How NOT to Answer a Phone Call

By Nancy Friedman Telephone Doctor

Throughout the years, many of our Telephone Doctor® clients have taken the time to jot us a note letting us know about their good and bad experiences, both in person and on the phone. Judging from the amazing number of entries we received for our book Customer Service Nightmares, I suspect this is their way of venting and releasing frustration. We’re always happy to receive your notes and emails. Keep ’em coming, please.

The recent email below gave us some good ammunition for an article. While the industry, as you can see, is in the legal profession, believe me, it happens all the time in every industry. Read on:

Around 1:00 p.m. today I returned opposing counsel’s telephone call from this morning. The first person that answered the phone took my name and asked me to hold while he checked to see if she was back from lunch. After a short hold he came back on the line and transferred my call. At that point opposing counsel’s assistant answered the phone. She took my name for the second time and put me back on hold. After holding a couple of minutes, opposing counsel’s assistant came back on the line and asked if I could call back in twenty minutes! I am sure that her assistant is telling opposing counsel that I am a jerk because I answered, "No, I am calling her back now."

Let’s say you’re training a group. What usually happens is most of the group understands, learns and benefits from the information you’ve taught. Unfortunately, not everyone "gets it." What do we do about that small percentage of employees – often good, conscientious people – who may need personalized attention after training? Those are the ones who need coaching
Unbelievable. Makes me wonder how they handle calls from their clients.

It’s not important to know the "who" in this story. It’s more important to learn the "why" it happened. And more importantly, how to fix it! That’s what this article is about.

It’s a well-known fact that first voice you hear when you call a company sets the tone, makes the first impression and welcomes the caller. It starts the rapport-building factor. Few will argue that point.
While there are several "faux pas" in the above email note we received, which is the MAJOR one? Reread it and see if you don’t agree with Telephone Doctor mentality, culture and philosophy. Our answer is at the end of this article.

In the meantime, it sounds as though the opposing counsels office can use a dose of our Basic Basic Telephone Skills program. Listed below are a few key points from our popular DVD program Basic Basic Telephone Skills. Know anyone else who might benefit from this list?

We’re going to give you the Telephone Doctor® Four Step Model for effective coaching in a call center or business environment.

1. While we didn’t get to find out HOW they answer the phone with their initial greeting, we hope they used the Telephone Doctor 3-part greeting. A buffer, the company name and then their name. Remember; "How can I help you" is NOT necessary in initial greetings. You are there to help. That is why you answered the phone.

2. Learn how to put a caller on hold. "Hold on," CLICK is not effective. Neither is "Hang on a second." Several years ago we ran a survey with USA Today to find out what frustrates the caller the most. YES, BEING PUT ON HOLD was the NUMBER ONE frustration of the American public. That was 12 years ago. Today, it’s number 3 with, yup – you guessed it – the automated attendant being number one!

3. Monogram the call. If the caller lets you know his/her name; USE IT. Immediately.

4. Leave a good lasting impression. Seems as the opposing counsels office didn’t do that. Remember we’ll tell more people about a bad experience that we will a good one. Not sure why. But it’s true.

What’s the biggest Faux Pas?

Asking a caller to call back! We never ask anyone to call back. That’s like kicking a customer out of the door at the store. When someone calls us, it’s our job to return the call, or have it returned on our behalf. Asking someone to call back is just RUDE. (Exception: there are times when the caller will say, "Let her know I called and I’ll call back." That’s fine if it’s the caller’s choice. But to ask a caller to please call back; Wow! BIG MISTAKE. That’s a real NO NO!

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