Don’t Lose Another Caller – Critical Communication Skills for the Phone

Have you ever called a business and your first impression was your last impression of that business? Just the other day I called a computer repair company to schedule an appointment (and hopefully fix) a computer that went crazy. The person answered my call with, “Yeah.” Hmm, I thought to myself, did I misdial?

“Hi, my name is Susan and I’m calling for Jeff.” Only to be greeted by another “Yeah,” followed by, “This is Jeff…” and Jeff sounded a little irritated. In the background I could hear a lot of noise, almost like children playing, and what sounded like Jeff whispering to someone else. My confidence in this company began to wane but I decided to continue. “A friend gave me your number. He recommended your computer repair service, and I’d like to schedule an appointment.” After a moment of silence I hear, “Can you call me back, I’m on a ladder right now. Actually, if you could call me back on Wednesday, we can set something up at that time.”

A little taken aback, I responded with, “Ah…sure,” hung up the phone, and called a different repair company.

There were so many things that went wrong with this call. It made me think about the impression others have of me and my company when they call.

When Jeff answered the call, I had my doubts that I contacted the correct company. As the call progressed, the conversation (through his words, or lack thereof, and his tone) led me to think my call was an inconvenience to him. I don’t know about your business, but I NEVER want to give the impression that the caller is an inconvenience.

So I thought I’d offer some helpful tips to make a confident and credible impression over the phone.

1. State your name and the name of your business – “Thank you for calling. This is Susan with Midwest Consulting. How may I help you today?” Not only does this give the caller confidence that they dialed the correct number, they can connect the company to a person through your name, and you are telling them that you’re there to help.

2. Smile – bet you’ve heard this one before. A smile changes the shape of your mouth as you speak and the listener unconsciously associates your tone and voice quality with enthusiasm and credibility. Set up a mirror in your workspace, pay attention to your facial expressions, and remember to smile.

3. Pay attention to the phone. Make sure you’re speaking into the phone so you come across loud and clear. This is particularly true with cell phone and headset use on the rise. Sometimes the message becomes muffled through the phone lines, so emphasize mouth movement for diction and enunciation. It’s easy to let the last letter, the last consonant or last vowel slip off your words. Instead of hearing “I need to go…” the caller hears “I needa go…” If you’re concerned that you may not be coming through clearly, ask the caller if they can hear you.

4. Eliminate distraction and noises around you. This is two-fold. You’re removing distractions and noise for yourself and for the caller. Distractions can lead to you not listening to what the caller says, or can give the caller the impression that you’re not paying attention. Consider what it sounds like to the caller if you’re eating or chewing gum while on the phone. And, if you can hear the conversation or noise in your background, there’s a good chance the caller can also hear it.

Imagine if Jeff had listened to my helpful advice. His company would have a new customer and I may have recommended his business to others. Instead, he gave me an opportunity to share some great tips with you.