for you?”
Then, to gain the client's attention when you return to the line, call them by name and wait for the response, e.g. “Mr. Smith? (Pause for him to respond)…Thank you for waiting, I do have the information for you.”
Don’t use speakerphone
Don’t put the caller on speakerphone. Although a speakerphone might be very convenient, your client may not think so as speakerphones tend to pick up every background noise. This may give your client the impression that you are not focusing on what they say.
Speakerphones sometimes also have an acoustic background effect where the caller hears a repeat of his discussion (much the same as with some long-distance/international calls) that can be very distracting.
No eating, drinking, or chewing
Don’t eat, drink or chew gum when talking on the phone. Aside from being very rude, these sounds become magnified over the phone. It can also make your words difficult for callers to understand.
Try also not to cough, sneeze or clear your throat into the phone. If it so happens that you must sneeze or cough, move the mouthpiece away and cover it with your hand.
Be sensitive to the tone of your voice
Clients are unable to see your face when they call, so the way your voice projects will either win them over or chase them away. An angry or overly anxious tone might scare potential clients away.
Use a professional voice message
If you make use of an answering machine or answering service ensures that you have a professional recorded message that will give the caller the assurance you’ll get back to them. It can be something like: “Hallo, thanks for calling. This is Francis. I’m not available right now, but please leave your name and number and when I return your call, I’ll be glad to answer your questions. I’ll be in touch soon.”
Return calls promptly
If possible return calls the same day they are received. If you’re “out of office” for an extended period of time, update your recording and tell clients by when you’ll be able to return their calls.