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Better Telephone Skills Now
Video Companion Guide
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. — From the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations. Nothing contained in this publication shall constitute a standard, an endorsement, or a recommendation of the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA). The Institute and the AH&LA disclaim any liability with respect to the use of any information, procedure, or product, or reliance thereon by any member of the hospitality industry.
©2004 Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association 800 North Magnolia Avenue Suite 1800 Orlando, FL 32803 Phone: 800-752-4567 or 517-372-8800 www.ei-ahla.org
Courtesy Rules! Better Telephone Skills Now demonstrates how to use the telephone courteously and efficiently to serve callers and contribute to your property's success. The information in this video companion guide is separated into content points that are discussed in the video. Your voice is the very first impression most callers get of your hotel. When you are polite, courteous, responsive, and maintain a smile in your voice, you help yourself, and your hotel stand out. Talking on the phone is a relationship. It can either be a good or bad experience. It's up to you to make it a good one for your guests or potential guests.
Answer the Telephone Promptly
It is important to answer the telephone promptly, within three rings, if possible. This is a sign of respect to the caller or the potential customer.
Use a Pleasant Greeting and Tone
Use a greeting and tone that is pleasant, "alive" and "fresh." "Thank you for calling, this is Melanie, how may I help you?" is a good example from the video. Face to face, 55% of communication is relayed through your body language; 38% through your tone of voice, and 7% through your actual words. But on the telephone, 83% of communication is relayed through your tone of voice, and only 17% through your actual words. So smile when you talk, be enthusiastic. It's contagious. The caller will feel it. You will feel it. It will help make everyone's day better, including your own.
Use the Caller's Name
Ask the caller's name if they don't provide it, and use the caller's name as soon as you know it. Everyone likes it when you remember their name. So say something like "May I ask who's calling?"
Use Clear Positive Language, No Slang
Always speak clearly and properly when speaking on the telephone, and avoid using slang words or phrases. Speak positively, even if the caller, or the situation, is negative. Counter a negative with a positive: "No, I'm sorry, Mr. Clark, we don't have a game room, but we do have a pool!"
The hospitality industry relies heavily on the use of jargon. Jargon allows hotel employees to quickly convey information to each other, whether it be verbal communication or through the use of the front office computer system. But when speaking to guests on the telephone, it is important to avoid the use of jargon which callers will not understand. For instance, if you tell a caller "Okay, Mr. Clark, I just need to confo your rez number," he will have no idea what you are saying. Instead, tell him that you need to confirm his reservation number. Remember, jargon doesn't save time if the caller doesn't understand.
Vary Your Tone
If you speak in a monotone, it won't matter what you are saying to a caller, they won't be interested. Stay interesting by varying your tone. The caller will more likely pay attention.
Don't Speak Too Fast or Garble
It's not how much you say or how fast, but what you say and how you say it. The guest must be able to understand you. Keep a steady, even pace; not too loud, not too soft.
Stay Focused, Avoid Distractions
Do not perform other activities when you are on the phone that are not related to work, such as smoking, doing your nails, chewing gum, or shuffling papers. Stay focused, be alone with the phone, and give the caller your undivided attention.
Listen Attentively, Don't Interrupt
Allow the caller to finish a sentence or thought when they are talking. Never interrupt. They may be making a decision or may need to think out loud. Allow them to finish, then make your point or suggestion. Listen actively, then respond to what you hear.
Repeat Information Back
You should repeat relevant information back to the caller in order for you to make sure that you have understood the caller's request correctly, and for you to verify to the caller that you heard them. This can mean being specific. For instance, do not assume that if a caller requesting a reservation says he/ she will be in town for two days it means he/she is staying two nights. Make sure to confirm with the caller that he/she will be staying two nights at your hotel. This will help you avoid any misunderstandings. Verifying information shows you were listening, attentive, responsive, and hospitable.
Be Specific and Helpful
Always be specific when quoting pricing or providing specific hotel information to a caller. For instance, specify that the rate for an evening's stay covers the guest's use of the room from check in on one day to check out of the next day. Also make sure to include any relevant taxes or additional fees. You may find that the more specific you are, the less likely it is for the caller to have additional questions. Be as helpful and detailed as you can be. Don't leave them guessing.
Never Give Out Room Numbers
The privacy and security of your guests should be a top priority. One line of defense for your guest is for you to protect the privacy of their room number. This means never revealing the name of a guest staying in a particular room number, and never giving out the room number of a specific guest. If a caller asks to be connected to a specific room number, ask the caller for the name of the guest. This way you can make sure they have the right name to go with it. You don't want a guest bothered by someone calling a wrong or outdated number.
Acknowledge Transfer Requests
Transferring callers to another extension should always be done with proper etiquette. This means informing the caller that he or she will be transferred and to whom. For instance, say "One moment, Mr. Bell, while I transfer you to Miss Watson." You should inform Miss Watson that you are transferring Mr. Bell to her while Mr. Bell is on hold. In addition, it is important to inform Miss Watson about the purpose of Mr. Bell's call; this will save both of them time and confusion. Once you have made the transfer, introduce the two parties before getting off the line.
Allow Callers to Speak Before Placing Them on Hold
No one likes to be put on hold. However, it is frequently necessary to do so in order to help callers and guests. But it can still be done with courtesy and etiquette. This means ALWAYS asking a caller if you can place him or her on hold. This will also give you an opportunity to find out what the caller wants. They may simply want to be transferred to another department or to someone's voicemail-tasks that can be accomplished in almost the same amount of time it would take you to place them on hold! Ask for the caller's name, and then ask permission to place them on hold. If you end up placing the caller on hold, thank him or her. This extra second or two spent interacting with the caller is the key to treating a caller with courtesy and respect.
Providing a caller with a choice is another way to show courtesy and respect. For instance, by providing them the choice of being placed on hold while they wait for a party to become available or to leave a message, you are allowing them to decide how long or how little they wait. If you do place the caller on hold, check back frequently, so that you can again offer them the choice of continuing to wait or leaving a message.
Take Detailed Messages
Offer to take a message if the caller chooses not to wait any longer. Voicemail may also be an option at many properties. Once again, by providing a choice, you show courtesy and provide the caller with flexibility. Some may prefer voicemail; others may prefer to convey their message to an actual person. Always be thorough and detailed when taking a message. This includes: • • • • • • • • Name of person being called Date and time of call Caller's name and spelling Caller's organization, if any Caller's telephone number Brief message Your name and initials Repeat the message, names, and numbers back
Handle Multiple Demands
Multi-tasking is not easy, especially if you haven't done it before. But when you are using the telephone, it is often necessary to multi-task. The important thing is to remember to stay calm and stay courteous! With a little practice and patience, you can do it perfectly. It's better to handle one thing at a time very well, then four things badly. Preparation is the key. You will face many instances when you are very busy, so be prepared. Make sure you have everything you need at hand. You know when your busy time usually is. Have supplies ready so you aren't scrambling when the time comes.
Handling multiple& demands may also involve prioritizing tasks. For instance, MAINTENANCE OPERATIONS if you are assisting a checked-in guest at the front desk and the phone rings, who should you help first? The paying guest right in front of you, or the caller on the phone? Always give the paying guest priority, but try not to leave the caller on hold for more than 30 seconds. When there are multiple callers to place on hold, take them in order of when they called. But as you learned earlier, you should still wait for a response and thank them for holding when you pick up the line again. This is a simple way to acknowledge their willingness to wait. For calls that you can't take at the time, offer to call back. If you do this, always give a specific time you'll get back to them.
Take Charge of Situations
If you take a call from someone having an emergency or someone who doesn't speak English, don't get irritated or frustrated because you don't understand them. Take charge of the situation by handling it yourself or getting someone who can. This may involve sending security to the room, contacting a manager, calling the police, or simply finding a co-worker who speaks the caller's language.
Handle Dissatisfied Callers
No matter how good our guest service skills are, there will occasionally be guests who are dissatisfied with something. When handling dissatisfied callers, it is important to respond with empathy and offer the caller solutions to the problem, not excuses. The guest is more interested in hearing what you can do to fix the problem than why it happened or who's at fault. So listen, empathize, and solve the problem. It is important to get as many specifics about the problem as possible so you can solve it. For instance, if a guest calls and says the guestroom television isn't working, ask questions to find out just what may be wrong. Is the picture snowy? Is there no sound? Is there a picture at all? Asking these questions will give the maintenance department a better idea of what to expect and what tools they will need to bring. If solving the problem requires you to write down information, let the caller know that you are taking a note. A verbal cue that you are writing will help
avoid a long, awkward pause that might mislead the caller or seem disrespectful.
Empathize With the Caller
Sometimes a caller just wants to tell their problems to someone or hear a sympathetic voice. Empathizing with the caller can help, even if you are unable to immediately solve the caller's problem. Listening with empathy and with understanding before you move the caller along, is at the very heart of phone courtesy. In that moment, it is the most important thing you can be doing. Listen. Empathize. Apologize. Solve the Problem and Follow Up. That's the magic formula for making an unhappy caller happy again.
Offer a Specific Time for the Resolution
Once you have offered the caller a solution to the problem, provide a time frame for the problem to be solved. Then, once that time frame has been reached, follow up and make sure the problem was solved to the caller's satisfaction.
Sell Rooms for Your Property
Every time you answer the phone for your property, you represent your property. Your service is part of what the potential guest is purchasing. If you should lose a call, don't take the attitude, "It doesn't matter, somebody else will call." If this happens too many times, you won't have any business! First, ask questions of each potential guest to determine needs and preferences. This will help you to determine which features or benefits to describe. For instance, if the potential guest is bringing the entire family, you may want to describe features such as free movies, a game room, or local attractions. If the potential guest is traveling on business, mention the fitness center, free local calls, the in-room computer data ports, and the continental breakfast. Offer the potential guest alternatives such as different types of rooms and rates. A business traveler hosting clients may be interested in hearing about the mini-suites, which come with complete kitchen and dining areas.
Encourage the potential guest's participation in making the choice. After all, it is their choice. Once you have finished determining their needs and describing the various features, rooms, and rates, ask for the sale. Then follow your property's procedures to complete a reservation.
1. How do your telephone techniques affect your property's bottom line? 2. What is the suggested greeting at your property when answering outside calls? Internal calls? Within how many rings should the telephone be answered? 3. How is speaking to someone on the phone different from speaking to someone in person? 4. What are the international and long distance dialing procedures at your property? 5. What telephone procedures are in place to protect guest privacy and security at your property? Do these procedures demonstrate reasonable care? 6. What can you do to prepare for busy periods at the front desk? What training might help? 7. How is the way that you handle a dissatisfied caller different from handling a dissatisfied guest in person? 8. What are your property's procedures for taking a reservation over the phone? 9. What opportunities are there upselling (for example, additional guestroom amenities, suites, spas)?
Activity 1 - What You Say Divide employees into groups of two or three. Ask each group to list three common telephone statements that are annoying, negative, or contain hotel jargon. Exchange the lists between the groups. Have each group change the statements into clear, positive statements. Ask each group to share one negative statement and the corrected positive statement. Discuss why the corrected versions create a better impression for callers. Activity 2 - How You Say It Write a standard greeting or statement on a chalkboard or flip chart. For example: "Good morning, Mayfield Inn. How may I help you?" Ask several volunteers to repeat the statement out loud, standing behind the rest of the group so no facial expressions or gestures are communicated. Have each volunteer repeat the statement several times to contrast vocal qualities. For example, Volunteer #1 would first speak without smiling, then repeat the statement with a smile and friendly voice. Other contrasts might include: "fast, slow, and moderate pace;" "loud, soft, and mid-range volume;" "high, squeaky, and lower volume;" "and bored tone and varied tone." Consider having employees record their greetings using a tape recorder so they can play it back and listen to themselves. Ask employees to discuss which versions they would respond positively to and why. Have employees individually evaluate their own vocal qualities and work to improve the way they sound.
Activity 3 - The Telephone System Assemble employees at your property's PBX system. Explain the system and demonstrate the various functions, such as "hold" and "transfer." Allow adequate time for all employees to practice so they feel comfortable with the system. Activity - Priorities Have employees brainstorm the different types of calls they receive. These might include outside and inside calls for guests, for staff, for reservations, for other property business, for directions, or for personal business. List the call types on a flip chart. Ask employees to prioritize the types of calls as a guide to handling multiple calls during busy periods. Discuss ways to prepare for busy periods at your property. Activity - Dissatisfied Callers Have employees think about a dissatisfied caller they have dealt with recently. Ask several employees to describe how they handled the call. Did they empathize with the caller? Were they able to resolve the caller's problem? Were they satisfied with the results? Did the caller seem satisfied? Would the employees do anything differently now? Review the steps for dealing with dissatisfied callers. Offer suggestions based on calls you've handled, and discuss any specific procedures at your property for handling such calls. Activity - Selling Is Service List several examples of common reservations on a flip chart; for example, a family with several children staying three nights, a business traveler staying one night, or a small group staying several nights. You may brainstorm these examples with the group, or create them in advance. Divide the employees into pairs. Assign one example from the flip chart to each pair. Ask one person in each pair to act as the caller and the other person to act as the employee.
Have each pair role-play a reservation call. The person playing the employee should try to upsell the caller, following the tips demonstrated in the video and your property's procedures. As a group, discuss how effective the upselling techniques were. Consider how these techniques could be used to provide better service. Activity - Property Tour Conduct a property tour with employees so they can learn more about the property. Point out features and benefits of such areas as: • Different types of guestrooms • Food and beverage outlets • Pool and fitness facilities • Meeting rooms • Public areas Ask employees to create a reference list of features and benefits to help them upsell rooms and promote other property features to callers. Don't stop there! Have employees brainstorm and create a second reference list including local activities, services, and restaurants that can be suggested to callers.
CONDUCTING A VIDEO TRAINING SESSION
Step One: Prepare 1. Read the companion materials. 2. Preview the video. 3. Customize the companion guide by adding your property’s policies and procedures. 4. Prepare copies of the companion guide. Step Two: Present 1. Introduce the video. 2. Show the video. 3. Discuss the video using the Discussion Questions in these companion materials. 4. Explain differences between the video and your property’s procedures. Step Three: Practice Activities can help employees practice skills. Use the Activities in these materials as well as materials from your own training program. Step Four: Follow Up Following up with employees is important to their continued success. Offer praise when they perform well and suggestions when they need to improve. Suggest that they watch the video periodically for review.
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