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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Communicating—Telephone Skills

The cost of calling long distance is decreasing and more call centres are springing up to deal with customer sales, help, and inquiries. People in these centres are trained to satisfy customers. As a consequence, customer expectations are high, and rising. Here are some ideas of how you can excel on the phone.

  1. Greet people warmly. Let people know immediately that you are there to serve. Start off with an introduction such as "This is John Day speaking. How may I help you?"

  2. Have a purpose in mind. Focus on it to reduce time on unrelated issues.

  3. Use your time effectively by stating your purpose and getting agreement to it. If you are calling someone, ask if this is a good time for him.

  4. Use the person's name whenever possible. It shows interest and respect. Don't use a first name unless you have asked for permission to do so. If the other person uses your first name, you are probably at liberty to do so in return.

  5. Avoid any signs of a lack of interest in the call, such as

    • carrying on a second conversation;

    • working on your computer simultaneously;

    • delivering a standard greeting, especially when delivered in a monotone;

    • chewing gum or eating while talking.

  6. Listen to what people are telling you. As you can't see people and respond to their non-verbal body language, listen for hesitation and pauses. Follow up with probing questions such as "I don't detect that you are sure. Is that so? Can you tell me why?"

  7. Emphasize key messages. Your voice will need to do the selling for you. Raise your voice and enunciate key ideas by speaking slower at critical points in the conversation.

  8. Keep your tone positive. Judging from your voice, clients should never be in any doubt that you want to help them.

  9. Don't put people on hold unless it's absolutely necessary. If you need to do so, ask for their permission first. Also, let them know approximately how long they may need to wait. When you come back, greet them by name and thank them for holding.

  10. Avoid jargon. Every company develops its own language, which probably is not known to people on the outside. Make it easy for people to understand you by using everyday language whenever possible.

  11. When speaking to clients, demonstrate their value to your business. Complete the call by thanking them for calling, or for their time and/or business.

  12. Help solve the problem. The process begins by defining the problem clearly. This is best done by asking the 5 Ws and an H: Who is responsible, what happened, when did it happen, where did it take place, why did it happen, and how did happen? When you are done, help the client define the problem clearly by summarizing the issue succinctly.

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