Telephone answering is a fine balance in customer/business interaction.
1. Anybody can answer a phone, but answering a call in another business’s name brings added dimensions. From the moment you pick up the phone, you then have responsibility for that business’s next potential client. The business they may bring to “your” business, their possible future referrals to other business owners, networking opportunities and the development of “your” business through their business.
2. Now as with any interaction with members of the public you just never know what is coming next, is the person at the other end of the call a potential client looking to do some business and are “sussing” the business out? This is where the importance of creating a friendly, welcoming and professional and competent 1st impression of “your” business is really important.
Then again you may have an existing business customer looking to speak to a contact within the business. Where possible this can be very straight forward, if your client’s preference is to transfer all calls to them, you can just pop the call over! However, if your clients’ preference is not to be disturbed while in meetings or are busy/on site or returning calls you then have to “disappoint” the caller and make it up to them in the next couple of sentences: “I’m sorry “Joe” is not available just now can I take your contact details and ask him to return your call when he has the opportunity?”. Now most callers are quite happy to give their details and a brief message to be passed on to the business owner, who will call them back, they discuss the requirements of the caller and everybody is happy!
However, there will always be those trickier calls when you not only need to be “on your toes” but you will also need to be calm, polite, diplomatic and aware you are representing another person’s company/business. No matter how irate the caller is at the other end of the line! This is where diplomacy, experience and professionalism really makes an impact in customer service.
Most irate callers to any business just want to be listened to. They want their issue at that time acknowledged and they want to hear what will be done to rectify it. If a call taker can encompass these three aspects while in conversation with the caller, it can have an immediate effect on the person at the other end of the line. It has been found most of the time that the wind will go out of their sails, they will calm down and maybe that will be the point at which they decide they will not move their account to another business, they will not give negative feedback to “your” potential future clients. (this illustrates the importance of keeping each and every caller for whatever reason and whatever the type of business happy.)
3. When you come to the end of the call, this is where it is vital to leave your caller with a positive and friendly image of “your” business. It would leave a very hollow vibe with the person if you were to just say “okay, goodbye”. This is your last chance (maybe ever) to leave a positive and lasting impression, so make the most of it!
Call the person by their name. Reiterate that you have made a note of everything they have said, that you will pass it over to the relevant person “Joe” and that he/they should come back to them on it. You then thank them for their call and wish them a nice evening. And don't forget to SMILE because you can hear a smile on the phone.