Telephone skills and customer care training course

by ltconsulting on July 17, 2011

If you or your staff have to deal with customers both face to face or over the telephone then effective Customer Care training is essential in enabling you to develop a Customer Caring or ‘Customers First’ attitude to delivering service effectively and consistently.

Total Success run a one-day Telephone Skills and Customer Care course for those wishing to learn telephone etiquette and handling customers on the telephone.

For those who’s customer service training requires tips and techniques in both telephone and face to face skills in handling difficult customers (such as rude, angry or aggressive customers) as part of their daily duties we also provide a Customer Service and Customer Care training course that deals with these types of customer. It also covers handling customer complaints; tips for retaining customers and how to diffuse customer conflict quickly and efficiently.

More and more companies are increasing their use of the telephone as the quickest and most convenient way of establishing customer contacts. Call centres and mail order are the fastest growing operational departments for UK organisations. It is essential that all employees represent their organisation in a professional and friendly way. Clear and effective communication is essential to ensure that the business is not lost. If your staff are not trained properly on telephone skills, how much business are they losing your company?

Total Success run a one-day Telephone Skills and Customer Care course for those wishing to learn telephone etiquette and handling customers on the telephone.

For those who’s customer service training requires tips and techniques in both telephone and face to face skills in handling difficult customers (such as rude, angry or aggressive customers) as part of their daily duties we also provide a Customer Service and Customer Care training course that deals with these types of customer. It also covers handling customer complaints; tips for retaining customers and how to diffuse customer conflict quickly and efficiently.

The Telephone Professional

The phone is probably the most used tool in modern business. 25 million business calls are made every day in the UK. Not everyone admits to being confident or totally proficient in their use of the phone so it is worth looking at why phone skills are vital for effective business communication.

As we deal with customers over the telephone, we need to remember that:

It is a substitute for face-to-face conversations. Therefore we need to work at finding ways to compensate for what we are missing out on:

  • we cannot see facial expressions, manners, reactions
  • we cannot see what the other person is doing
  • we cannot lip-read what the other person is saying
  • we cannot use illustrations to help them understand

Managing Positive Customer Perceptions

It’s not always “what we say”, but “how we say it” that creates a good or bad customer perception. We need to be aware of the ‘throw-away’ statements which may mean little to us but will affect the way the customer perceives your organisation.

All of the statements below can produce a poor customer perception. Tip – imagine you are a customer hearing them during a call. Test them out on your colleagues; you’ll be surprised how many people would consider some of these as perfectly acceptable.

“The shipping date on your order should be next Friday.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you back. My boss had us in another meeting that lasted all morning.”
“I hope this will solve your problem.”
“’I don’t understand why customer service didn’t help you.”
“The order processing department has had a lot of problems lately. I’ll call them and get this straightened out for you.”
“Mr. King is in a meeting. Why don’t you call back in an hour?”
“I’m sorry it took so long. Now what do you want?”
“I’m sorry you had to wait. Our telephone operators are very slow.”
“Can you call back because Mrs Jones is not here at the moment? I think she’s gone to the loo.

Answering the phone professionally

The rules for answering a telephone are simple but they need to be continually reviewed and practised. Following are the most basic ones, which should always be employed.

1. Use the four answering courtesies:

  • Greet the caller
  • State your organisation (or department)
  • Introduce yourself
  • Offer your help

Good afternoon, Accounts, Andrew Batt speaking. How may I help?

2. Show enthusiasm when you answer. Help make the caller feel welcome

A tired voice lacking in enthusiasm is very unappealing and reflects on the professionalism of your organisation.

3. Use friendly phrases as part of your greeting.

  • Thanks for calling.”
  • “May I help you?”

4. Remember to smile as you pick up the receiver.

It may help if you have a mirror on your desk, this way you will be able to see how you sound on the telephone. Also, as a reminder, tape the word ‘Smile’ on your phone.

Closing the conversation

When you finish your telephone conversation there are some appropriate and courteous statements that should always be made. You should:

  1. Thank the caller.
  2. Let the caller know you appreciate his/her business.
  3. Provide assurance that any promises will be fulfilled.
  4. Leave the caller with a positive feeling

Some courteous closing statement examples:

“Thank you for calling. We appreciate your business “
“Thanks for your order.”
“Feel free to call us anytime.”
“I’m glad we were able to help.”
“Goodbye and thanks for calling.”
“I enjoyed talking with you.”
“If you have any additional questions please call me.”

Tip: Let the caller hang up first.  This is simple courtesy, plus it gives the caller a final chance to add something.

And always remember:

Smile as you dial!

What to do when you have to put customers on hold:

  • Ask them if you can put them on hold.
  • Tell them how long they will be on hold.
  • Assure them that you will be working for them while they are on hold (tell them what you will be doing away from the phone).
  • Wait for their response.
  • When you get back to them, thank them for holding.

How to transfer customers on the telephone

Tell customers what you can do for them. Avoid saying, “I can’t help you”, “That is not my responsibility” or “This department does not handle that”. By giving the name of the correct person or department, you are helping the customer, so state your sentence positively. For example, “Mrs. Jones in our service area can help you with that.”

Own the contact (or complaint!). Give the customer your name, department and phone number. This is especially necessary for telephone transfers. In case the customer gets cut off or transferred to the wrong area, he/she will have the necessary information to contact the appropriate person. Also, to save yourself from repeating information, ask if he/she has a pencil ready to copy down the information.

Inform the next employee. Fill him/her in on the details of your conversations with this customer. Also tell the next employee what the customer said as well as what his/her attitudes and feelings were.

How to make a problem call

Anytime you have to make a difficult call there are important steps to follow. Even though you may not be calling to sell a product, the basic steps of a successful telemarketing call still apply.

  • Before you make your call, develop an action plan.
  • Greet the customer in a friendly way
  • Introduce yourself and your company
  • State the purpose of the call
  • Deliver your message in friendly, clear and business like way, leaving room for questions
  • State customer benefits/options/alternatives, if appropriate
  • Ask for agreement

Here’s an example:

Cynthia mistakenly overbooked a training course. She needed to call Mrs. Haig to explain why the course she had booked had to be changed. Cynthia developed the following action plan.

Her objective: arrange a new course date.

The approach: briefly explain the need for the change and offer two alternative dates.

Customer benefits: the course will be less crowded and Mrs. Haig will receive more individual training support from the course leader.

“Good morning, Mrs. Haig. This is Cynthia Rogers from TST. How are you today? The reason for my call is to discuss your course booking. The date I booked for your group is overbooked. What I can do is offer an alternative date with fewer delegates. This means you will be able to ask more questions and receive more attention from the course leader. I have the 16th or 20th available. Do you have a preference?”

In the situation above, Cynthia did a good job because she turned a potential negative situation into a positive for the customer by planning ahead.

How to respond to a complaining customer

Listen with understanding. Identify with the customer and “own” the complaint. This defuses anger and demonstrates your concern. Tell the customer something such as, “I am sorry you have been inconvenienced.” Tell me what happened so that I can help you.” It is vital to show a sincere interest and willingness to help. The customer’s first impression of you is all important in gaining co-operation.

No matter what caused the problem, do not blame others or make excuses. Instead, take the responsibility and initiative to do whatever you can to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

Paraphrase and record what the customer tells you. Whenever you hear an important point, say, “Let me make sure I understand: you were promised delivery on the 15th and you did not receive the product until the first of the following month. Is that correct?”

Find out what the customer wants. Does he or she want a refund, credit, discount or replacement? The customer is complaining because he or she has a problem and wants it solved as quickly as possible. Find out what his or her

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