When you answer the telephone in a business, you are interacting with a customer. Every telephone call you make at work gives you an opportunity to strengthen a customer relationship.

You also use the telephone in a business for other reasons too. After all, you may use the telephone to talk to customers at work, but you also talk to colleagues and co-workers on the phone, and they're not customers.

There are really two kinds of customers - external and internal. External ones are the people who call your company to buy products and services. The external customer's call demands your best telephone manners.

When you work with other people or you coordinate with other departments or divisions, you are interacting with internal customers. If a colleague calls needing data from you to prepare a report, that person is really your internal customer. Internal telephone calls deserve the same level of courtesy you'd normally use with real customers.

Telephone courtesy should become a habit. Whether you're interacting with external or internal customers, courtesy is always your best telephone strategy.

FOCUS ON TELEPHONE COURTESY

Draw on your telephone experiences - both as a customer and as a businessperson - to answer the questions below. Then consider each of the related telephone tips.

1. When you place a call, how many rings do you allow before you assume the party is not going to answer?

TIP
You should allow from 4 to 6 rings before you assume the person you are calling is not going to answer.

2. When the telephone rings, how quickly do you answer?

TIP
When you receive a call, answer on the first or second ring. In business, the ring of the telephone is not simply an interruption. Answering the telephone is an integral part of your job.

3. Have you ever been lost when someone tried to transfer your call?

TIP
Call transfers are very common. Be sure you know the proper process on your system. Customers who are lost in transfer may become lost business as well.

4. When making a business call, do you like being put on hold? When you're on hold, have you ever felt abandoned or left hanging?

TIP
Most people don't like being on hold. Be sure you ask the party if he/she wants to hold. Then check back every 30 seconds to confirm that hold or offer to take a message. Never leave a caller on hold.

5. Have you ever been on the telephone when the other party dropped the receiver or accidentally banged it on the desktop?

TIP
It is an unpleasant surprise. Be especially careful in handling the receiver. Your telephone partner will appreciate it.

6. How do you feel when talking on the telephone to someone who is eating or drinking during the conversation?

TIP
Don't eat, drink or chew gum during a conversation. Such sounds are not always pleasant.

7. What impression do you get when the other person fumbles around looking for a pad or pencil?

TIP
You probably imagined the person was not organized or was not very businesslike. Since you always want to make a positive telephone impression, be ready for action.

8. When someone says he/she will call back at a specific time - but doesn't, how do you feel?

TIP
Telephone tag means two parties try to get in touch by leaving phone messages and attempting callbacks. It's become an annoying fact of business life. If you promise to call back at a certain time, make that call. Likewise, if you've promised to be available at a certain time to receive a call, be there.

9. Suppose you receive a call and are disconnected. Who takes the initiative to resume the call?

TIP
The person who made the original call makes the second call to resume an interrupted conversation. The person who received the original call should hang up immediately when the call is disrupted to enable the other party to call back.
 
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