"Uh, excuse me, but is this Dragon Mountain Trading Company?"
"Well, I'm Mr. David Parker, and I...."
"What do you want?"
"I'd, uh, like to speak with your manager."
"He's busy. Call back later. (click)"
Unfortunately, some companies still have not trained their employees in the professional use of the telephone. The above telephone conversation is not only discourteous, but also hurts business prospects. If Mr. Parker is calling to speak with a number of companies in order to build business relationships with them, he is not very likely to call Dragon Mountain Trading Company again. To prevent this from happening, those who are responsible for the conduct of business over the telephone should keep a few simple but important points of telephone etiquette in mind.
The first and most important point concerning the professional use of the telephone is the attitude towards any caller. The telephone is the lifeline of the company with the outside world, and those who call in should be considered potential business prospects. However, customers are not nameless, faceless voices; they are people who enjoy being and deserve to be treated courteously and fairly. Everyone who uses an office telephone should remember that a friendly, helpful, and efficient call can make the difference between success and failure with the caller. Once this is appreciated, a business office can operate at its full potential.
How can all office workers put the above principle into practice? Several tips on the successful use of the office telephone have been collected from many companies over the years. This advice is timeless and covers all manner of businesses. Companies whose employees use the following telephone etiquette are more likely to keep their clients and attract new customers.
When answering the phone, all employees should identify the company and themselves. In the above hypothetical conversation, the office worker should have answered the call with, "Dragon Trading Company, Janice Wang, speaking." rather than force Mr. Parker to inquire whether or not he had dialed the company telephone number correctly. In some companies, employees will further identify their position within the company, such as "Kodak, Michael Chou, sales representative, speaking." or "Great Light Sports Equipment, Frances Chang, personnel director, speaking. May I help you?" and so on. Of course, in larger companies which have automated dialing or an operator, it is often unnecessary to state the name of the company (that has been done already on the tape or by the operator), but self-identification continues to be helpful, and, thus, important.
As with Frances Chang above, a simple "May I help you?" is enough to invite the caller to state his or her business with the company. However, it is always important to listen carefully to the caller's request. It is possible, for example, that the callee is not the right person for whom the caller is looking; by listening carefully, the callee can respond to the needs of the customer on the line. Treating callers as routine or even annoying interruptions to one's work is a mistake. If someone outside the company has taken the time to call in, someone inside the company should take the time to respond to it.
If the caller is looking for someone not presently in the office, a message should be taken and then repeated over the phone to make sure all the information is correct. If a product or service is unavailable, the caller should be told what possible substitute is available or when the desired item will be back in stock. Every effort should be made to please the caller. This extra effort makes a lasting impression, the kind of impression that often results in repeat business. In our conversation above, the callee should have told Mr. Parker when the manager would return to take his call, or offered to take a message for him. Hanging up on the caller is the best way to lose business.
After information has been given or help offered, the call should not be considered finished. Each call is an opportunity to further the interests of the company, as with "We have other fine products. I'd be happy to send you our catalogue." or "Our company can offer additional services. My manager or I would be happy to make an appointment with you to discuss them." Above all, end each conversation with a genuine "Thank you for calling. It's been a pleasure serving you." or other lines to make the customer feel he or she is not being discarded as just another business obligation. Successful calls make customers feel welcome to call again.
Today's world of business is highly competitive. People have not changed, however. They still like to be treated in a friendly and helpful way, even over the telephone. A genuinely friendly and helpful attitude on the phone, identification of company and callee, offers of help or message taking, promotion of further business opportunities, and leaving the caller with the feeling that he would like to call again seem like insignificant matters. Added up, however, they can make the difference between a company's success and failure in our high-tech but still human world.