In any workplace, one of the key tasks will be to handle telephone calls from customers and clients. Anyone who has experience of taking and making work calls will know the importance of being professional at all times, from maintaining a polite and dignified tone to treating the customer with respect and doing everything to deal with their query. But there is a lot more to it than that.
Firstly, no matter who the person is on the other end or why they are calling, it's crucial to take as much of their information as possible. This is just the general details, from their name and address to their telephone number and email address. Even if it's a regular client who rings twice a day, it's vital that you gather as much info as you possibly can, because it could be that one of your colleagues has to help with the enquiry. Therefore, they'll need to know everything about the caller that they can gather in order to effectively and efficiently deal with the situation. Besides, can you imagine how bad it would look if you asked your boss about a caller's enquiry, only for them to discover that you hadn't even taken a phone number from them?
Secondly, as implied above, it could be that you are not the person appropriate to handle their enquiry. You may be a receptionist, or even if you're in a management role, it could be someone else who the caller needs to speak to. Again, gleaming as much information from them as you can to move the process along, but it's very important to determine exactly who they need to speak to, whether it be a person or a department. Let's say that they're calling up to speak to your press department; you should then let them know that you will pass them onto the press officer and, via an extension number dial or simply handing the phone over, you can then forward them onto the relevant person. It's not uncommon for someone to say "I'll forward you onto (name)" and then the call goes off altogether. This looks extremely poor for the business and reflects very badly on them, so it's not only important to forward a call onto the right people in order to help the customer, but it maintains the corporate image of a business who are willing to help customers however possible.
Even before this, though, it's key to let the caller know who you are. Most people will begin a call by saying the company name and then their own name, because it quickly lets the person on the other line know exactly who they're speaking to. This helps in the event that they've dialled the wrong number, but it also identifies who you are so that, if you treat them with respect and handle their query in an efficient manner, they will remember you and have a good impression of you. It also means that, assuming they have the correct extension number, they'll know straight away if they're speaking to the desired employee. If the employee happens to be away from their desk or out of the office, another colleague picking up their extension, and identifying themselves as doing such, again lets the caller know quickly that they'll need to leave a message and await a full response at a later time.
We've talked about how to treat the caller with respect, but what about other people? A lot of people nowadays use their work phone away from their desk, largely in the form of a smartphone, which means that they can take calls anywhere within reason. But if you're in a team meeting, or if you're meeting a client, or even if you're at a corporate event, this can sometimes be irksome to those who you're keeping company with. Granted, some calls will be urgent, and especially if you're in a management position, it's hard to ignore your phone if it's vibrating every five minutes. But if you are constantly interrupting meetings or speeches because of calls which, for the most part, could be taken at a later time, then it makes those in the room with you feel somewhat inferior. No matter what they're saying, to you, the call is more important. So, bear this in mind, although as we've stated, some calls will need your immediate attention regardless of the situation.
Finally, you have to ensure that any calls are ended in the most appropriate, customer-friendly manner. You have to make sure that you've done everything you can to deal with their enquiry, even if it involves one or more of your colleagues. You have to ensure that you've taken as many details from the caller as you can, within reason. It always helps to ask the caller if there's anything else that you can do for them; that way, you're letting them know that they matter to you, and that you're happy to handle other queries that they may have if necessary. It is crucial to end the call with a definitive statement that pretty much summarises the conversation; if they've asked for a document or if you've set up a meeting, quickly reaffirming this in a confident manner, which sets up further interaction and assistance in the coming hours or days, reassures the caller that their enquiry has been or will be dealt with effectively. Lastly, make sure that you don't just sign off by saying "Bye" or, worse, "See ya". End the call with the same polite and professional tone that you would always use, and don't forget to thank the caller for expressing an interest in the business before the two of you bring the conversation to an end. You want the caller to leave with a positive impression of you and the organisation.
For further tips on how to answer the phone in a professional and courteous manner, you can visit www.simpletelecoms.co.uk.
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