Teaching Proper Phone Etiquette – How You Lost the Sale Before You Had a Chance to Make It

 In Customer Service, Guest Blogs, Marketing Ideas, Sales

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We have all experienced PHONE HELL.  It happens when a business has not trained their receptionist, other employees, or the virtual assistant in the proper phone etiquette for that company.  We enter phone hell when proper phone etiquette is not followed and one of a few things happen:

  • The phone is NEVER answered by a live person.
  • The phone is answered by an answering machine and says “Our options have changed, to please listen to all of them before” just pounding the ZERO KEY over and over so that you are transferred to an operator.
  • The phone is answered by voice mail that is a machine voice.
  • Once you are transferred to that operator, he speaks too loud, too soft, too unintelligible, or too fast for you to understand what he is saying.
  • He transfers you to the wrong department.
  • He hangs up before the transfer goes through, leaving you with a dial tone.
  • He gives you wrong information.
  • He tells you that he has to see if the person you want to speak to is in, asks your name, then comes back and tells you that the person to whom you wish to speak is unavailable.

These are so many ways you can lose a sale, why make it harder on yourself by having your phone answered in an improper or unprofessional manner.  There is really no reason for it, either.  Let’s make an assumption that everyone we hire is in sales, no matter what their job function.  Then let’s train them that every time the phone rings, it is bringing sales into the company, no matter what the call is about.  That means that raises, bonuses and other benefits all go up when enough phone calls are handled using proper phone etiquette.

Let’s look at the list above and see if we can solve some of these phone etiquette problems.

  • Never answered. If there is no one to answer the phone, or you are a one-person company and are too busy to answer the phone, then hire a phone answering service.
  • Options Have Changed. NO, they have not.  And if you are going to use this ruse to get them to listen to all the options, then do it in your voice, or an employee’s voice.  Use some different script, too.  “Thanks for calling Yuloff Creative.  We have several awesome options for you, and here they are….”
  • Machine Voice. When I get these, I think ‘are they still in business?” “Did I call the right number?” “Why are they so unprofessional?”
  • The Operator from Hell. The person you hire to answer the phone MUST speak in a proper tone.  Even if they answer the phone 200 times a day, it must be stressed that the next call could be the most important call of the day.  There is a joke that is used when someone makes a very silly error that goes “You had ONE JOB.”  Yes, they have one job and I hate to say this but someone has to tell you: If they answer the phone poorly, they do not belong working for you in that capacity.
  • They MUST be familiar with every department in the company.  If you lose business because a call was transferred improperly, it is not the receptionist’s fault.  It is bad training.  Create a chart called WHY PEOPLE CALL US  or WHO DOES WHAT so they can just look at the chart and direct the call properly.
  • Premature Hangups. Once again, the person at the front MUST be shown how to use the system.
  • Wrong Information. “You know what, sir, I do not know who handles that at the company.  I have been instructed that when that happens I am supposed to connect you with X because X knows everything in the company and will get you those answers.  May I transfer you to him?”  Then the receptionist must also follow up to get the correct answer.
  • You’re not in for that person? Have the receptionist be honest.  If you are taking calls, take calls. If you are not taking calls, take NO calls.  Tell the receptionist that you have instructed him that you are in back to back meetings, but will be checking for messages at the top of every hour and returning calls.  Then return them.

The easiest way to make certain that the phone is answered with proper phone etiquette is to use a SCRIPT.

Tell your employees that ‘this is the exact manner in which to answer the phone.’  Let them know that they will be secret shopped to make sure that they are doing it correctly.  When hiring for the receptionist position, part of your interview should be to have them answer the phone, in fact, interview them over the phone first.

Once hired, have the new employee create a list of questions that may not have come up during training so that you can both learn together.

My first job was working at Thrifty Drug Store in Los Angeles.

I was one of those who had to answer the phone and figured out that most of the phone calls that came in after 5 pm (we were open until 10 pm) were asking what time we were open until so they could get to the pharmacy to pick up their meds or the liquor department on their way home.  I began answering the phone with “Thank you for calling Thrifty Drug Store, Encino, we’re open until 10 pm this evening.  How may I help you?” Most of the time, the response I received was, “Wow, thank you so very much.” Click.  My manager heard me, noticed how little time I was on the phone, and it became store policy to begin answering the customer’s question before they even had to ask it.

When hiring for the receptionist position, part of your interview should be to have them answer your calls.  Give them a few tests.  And for goodness sake, make sure you call their references for past jobs.

How may we help you improve proper phone etiquette at your company?  Do you need to practice it with everyone on your staff? Do you need your virtual assistant to be secret shopped?  Head to www.FreeMarketingConsulation.com.  Take the short assessment and then we can talk on the phone, using proper phone etiquette about your situation.

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