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Telephone Etiquette for Customer Service The 11 Essential Rules You Must Master

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When you work in customer service, answering phone calls is your daily bread. A good phone service agent should have strong communication skills as this will contribute to providing a great customer experience.

And while it may seem obvious, simply answering the phone with “Hello” is not enough. Answering business calls is very different from answering personal calls. This is precisely why we must be very careful not to accidentally speak to a client as if we were talking to our mother or our friend.

Why is it so important? Because this will create consistent customer service regardless of the day and time the customer communicates.

Having a good phone label can be the difference between a satisfied customer and one who decides to seek out the competition. So that you do not miss any important details in this work, I will share the 11 golden rules in customer service by phone. 

1. Answer a call before the phone rings 3 times

If your job involves being available to customers who call, you always have to be available to them. This is the first rule of telephone etiquette, and one of the most important.

This means staying focused and answering calls immediately (or as soon as possible). You don’t want to have a customer waiting too long, let alone send them to voicemail. You should always be ready to answer a call.

The overriding rule is: stay alert and by your phone at all times. Sure, unless you’re on a break. 

Picking up the phone on the first ring is usually not the best option, as you can be nervous. We recommend that you answer within the first three rings. This is enough time for you to prepare for the call. 

2. Introduce yourself immediately 

When you pick up the handset, you must introduce yourself. On personal calls, it is enough to start with a “Hello” and let the caller introduce themselves. However, in calls to a call center, the customer wants to know if he is speaking to “customer service” and with whom he is speaking.

We recommend answering with this formula: 

«Good [morning / afternoon / evening]. This is [your name], service specialist for [your company]. How can I help you?”

Don’t forget to sound polite so your client finds warmth, which can be the difference between a positive call and a difficult one.

3. Speak clearly 

Phone calls are a great option for those who don’t like in-person interaction. Even so, they require very strong communication skills on your part. 

The person on the other end of the line can only judge you based on your voice, as they cannot see your body language. Therefore, you must be careful with the tone you use.

Speak as clearly as possible and project your voice. You want your interlocutor to listen to you and understand all your words. A strong and confident voice can make a customer trust you more. But be careful: don’t yell or you might sound rude. 

If you come across a call that has a lot of static or that you just can’t hear yourself (or even if you can’t hear), we recommend that you tell the customer that you will hang up and call them immediately.

4. Use the loudspeaker only when necessary 

We all know the advantages of using a loudspeaker. It allows you to use your hands for other tasks. However, to the caller, it is as if they are trying to hear you from hundreds of meters away. It can be impossible and frustrating.

Avoid the speaker and give your customers your undivided attention. This will facilitate good communication. 

On rare occasions the loudspeaker is necessary. But whenever you can avoid it, avoid it. If you need to use your hands to help the customer, it is always better to use headphones .

5. Actively listen and take notes 

Speaking of paying attention to your customers, it’s essential that you always actively listen to them. 

Active listening means paying attention to everything they have to say and not using a prescribed script, but creating your responses from the customer’s comments. This shows that you are present and empathetic.

Taking notes during support calls is also helpful. You need to have a record of the conversation so you don’t forget any details. Thus, during long explanations, you can write down the main points and offer a solution without having to ask the client to repeat the information.

6. Use appropriate language

One key difference between professional and personal phone calls is obvious: language. 

Talking to your friends may mean using casual expressions and slang (even friendly curse words), but this kind of language can lead to you losing a customer.

Be conscientious and respectful when talking to a client. You never know who might be offended by something you say, so it’s always best to use formal language. 

To be safe, follow this rule: humor is fine at certain times, but it should never be jokes that may upset the customer.

7. Be cheerful

A customer may be having a bad day, and you can’t tell. If someone is rude to you on the phone, your immediate reaction may be to do the same. 

But phone etiquette means that you should take a moment to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to understand why they are so upset.

You should always remain positive and friendly, even more so when faced with a certain negative attitude. 

Your upbeat attitude may be enough to lead to a successful conversation. Remember that the last thing your client wants is to spend the entire afternoon on the phone with customer service. So, turn the call into something positive!

This can transform a casual customer to stay with your company for life.

8. Transferring a call or ask before putting someone on hold

There is often nothing more irritating to customers than being put in a waiting line. They want a solution, not for you to make them wait ten or fifteen minutes. Because many times, after that wait, another advisor puts them on hold again. 

Maybe you’ve only been talking to the customer for a few seconds, but they can take half an hour on the phone. This can be very stressful and frustrating. Especially if they didn’t want to be put on hold.

So if you have to put a customer on hold or transfer their call, ask them if they agree. And it always explains why it is necessary to transfer it with someone else or make it wait. Remind him that you too want to help him solve his problem quickly. 

By keeping customers informed, they are very likely to accept the wait time and not get upset.

9. Be honest if you don’t know the answer

Dealing with an angry customer is an art. If you run into a question, concern, or demand that you’re not prepared to answer, you might be tempted to make something up in an effort to diffuse the situation.

But no matter what your manager says, it’s okay not to know everything.

Having good phone etiquette means admitting when you don’t know something. Don’t make excuses or give false solutions. Instead, if you can’t give them a satisfying answer, give them reasonable expectations and give them the next steps. For example, if you are unable to provide a refund on your own, tell them what you’ll have to do in order to change that, and when they can expect an answer by.

10. Take into account the volume of your voice

You may be so focused on your phone call that you hardly pay attention to what’s going on around you. And a call center can be quite noisy. 

But you should always be mindful of your volume and make sure you are not interrupting or disturbing your coworkers because you are yelling. They also try to listen to their customers.

If you are on a call that requires you to speak louder due to a poor connection or a hearing-impaired customer, we recommend that you leave the room. 

Sure, your customers are your main concern, but you don’t want to interrupt others.

11. Check and reply to voice messages

It is quite possible that a client will contact you when you are resting or when your shift is over. If you receive voice messages, be sure to always check them. 

Maybe because you are distracted, you forget to listen or answer a voice message. For you it may be something not so serious, but for the client it can be.

Start and end your days by checking voice messages. This will only take a few minutes and may avoid a problem. In addition, your customers will appreciate your prompt response and you will be able to do what you do best: provide friendly and expert service.

These tips should provide you with basic guidelines for telephone etiquette. And, if they run properly, your business should see a significant improvement in  the customer experience .

However, there will be some interactions where this is not enough to fix the situation. 

Some clients will require your team to take special measures to ensure immediate and long-term needs are met. In the next section, we’ll break down some of these scenarios and what you can do to solve them.

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Matthew Gregor decided that he wanted to become a writer at the age of 16, when his high school football team won a big game. He wrote a poem about this, and two days later the poem was published in the local newspaper. When he began his professional writing career, Matthew attempted to write books. Matthew’s writing direction changed and he writes news and articles. He is now onboard with Time Bulletin as a free lance writer.