Customer service phone etiquette is vital for presenting your business in the best light. And it goes well beyond simply picking up the phone and saying “Hello” with a smile on your face.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about customer service phone etiquette — what it is, why it’s important, customer service phone etiquette tips you can apply right away, and a few scenarios to show you how you continue to provide stellar customer service even when things get tense.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Phone Etiquette?
Phone etiquette simply means the way you represent your business to customers on the telephone. It includes things like how you greet callers, your tone and choice of words, active listening, and how you end the call.
Phases of a Customer Service Call
There are three distinct phases to any customer service phone call (and one potential phase):
- Answering the call
- Talking to callers about their problems
- Potentially escalating the call
- Ending the call
It’s important to maintain proper customer service phone etiquette during each of these phases to keep your callers happy and ensure high-quality service.
Phone etiquette can have a huge impact on your business. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you’ll want to stay on top of how your call center staff are handling each and every call.
Why Phone Etiquette Matters for Customer Service
Did you know that increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase your revenue by 25% to 95%? And stellar phone etiquette can help you retain customers! Here are three other reasons why good customer service phone etiquette matters for your business, no matter your industry.
1. Creates a Good First Impression
Executed well, customer service phone etiquette makes a great first impression on your callers. A call to your call center may be the only interaction some customers have with your business outside of your products or services. When the person answering the phone is pleasant, helpful, and professional, it can have a huge impact on how customers perceive your business.
2. Increases Customer Trust
Providing high-quality customer service with excellent call center etiquette can increase the trust that customers have in your business. This is especially important if, as we mentioned before, customers have limited contact with your business outside of your call center.
3. Increases Customer Satisfaction
Finally, excellent customer service phone etiquette can increase customer satisfaction. When your call center representatives meet your customers’ needs and expectations on a phone call, customers naturally assume that their needs will continue to be met in other dealings with your brand.
10 Customer Service Phone Etiquette Tips
By now it should be clear that customer service phone etiquette can make a difference for your business. Harris Interactive even found that 89% of consumers have switched to doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.
But what goes into providing a positive customer service telephone experience for your callers? Here are 10 customer service phone etiquette tips to help you ensure that your call center team is hitting the mark every single time.
1. Answer the Phone Promptly
It seems like such a simple thing, but answering the phone promptly starts calls off on a positive note. This doesn’t mean that your reps have to pick up the call the second it comes through. When training new reps, have them aim for answering calls within the first three rings. This gives them time to take a breath and center themselves so they’re ready for each call.
2. Start With an Introduction
The first thing your reps should do after answering a call is to introduce themselves. This differs from what we do in non-business calls. Instead of answering a call with a simple “Hello,” your staff should have a script that they follow to ensure that the caller knows who they’ve reached, the business they’re calling, and that the person answering the call is ready to help.
Start with a simple script like, “Hi, this is [your first name] at [your company]. How can I help you today?” From there, your call center representatives can customize the script to match their own personalities (within reason) so they don’t sound like robots.
3. Speak Clearly and Professionally
When you talk on the phone all day, every day, it’s easy to start talking quickly or mumbling. This is especially true when you first answer the phone. Your warm greeting can quickly turn into confusion for your callers if you’re not speaking at a normal pace, speaking clearly, and using professional language.
The words you choose are important. Always be respectful of your callers and stick to the more formal side of language. This doesn’t mean you can’t joke around with your callers (especially if they’re joking around with you), but keep your words neutral and non-controversial.
Oh, and don’t chew gum.
4. Use a Headset Instead of Speakerphone
Hands-free is the way to go when you work in a call center. But that doesn’t mean speakerphone.
There are some who would say using speakerphone is fine in some situations, but call centers can get noisy. It’s best to avoid speakerphone and use a headset with a high-quality microphone that can filter out the sounds around you.
5. Listen to the Caller
It’s important to pay attention to callers so you don’t miss important information your caller is sharing. This goes beyond simply hearing them talk. Active listening is important for quality customer service.
Active listening is a technique of listening and observation of non-verbal cues (like tone), with feedback in the form of mirroring (paraphrasing what the caller is saying back to them to ensure that you understand). It’s a technique commonly used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts.
6. Don’t Interrupt
Nobody likes being interrupted. If a caller is going on a tirade, it can be so tempting to interject. But it’s not going to help the situation. It’s best to just take notes and wait until they’ve had their say so you can take back control of the call and get to a resolution.
This does not mean that call center reps should be expected to sit and listen to personal attacks or racist, misogynist, homophobic, or other abusive language. If the language being used is abusive, call center reps are well within their rights to interrupt and establish boundaries such as, “I want to help you but I can’t do that with you speaking to me like that.” If that doesn’t work, call center agents should hang up.
7. Stay Upbeat (Even When the Caller Isn’t)
There will be times when a caller is rude or grumpy. The knee-jerk reaction may be to let them know all about themselves. Instead, encourage your call center staff to stay calm and turn to empathy. It’s important to try to understand why the caller is upset while still maintaining a positive and friendly vibe. Even if the caller is still grumpy at the end of the call, it’ll feel great knowing that they handled the call well.
A big part of staying upbeat is the words you choose.
Try to always use positive language when interacting with customers, focusing on what you can do for them instead of what you can’t do. For example, if you’re out of stock for an item your caller wants and you won’t be able to get it for another month, don’t just tell the caller they can’t have it. Check out the difference:
“Unfortunately, it’s out of stock. I can’t get that for you until next month.”
“That product will be available next month. I can go ahead and place the order for you and it will be sent out as soon as we get it.”
Which would you rather hear?
You can even turn this into an upsell if you have an alternate product that fills the same need. Just add something like, “We also have this alternative product that does this, this, and this that the original product does. It’s a little pricier but it’s in stock right now. Would that work for you?”
8. Ask Before Placing the Caller on Hold
Nobody likes being put on hold. This is especially true if you’ve already waited to speak with a free representative. When a caller must be placed on hold, reps should ask them for their permission before doing it and explain why it’s needed. Keeping the caller informed will make them feel better about being placed on hold because they understand that it’s necessary so their problem can be handled.
9. Be Honest
Sometimes a caller will ask a question that just hasn’t come up before or that doesn’t have a readily apparent answer. In those situations, call center reps should be honest. Let the caller know that you don’t have the answer but are going to get it for them.
10. Return Calls and Reply to Voicemails
Sometimes it’s just not possible to answer a call. Maybe it comes in during a particularly heavy call time, a company-wide meeting, or after hours. No matter why the call goes to voicemail, it’s vital that your call center reps return those calls.
We recommend checking voicemail and returning calls at the beginning and end of each day.
Common Customer Service Phone Etiquette Challenges
Not all calls are straightforward. And sometimes you’ll have to dig deep to keep a relationship with a caller on track. Hopefully, these situations won’t crop up often, but when they do, it’s important to be ready for them.
Here are a few different scenarios call center reps might run into and how to handle them to maintain the customer relationship. These scenarios can be used as training opportunities for your call center reps so they’re ahead of the game should they ever run into them.
The Caller Wants Something You Can’t Provide
It’s likely that your call center reps will run into a situation at some point in which callers will ask them to do something that goes against company policy or that the call center rep just can’t do. The callers are just trying to get their problems solved, so it’s important to remember that this kind of request doesn’t mean the caller is trying to get the agent to do something wrong or bad — they just want a resolution.
Customer service phone etiquette can help in these situations.
For starters, if your policy prevents you from meeting the expectations of a caller, you always have the option to help them find another solution.
If you’re unable to find another solution that works, or if the caller pushes back, you can share information with the caller about what the call center team can and can’t do. This might include sending the caller documentation from your company’s knowledge base so the caller knows that this is an official company decision and supports the agent’s response.
While it may not be what the caller wants to hear, even these interactions are beneficial to your company if you use them. Your quality assurance software should be able to help you track and understand requests like this that go against your company’s policies so you can reevaluate the policy if needed.
The Caller Is Keeping You Engaged Too Long
Call centers are fast-paced environments and it’s important that calls get handled quickly, efficiently, and correctly. If agents have a call quota to reach each day, a long, drawn-out call can bring those KPIs crashing to the ground.
While it’s important to give each caller the attention they deserve, it’s also fine to ask if you can return their call. Having a caller waiting on the line with you while you’re waiting to hear back from someone else isn’t a good use of anyone’s time. If you’re not making active progress toward a resolution, let the caller know that you will follow up with them when you have the information you need to resolve their issue.
You might also run into talkative or lonely callers.
In the event you have a chatty caller, you can ask direct instead of open-ended questions and be ready to redirect them if the conversation veers off course.
With lonely callers, who just want to talk with someone, it’s okay to engage them for a moment before letting them know firmly but kindly that you need to end the call and wish them a wonderful day.
The Caller Wants to Speak With Your Supervisor
When callers don’t get their needs met in the way they want from a call center rep, they might ask to speak to a supervisor with the belief that talking to a supervisor will help them get what they want or get their problem resolved faster.
In these instances where the agent has provided honest and accurate information, they should attempt to keep from escalating the call. This can be done just by saying something like “I’m sorry it’s not the answer you want, but I’m afraid my supervisor would just have to tell you the same thing.” If the caller won’t let it go, escalate the call and let your team lead give the caller a second opinion.
Customer Service Phone Etiquette Training Made Easy
Customer service phone etiquette can be a huge boon to your business. And with Voxjar, training your team can be easy. Voxjar gives you the insights you need about how customers are interacting with your company, what your sales reps and customers are saying, which agents are performing the best, and more so you can increase call center efficiencies, decrease the time it takes to onboard new reps, and convert on more upsell and cross-sell opportunities.