Reader Question: Phone Service TIPS!

24 May

It’s time to answer another reader question. This one comes from Lindsay in San Francisco:

I feel like my employees are great when dealing with a customer or associate in person, but they struggle when they get on the phone. Any tips on ways to improve their phone skills?

San Francisco, eh? I’ll answer your question if you answer mine: Do you ever see Danny Tanner around town?

Full House

This is where Lindsay lives. I assume. (Source: bp.blogspot.com)

I can’t believe that you even had to ask if I have tips, Lindsay! I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve got all kinds of tips. Fingertips. Q-tips. Beef tips… I think I can help you out.

Phone service is different – and arguably more difficult – than face-to-face interaction in a couple of ways. Obviously, two people talking on the phone can’t see each other, and visual cues play a huge part in social interaction (Note: I did not actually read that article, but the Journal of Communications sure sounds impressive). This is a big problem to overcome, because simply being in the same room will tell you a lot about someone’s mood, personality and needs.

Another problem with the phones: a lot of people simply don’t like talking on them. Customer satisfaction gets way more difficult when the customer starts in a bad mood.

So what’s a boss to do when her employees start with two strikes against them? I’d say a great first step is to encourage anyone on the phone with a customer to really actively listen. Pretend to be the sensitive guy in a romantic comedy – great listeners open people up (in an emotional way, not a CSI way).

Dawson Crying

Okay, maybe you don’t want to open your customers up this much. (Source: originalplumbing.com)

Beyond that, have your employees to offer the person on the phone alternatives – maybe your website can help them more effectively, or maybe things would be easier for them if they came into your office. That may not directly solve your employees’ phone problems, but it will lessen the impact on your bottom line.

I also think you can focus on helping individual employees translate their personal strengths to the phone. Figure out what aspects of customer service they excel at – something you probably already know – and it’ll be easier to offer them tailor made suggestions (this kind of tailor made, not this kind).

Otherwise, the elements needed for successful phone service are pretty much the same as those needed for face-to-face interaction. Make sure your representatives are polite and knowledgeable. Keep your service prompt and efficient – hold times are a killer. Remember that an effective business culture starts at the top and works its way down; that is to say, your leadership is one of the most important factors in your employees’ success.

Another thing you can do to help your employees out is upgrade your phones. In the last couple of years, there’s been a technological explosion in business phone service. You should take advantage of these powerful tools to ease some of the load shouldered by your employees.

There you have it, Lindsay. I’ve got tips coming out the wazoo. Hopefully you found something useful in there. If not, you can always give me a call.

Wazoo

This is what my tips come out of. (Source: candy.org)

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