Telephone Skills for Customer Service

Manage your voice and diction

Because you are only being heard, and not seen, the telephone places a greater emphasis on the quality of your voice and the words you use during the conversation. For this reason, you need to be very careful about what you say and how you say it.

Manage your voice and choose your words wisely as you:

  • Use your best voice
  • Address the caller appropriately
  • Know how to answer the call
  • Put the call on hold or transfer
  • Close the conversation

Use your best voice

Each of us has a unique voice. To a great extent, our voices reflect who we are. Learning how to use the voice optimally is possible for anyone.

There are several things you could do to produce a more desirable speaking voice. You can hum quietly, which will deepen the sound of your voice. Practice your pitch and control by leaving messages on a recorder and playing them back. You may even ask a friend for feedback on your tone, rate of delivery, and voice inflection.

Taking a speech class at the local college may also be helpful. But the simplest way to improve the quality of your voice is to smile while you talk. It is easy to do, and, believe it or not, it will make your voice sound friendlier.

Tool: View the Voice Self-Assessment to help you pinpoint specific areas in which you need to improve the quality of your voice.

Tool: Voice Self-Assessment

Your voice reflects your personality. If it needs improvement, you can do it, but you must be willing to try. Practicing voice skills is no different than practicing a sport. If you stay at it, you are bound to improve. Rate your voice using the following self-evaluation. Check those characteristics that apply to you and then ask a friend to help evaluate your responses.

tool - voice self assessment

For any undesirable traits checked, you should begin work on correcting them. The skills suggested in this course should help, but you may also want to enroll in a speech improvement class.

Address the Caller Appropriately

Rules about how to address callers can be confusing because of the many options. There are seven basic ways to address a calling party: Mr., Miss, First Name, Ms., Sir, Mrs., and Ma’am. The average caller may or may not be sensitive about how he or she is addressed, but if you follow a few simple suggestions for addressing callers you shouldn’t have a problem.

When addressing a male, you are always correct to use Mr. or Sir. Addressing a woman is more confusing. The use of Mrs. or Miss is common and generally acceptable, but some women prefer Ms. and may request this form of address. If you are uncertain, simply ask the caller for her preference. Often when you ask for the correct form of address the caller will suggest the use of a first name.

Know How to Answer the Call

First impressions are important. Callers begin to form their impression of an organization by the first voice they hear and the number of rings it takes to get an answer.

Whether the voice is live or part of voicemail, it needs to help create a favorable impression. Imagine a cheerful, “Good morning, Alpha Telecom, James hall, how may I help you?” versus a terse, clipped, “International Gourmet, please hold.”

The rules for answering a telephone are simple, but they need to be reviewed and practiced continually. Be enthusiastic when you answer, using friendly phrases as part of your greeting, and remember to smile. It might help to tape the word smile on your telephone receiver.

Put the Call on Hold or Transfer

Often, you will need to put a caller on hold. Before you put a caller on hold, be sure to ask permission first and receive confirmation. Never just set the
receiver aside; the caller doesn’t need to hear your background noise. Remember who is holding and for what reason.

Write it down if necessary. Whenever possible, provide callers with a status report, and give them the choice to either continue holding or to leave a message. Never leave a caller on hold for a long period of time without letting him know what is happening.

If you need to transfer a call, let the caller know when you will be transferring and to whom she will be transferred. When you transfer the call, tell the next person the customer’s name and what she needs. Don’t make the caller explain her story several times. And remember to make sure you are transferring the caller to the correct person. No one likes being sent on a wild goose chase without every really getting the help they need.

Close the Conversation

When you finish your telephone conversation there are some appropriate and courteous statements that should always be made.

You should:

  • Thank the customer for calling
  • Let the customer know you appreciate his or her business
  • Provide assurance that any promises will be fulfilled
  • Leave the customer with a positive feeling

In addition, you should always let the customer hang up first. This is a simple courtesy that gives the caller a final chance to add something.