Winning Customers Through Effective Telephone Etiquette

Although many businesses are now offering customer service via e-mails and online chat, telephone calls are still many business’ primary contact. For many customers, a telephone call to customer service is a relatively quick way to resolve any issues and also receive human interaction. For the business, it is a great way to warmly greet customers, resolve issues, and lead to a satisfied customer.

Having proper telephone etiquette can often make a huge difference in a satisfied customer. For example, customers do not want to be greeted with a simple “hey” from a customer service representative that sounds grumpy and inconvenienced by the call. The first initial greeting can set up the mood of the entire phone call.

Rather, greet your customers in a pleasant, courteous manner. Consider saying, “Hello. This is Susan from The Pie Shop. How are you doing today?” Take a moment to actually listen to the customer’s reply before continuing with “How can I help you today?”

effective customer service over the phoneWhen answering the phone, be sure to enunciate your words and speak clearly and slowly. Do not make your customers ask you to repeat yourself. With many businesses outsourcing their customer service help lines, a customer may be dealing with someone who speaks English as a second language. However, the representative can manage the language barrier by speaking slowly and clearly.

When speaking to the customer, take special care in choosing your words and phrases. Avoid using jargon or slang talk such as “Uh huh,” “yep,” “okay,” and “gotcha.” In fact, many businesses may find it helpful to create a handbook of acceptable and unacceptable phrases and words. Because the representative is the forefront of your business, the way they speak and convey information to a customer is crucial.

It is very important for a customer service representative to actually listen to the customer. The customer wants to feel that they have your undivided attention. Listen to the customer’s inquiries or requests and attempt to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Do not frustrate the customer by making them repeat the issue ten different ways to 10 different people. If you are unsure of the answer to their question, consider saying, “I would like to take a moment to find out the correct answer to your question. Do you mind if I put you on hold?”

Always ask for permission to place a customer on hold. After about the fifth experience calling a local pizza restaurant, I quickly became annoyed to have my call answered with “Hold please.” Needless to say, as a customer, I do not want to be put on hold immediately after a greeting (or lack therefore) and forced to wait. I’ve simply taken my business elsewhere (where I am promptly and properly greeted).

If you cannot resolve their issue, offer them a timeline for a response. Consider saying, “I will need to speak with my manager about this tomorrow. Can I call you back before 3pm with an answer?” When making a timeline promise to a customer, be realistic. If you cannot provide the answer by tomorrow, be honest and request a few more days. It will be unacceptable to the customer for you to make a promise and then neglect to meet it simply because you haven’t received an answer yet.

Aside from the conversational skills and content, there are a few key tips that can start a telephone call off right:

* Answer the telephone within 3 rings. Any more than that and the customer will become agitated.
* Implement an answering machine for whenever you cannot reach the phone. Create a message that includes your business name, hours, and further contact information.
* Respond to messages left within 1 business day.
* Focus on the customer. Put down the newspaper and turn away from the e-mails.

When answering the telephone, be courteous, yet efficient. Focus on the customer 100%. Customers will notice immediately if a customer service representative is multitasking or having a bad day. By training your representatives how to answer and handle phone calls, you will often see a noticeable difference in satisfied customers.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+


  1. Toni Morris says:

    Excellent advise. My pediatrician’s office has recently replaced a phone tree with a live person. It is comforting to talk with a human when calling with concerns regarding your children! Training and supplying scripted examples are key to successful phone skills. Such skills serve one well also when receiving calls at home!

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