Telephone Skills for Customer Service

Understand your equipment

In your job you may use e-mail, fax, voicemail, and the telephone. Each of these tools can help you satisfy your customers. Although there are sales representatives and others who meet with customers, most service in the typical organization is provided over the telephone even today.

To provide quality customer service you must learn to:
  • Handle the telephone
  • Understand voicemail
  • Send a professional fax
  • Use e-mail appropriately
  • Set up a conference call

Handle the telephone

Be sure you understand the features of your phone. Know what all the buttons are, how to transfer a call, put a caller on hold, etc. All of these features are designed to help you handle calls smoothly. At first glance they may seem complicated, but they are typically easy to use. To understand the capabilities of your telephone better, read about the available features or ask a more experienced person to explain them to you. Then practice until they become automatic.

Take time to learn about your telephone ahead of time. Do not practice on a caller. Be familiar with all the features so you don’t accidentally disconnect someone during a transfer or make some other mistake. Be sure to practice appropriate telephone etiquette, such as not eating or drinking while on the phone.

Understand Voicemail

To fully benefit from voicemail, you must understand the features of your voice message system. Booklets are usually available to explain each feature, and your system administrator can answer more detailed questions.

When leaving a message, be sure that it is clear and concise and contains enough details to be understood. One idea behind a voicemail system is the privacy it affords, and therefore more detailed and longer messages can be left. This often prevents numerous callbacks.

Upon returning to your desk, check for messages. Return calls promptly. If you are going to be gone for long periods of time, forward your calls to someone who can help the caller, or leave instructions in your voicemail greeting explaining how the caller can get help. Remember that the customer has a set of reasonable expectations concerning messages, and these expectations should always be met.

Send a Professional Fax

Fax machines can be found almost everywhere now. Even though sending a fax is quick and easy, you should remember that:

  • Faxes are seldom private. As a general rule, always assume the customer’s fax machine is in a large office and accessible to everyone. You don’t want to send a fax that may not be wise for a bystander to see.
  • You should treat fax communication just as you would a business letter. Make certain that it is professional and well written.

Use E-mail Appropriately

E-mail is meant to be a faster and cheaper form of business communication, but far too often e-mail is used for personal mail, jokes, and assorted trivia. It would be easy to simply overlook an important message because of all the stuff that clutters up an e-mail account. E-mail allows you to think through what you want to say and provides documentation. Unfortunately, it is often easy to sit down and create a document that conveys a lot of emotion with a few choice words—words we might never speak, but are all too easy to write. Then, with a click of the mouse, off it goes. Be as careful with e-mail as you are with all written communication.

Here are some guidelines that you should follow when you are using e-mail system:

  • Do not assume the message is private.
  • Make your messages  clear and concise.
  • Do not use your business e-mail for personal communication.

Set up a Conference Call

Conference calling can be an easy way to communicate. It is ideal for meetings with people not in the office. Learn how to set up a conference call on your phone system, or ask your local operator for assistance. When participating in a conference call follow these simple rules:

  • Take a moment to introduce everyone who is participating in the conference call before you proceed with your business.
  • When the customer is participating in the conference call, make certain others on the call know it.
  • Keep in mind that since multiple speakerphones can be used on a call, you may not know who is listening.
  • Because of the number of people involved during most conference calls, be even more discreet and professional.