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Better Business Idea #6

Effectively Using the Telephone

What is the initial contact your customer or client has with your company? If your business is like most others, it's a telephone call. We invest a tremendous amount of time and money to generate that contact. Your customer's or client's experience from that initial contact will largely determine the result -- making or losing the sale, resolving a complaint and keeping a client or customer or losing that client or customer. As the old saying goes, "There's no second chance for making a good first impression!"

In this age of voice mail, the telephone experience of customers doesn't seem to get much thought, a major mistake! Whether by personal contact or by voice mail, that experience of your customer or client should be a critical marketing concern. Properly training your team members, especially your receptionist or telephone operator, is critically important.

Without getting into all of the details, which we hope to cover in a future seminar, here are suggested telephone procedures. We will use the word "customer" to include a client, customer or patient.

  1. Smile before you answer the telephone. It will help to put you in a positive frame of mind, which is communicated to the customer in the tone of your voice.
  2. Answer on the second ring. You need to smile and get to the telephone. On the second ring, your company is "Johnny on the spot!" After the third ring, customer is wondering if anyone is at work in your business.
  3. a. If the customer is calling directly to your line, answer in this sequence: "Good morning/afternoon, (company name), this is (your first name, last name)." 99% of the time this will elicit the customer to give his or her name in return. Do not ask for the customer's name.

    "Good morning/afternoon" communicates good social graces and gives the customer a moment to prepare for your real response. The name of the company communicates he or she has reached the right place. "This is" tells the customer that your name is coming. Giving your first and last name elicits the first and last name of the customer as a response.

    I know this will feel terribly long, but once you practice it, it will flow.

    b. If the call is being transferred to you, you may answer, "Good morning/afternoon, this is (your first name, last name)."

  4. Listen attentively.
  5. a. If the customer asks for another team member and the team member is available, respond, "Thanks so much for calling. I'll put you straight through. Could you hold for a moment, please?" (Don't screen calls.)

    If the customer has told you they are upset about a problem, let the team member know before transferring the call.

    b. If the customer asks for a team member who isn't available, respond, "________ is with someone right now. Is there some way I or another team member can help you?" Do not say the team member is in a meeting. If not, "Shall I transfer you to _________'s voice mail, or would you like me to take a message?" If to voice mail, "Thanks so much for calling. I'll put you straight through." If a message, "Let me have some details, so I can help."

If you have voice mail or an answering machine, your message is also important. Most customers will also appreciate being given the option of skipping the message.

Here is a message I have used. "Hello! This is Mike Gray of Michael Gray, CPA. To skip this message, press the star key. Thanks so much for calling. I'm sorry I can't take your call, right now. Please leave me a message and I'll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you!"

If I am going to be out of the office, here is a message I might use.

"Hello! This is Mike Gray at Michael Gray, CPA. Today is Tuesday, March 18. I expect to be out of the office all day today, and return tomorrow. Please leave a message and I'll return your call as soon as possible." (Optional, "If you have an emergency, please call Dawn Gray at 918-3166.")

We hope these ideas will help your organization build more effective telephone skills today. At a later date, we plan to offer a seminar on using the telephone more effectively.

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Michael Gray, CPA
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