Phone Etiquette: Does It Still Matter?

ipla37uj2dw-marko-pekicYour receptionist or call center operators are often the first impression that customers will have of your business, especially if you’re working from a virtual office.

As offices become increasingly fragmented and substantially more relaxed than they once were, the question of etiquette starts to come up. Does it even matter any more? Does anyone care if you’re polite in business transactions these days?

Where Phone Etiquette Matters Most: Customer Happiness

While strictly speaking, robotic responses may be perfectly acceptable, proper phone etiquette adds a bit of warmth and humanity to each and every interaction with your customers. It’s the little kindnesses that make all the differences sometimes.

Customers are experiencing even more problems than ever before with service, according to the 2015 National Customer Rage Study. In fact, these troubled interactions are up four percent from the 2013 study to 54 percent … that’s a lot of angry customers! What’s worse is that according to a recent eMarketer report, 52 percent of those customers will stop doing business with companies that frustrate and enrage them.

You can stand out from the crowd by offering a friendly, polite face for your company, and it’s not even that hard to do. We have some small business tips to encourage happier customers and better manners in your telephone workers.

  1. Practice active listening. Probably the most frustrating and anger-inducing thing anyone can do in a conversation is simply wait for their turn to speak, rather than listening.It can take some practice to become an effective active listener, but with practice you can train your whole team to metaphorically lean in, ask your customers what it will take to solve their problems and really listen to how they respond. Sometimes, callers simply want to know they’re being heard, other times they need help brainstorming real solutions. Either way, active listening can help your operators go above and beyond what many businesses dare to offer up as customer service in this century.
  1. Police tone of voice. Like online conversations and those held via text message, phone conversations leave both sides with only part of the information they need about the other party.Without seeing an operator’s body language, the caller can only use inflection to guess about their willingness to help, or not. A call center agent who is perfect on paper may destroy customer satisfaction by using less than ideal tone of voice when answering the telephone, so monitor those phones and pull operators for further training on tone of voice as necessary.
  1. Say please and thank you. It may seem trite, but taking the time to say “please” and “thank you” can leave an enormous impression on people.In this busy world where call times are always being pushed downward, call centers focus too hard on the numbers and forget the humans behind them. Your business will stand out if you allow your operators the extra few seconds it takes for the little niceties in life. Please, thank you, you’re welcome, hello, good-bye – they may be old-fashioned, but they’re still regarded as signs of respect for the person you’re speaking to.

Maybe phone etiquette is one of those things that can be allowed to fall to the wayside, like thank you notes and welcome packages for new customers, but should it? If you want to generate goodwill with your customers with very little effort, gain shoppers who will be with you for a lifetime and callers who feel like you understand their needs and are unbelievably, unfalteringly loyal, it won’t hurt to be polite. Even in this engaged world, people like to be recognized and feel that they’re being respected, and being polite will also do wonders for your customer service ratings.