The Telephone Doctor - The key to keeping customers happyNancy Friedmantelephone etiquette, customer service The mortgage business is different that's a fact. However, your customers aren't so different. Over the years, Telephone Doctor has culled a list of what frustrates customers. This particular list is for owners, managers and staff members. You might want to post this article in plain view so that all of your employees may benefit. Be honest: Are you guilty of any of these Telephone Doctor no-nos? 1. Your employees are having a bad day, and their foul mood carries over in conversations with customers. Everyone has bad days, but customer service employees need to keep theirs to themselves. 2. Your employees hang up on angry customers. Ironclad rule: Never hang up on a customer. 3. Your company doesn't return phone calls or voice mail messages, despite listing your phone number on your Web site and/or in ads and directories. Call customers back as soon as you can, or have the calls returned on your behalf. 4. Your employees put callers on hold without asking them first, as a courtesy. Ask customers politely if you can put them on hold; very few will complain or say "No way!" 5. Your employees put callers on a speakerphone without asking them first if it is okay. Again, ask first, as a courtesy. 6. Your employees eat, drink or chew gum while talking with customers on the phone. A telephone mouthpiece is like a microphone; noises are easily amplified. Employees need to eat their meals away from the phone and save that stick of gum for break time. 7. You have call-waiting on your business lines, and your employees frequently interrupt existing calls to take new calls. One interruption in a call might be excusable; beyond that, you are crossing the "rude" threshold. Do your best to be prepared with enough staff for peak calling times. 8. Your employees refuse or forget to use the words "please," "thank you" or "you're welcome." Please use these words generously. Thank you. 9. Your employees hold side conversations with friends while talking to customers on the phone, or they make personal calls on cell phones in your call center. Don't do either of these. 10. Your employees seem incapable of offering more than one-word answers. One-word answers come across as rude and uncaring. 11. Your employees do provide more than one-word answers, but many of the words are grounded in company or industry jargon that many customers don't understand. If you sell technology products, for example, don't casually use abbreviations, such as APIs, ISVs, SMTP or TCP/IP. 12. Your employees request that customers call them back when the employees aren't so busy. Customers should never be told to call back. Request the customer's number instead. 13. Your employees rush through calls, forcing customers off the phone at the earliest opportunity. Be a little more discreet. Politely suggest that you've got the information you need and must move on to other calls. 14. Your employees obnoxiously bellow, "What's this in reference to?" This response humbles customers and belittles their requests. Screening techniques can be used with a little more warmth and finesse. If a caller has mistakenly come your way, do your best to point them in the right direction. 15. Your employees freely admit to customers that they hate their jobs. This simply makes the entire company look bad. And don't think such a moment of candor or lapse in judgment won't get back to the boss. In defense of customer service workers, customers can be rude too. And customer service jobs can often be thankless, with little motivation or incentive to do the job right. Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St. Louis, Mo. and was a featured speaker at the NAMB 2004 Annual Convention and Exposition in Salt Lake City. For more information, call (314) 291-1012 or visit www.telephonedoctor.com.