Telephone contact is central to many organisations success. The call handler therefore is arguably the most important person in the organisation. The first contact, first impression, first opportunity for any customer to get a feeling for how their relationship with the organisation is going to develop.
What makes for successful call handling?
Natural ability. If you have ‘it’ your personality will shine through.
If you haven’t got ‘it’ you are going to need to apply some structure to help you learn how. Even if you are a natural, you are still going to need to apply structure, for system, procedure and process compliance.
Call handling skills need to be learned and adapted just like any other personal skill.
Assuming the calls are answered quickly, good practice is to aim for three rings or less, your most important timescale is the next 30 seconds.
Your greeting, should be clearly audible (that sounds obvious, but when was the last time you listened to yourself on playback, do it and practice it), concise and accurate. Remember my first concern as a caller is understanding that I have rung the right person. As a call handler, pause half a second before you give your greeting, allow the listener time to tune in, and speak at a steady pace. Don’t rush or push, the caller will have to ask you again if they don’t hear properly.
It’s cheesy, but still true, remember to smile as you dial! People can hear the smile in your voiceThe research backs it up. Professor John J Ohala from the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley told us so in his research paper “The Acoustic Origins of the Smile”, Ohala states that “higher resonance can be achieved by a trumpet like flaring of the tract and/or by retracting the corners of the mouth”
So smile while you are talking, it really does work, try it now.
When your call speaks, be prepared to listen, be attentive and show empathy. Listen actively (yes, I see, ok, ect) but don’t interrupt. They’ve taken the trouble to call you, let them tell you why and what they need.
Here’s the bit that most people miss. When your caller has finished telling, don’t immediately ask questions. Take stock and take responsibility for the call (ok, I can help you with that) and tell them what you are going to have to do next. Don’t just do it, explain it.
Set the scene for what follows next. You know the process, but they may not, it’s easy and only takes a few seconds to do, something like “to be able to help you I need to ask a few questions, is that ok” or “we need to complete a few details with you to get the right service, will that alright”
That should allow you to start asking a few questions. By now you should have made a great first impression that you can build on.
We’ll look at the rest of the call in another blog. For now, go and practice that greeting and smiling!