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Phone Etiquette: A General Overview

Created & Implemented 12-20-05

Description: The voice your customer hears when they call is the voice of the organization. That’s why it’s
important that you are professional and able to handle every call efficiently and effectively. Here are a few tips on
how to deal with upset callers, handle high call volume, develop professional telephone etiquette, win back
complaining customers, and project a positive telephone personality.

Use the following steps as needed.


• Greet with an uplift in your voice
• Allow customer venting, if necessary
• Use defusing words, sincerely
o “I can appreciate what you’re…”
o “I understand what an inconvenience this has been.”
o See below for 50 phrases to calm customers
• Ask open-ended questions
Basic steps for service o Tell me about…”
calls: • Listen actively
• Identify the callers needs and wants
• Take notes, repeat information back
• Problem solve together
• Discuss possible options, offer multiple options if at all possible
• Research
• Resolve situation
• Thanks, goodbye with uplift in your voice

Use the following steps as needed.


• Greet with an uplift in your voice
• Allow customer venting
• Listen attentively
• Listen to understand the perspective of the caller (you don’t have to
agree)
• Show empathy, but don’t buy in to their problem
• Minimize interruptions, avoid distractions
Basic steps for • Gather information
complaint calls: • Ask questions
• Identify the callers needs and wants
• Discuss possible options, offer multiple options if at all possible
• Take notes, repeat back information
• Never argue
• Follow through/follow up in a timely manner
• Resolve situation, find a positive solution that you both agree on
• Thanks, goodbye with uplift in your voice

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• Developing a rapport with your customer is the first step to projecting a
professional telephone image. To develop rapport, listen to the
customer and provide a harmonious or sympathetic relation or
connection.
• Staying in control of the call enables you to direct it to a positive
outcome. Techniques such as using the caller’s name, interrupting
appropriately, and restating the conversation, then leading the caller to a
conclusion allows you to conclude the call and be productive.
• A positive vocabulary can change the direction of an unhappy caller.
Using phrases that indicate action and possessiveness such as “I will
send that to you by…,” and “How can I assist you?” will help open
communication and calm upset callers. See below for 50 phrases to
General tips and rules calm customers.
of thumb for successful • Be proactive rather than reactive
call outcomes: • Establish a baseline for service level and quality, and strive to meet that
baseline at all times
• Be aware that your tone of voice transmits your attitude, body language,
and self esteem
• Keep the focus on the customer and off of yourself
• Use the customer’s name, but not more than three times during the
conversation
• Manage time and customer’s concerns well
• Use “I” phrases instead of “you” phrases
o “I appreciate, respect, agree…”
• Use “work” or “will do” instead of “try.”

1. Caring- care about your caller, your organization, and yourself


2. Confident- be technically confident and understand the system and
procedures of your job
3. Considerate- show consideration to both external and internal
customers
4. Committed- be committed to your organization and to your customers.
Go the extra step.
The Eight C’s of 5. Creative- come up with new answers to old problems. Come up with
Effective Caller Service: new ways to convey the same information.
6. Controlled- take anger professionally, not personally. Stay in control of
your emotions.
7. Contagious- model the behavior you want from your callers. Be
enthusiastic and friendly.
8. Consistent- maintain your professionalism from the first call of the day
to the last.

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• “Dead air syndrome”
• Hesitancy
• Lack of confidence when speaking
• Apathy
• Arguing
• Inappropriate interrupting
• Phony, unnatural words and phrases
• Avoid these 5 phrases when speaking to customers over the
phone:
o "I don't know."
Try: "That's a good question. Let me check and find
Practices to avoid on out."
the phone: o "Just a second."
Try: "It could take me a few minutes to get that
information. Could you hold while I check or
should I call you back?"
o "No."
Try: "I haven't gotten to that yet."
o "We can't do that."
Try: "That's a tough one. Let me see what I can do."
o "You'll have to…" or "You should ... "
Try: "here's how we can help you."
• Remember: Bad attitude shows lack of pride and professionalism.
When we improve our thoughts, we improve our lives… personally and
professionally.

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We need to strive for balance between service level and quality.
• Emphasize quality: average hold time rises, customers wait longer
Balancing Service • De-emphasize quality: improper analysis of the problem, not all
Level and Quality: customer information is gathered, customer not allowed time to process
information prior to agent disconnecting the call, documentation of
• Service Level: a processes not kept current, training is neglected
standard for • Emphasize service level: reps feel pressured, rush through calls, give
responding to your incomplete answers, customers feel rushed, leads to errors and
customer’s queries, duplication of work efforts
usually defined as • De-emphasize service level: customer abandonment, complaints,
accessibility. Ex: 90 stressed employees, higher turnover, higher training costs
percent of calls
answered within 30 When service level and quality are out of balance:
seconds.
• Quality: a standard, Average hold
defined by customers, Customers Phone reps
complain time rises, feel pressured
for the characteristics Average holdcausing longer Phone reps
about the time rises, to hurry &
and degree of waits feel pressured
wait causing longer to hurry & empty queues
excellence expected waits empty queues
in the service and/ or
product offered. Ex:
thoroughness, Calls increase to Customers
Service correct errors; feel rushed,
accuracy, friendly
level slips call volume mistakes are
service.
increases made

Example:
• 20 minutes extra time per day (could be leaving early, coming in late,
Be aware of how you
taking an extra few minutes for your break, etc.)
spend your time and
how it affects the floor! • 20 minutes X 5 days= 100 minutes
• 100 minutes X 50 weeks= 5000 minutes (83 hours)
• 83 hours at $14 per hour= $1,162
• $1,162 X 50 agents= $58,100.00 per year!

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• High self esteem • Respectful
• High ability to learn • Timely and efficient
• Problem solving skills • Interest in customer
• Organizational skills satisfaction
• Customer focus • Pride
• Strong coping skills • Sense of direction
Do you have the • Awake • Sense of humor
qualities of a good • Concerned • Seeks new challenges
customer service • Courteous • Seeks new knowledge
representative? • Positive personal attitude & • Willing to change; attitude,
style dress
• Focused • Sense of balance
• Knowledgeable • Competitive
• Pleasant • Team player
• Helpful • Dedicated to getting job done
• Clear speaking, thinking,

Fifty Phrases to Calm Customers


1. What can we do to make you happy?
2. I’m sorry for your inconvenience.
3. No wonder you are feeling frustrated.
4. Please tell me what happened.
5. How can I help?
6. We value your business so we want to resolve this quickly for you.
7. I appreciate what you are saying.
8. Yes.
9. Let me write this down so I’ve got it right.
10. I’m sure we can find the solution.
11. No problem.
12. We can do that.
13. I’d be glad to do that.
14. We’ll make it right.
15. I’ll find out for you right away.
16. Help me with some details so we can start fixing this.
17. I agree.
18. What do you think is a fair way to settle this?
19. Let me see if I understand this clearly.
20. I’m here to help you.
21. You are right.
22. I’ll go to work on that immediately.
23. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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24. What is most convenient for you?
25. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
26. Thank you for being so patient.
27. I know exactly what you mean.
28. I’ll take care of that right now.
29. One fair solution might be.
30. Is that all right?
31. Certainly.
32. We’ll do everything we can.
33. I see why you feel that way.
34. Let’s get this straightened out.
35. I’ll look right into that for you.
36. Does that sound acceptable?
37. We appreciate your call.
38. Would you be willing to?
39. I understand.
40. Your satisfaction is important to us.
41. What can I do to better understand your needs?
42. I will certainly pass your comments on.
43. Is that correct?
44. I apologize for the mix-up.
45. What is the best way to fix this for you?
46. Absolutely.
47. You have a point there!
48. I’m going to call you back to make sure this is cleared up, OK?
49. I’m glad I could help you!
50. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Sources
• Powerpoint presentation “Treat me Right: What every Manager Needs to Know Now about Customer
Service,” presented by J. J. Lauderbaugh of Lauderbaugh and Associates, copyright 2004.
• ICMI publication “An Abbreviated Guide to Incoming Call Center Management Terms,” copyright 1998.
• “Tele-stress: Relief for Call Center Stress” by Stephen Coscia, Telecom Books (NY), copyright 1998.
• Powerpoint Presentation “Service Level vs. Quality: Obstacles and Opportunities,” by JBK Consulting and
Cheryl Odee Helm Consulting, presented by Jean Bave-Kerwin of JBK consulting. Copyright: March 2003.
• Powerpoint presentation “Sitting on a Gold Mine; How to Leverage the call Center’s Strategic Value,”
presented by Todd Arnold of Cinergy, presented September 2003