Ensure that your employees have telephone-answering skills

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First impressions make a huge difference, especially when it comes to your employees’ relations with clients. Improve this image by making sure your employees know how to appropriately and professionally answer telephone calls and address client concerns.

Start with yourself. Think about the things that annoy you when you make a telephone call and write them down. This can include how quickly the phone is picked up, the greeting you receive, and the tone and speed of the person’s voice answering the call. Use these to help guide the training you create or organize for your employees.

Chances are that you may have a receptionist or one central person answering the phone if you’re a small business owner, but make sure your entire staff — don’t forget yourself — knows company policies and procedures when it comes to handling calls from clients.

Here are some other things to consider:

• Ask your employees to clean their workspace. The more organized, the more likely they can quickly take and find notes and the less likely for distractions when on a call with a customer.

• Tell your employees what to say when a call is picked up and how to close a call. Make sure your employees learn to speak with sincerity and don’t sound fake when greeting callers or signing off. Tell them to smile when speaking to the customer. It will come across in their voice.

• Ensure that your employees know what they are talking about, especially if it’s about a product or service your company offers. Provide them with additional training to appropriately comment on products and services and to answer customer questions.

• Give your employees an opportunity to role play and practice answering calls and questions. This will help them improve and have more practice before they connect with actual customers.

• Know where your customers are located. Make sure your employees know what time zone they are calling or receiving calls from, as this could change their interactions with clients.

• Encourage your employees to keep the chit-chat to a minimum. It’s OK to have a few brief moments of conversation with customers and to inquire about them, but then to get to the point of the telephone call.

• Make sure your employees respect your customers and make them feel reassured. Employees should not interrupt customers even if they are complaining, but they may need to speak in a louder voice if the person who is calling is yelling. They need to listen to the entire problem so the customer feels taken care of and the situation can be resolved to the best of its ability.

• Teach your employees how to use the phone system. It seems like a simple thing, but everyone should know how to place a call on hold or how to transfer one without disconnecting the caller.

• Provide your employees with an outline of the steps that will be taken to solve problems so they can share these with the customer. The caller wants to know why something is taking as long as it is. Make sure employees inform the customers and follow through with their actions.

Following these tips and making sure your employees have the training they need, along with some stress-relieving techniques if things get rocky or stressful, will ensure they understand how to meet and respond to customer needs. ♦

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