The Telephone Doctor: Essential telephone skills Nancy Friedman answering a business call, thanking a caller for holding, monogramming the call Many years ago, one of our Telephone Doctor clients told me, "Nancy, congratulations! Some people take a simple idea and complicate it. You have taken a simple idea and kept it simple." Yes, we have. We, at Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, don't believe you should scratch your head and wonder when you're shown an idea or technique. So we have purposely kept all of our programs in a very simple, yet very effective mode. Others tell us, "What you do is just plain old common sense." And we sure agree. But you and I know that common sense just isn't that common. If it were, everyone would be doing it. And we know they're not. Below are some ideas, tips, skills and techniques that everyone should be doing, but they're not. Here we go! Answering a business call Well, what's so difficult about that? Huh? Right, it's not difficult. But if I called 100 people within your own organization, I'm betting I'd get a number of ways that folks answer the call. And at Telephone Doctor, we believe there should be one, uniformed method of greeting to answer the call by everyone, every time. A buffer (words that welcome the caller), such as: "Thanks for calling." Then your company name, and then give your name, as in: "This is Sue." Then stop. Anything after our name erases our name. "How can I help you" is simply not necessary on that initial greeting. You are there to help. That's why you answered the phone. "Thanks for calling the Telephone Doctor's office. This is Nancy." Thanking a caller for holding I'm amazed at the number of times I'm put on hold and when the person comes back, they just start in on the conversation. There is no, "Thank you for holding, Mrs. Friedman." And normally, they're gone longer than they should be. So that "thank you for holding" sure would sound nice and be appreciated. I always wonder why they don't thank me for taking the time to stay with them. Don't you? Monogramming the call Some of the items on my desk have my name engraved on them, some my initials. I treasure those items. And frankly, probably won't ever throw them away. I have things I've saved from years ago with my name on it. Most people save things with their names on it. The same thing should happen on a phone call. When you have the caller's name, use it! Don't abuse it, but do include it throughout the conversation. Everyone likes to hear their name. And they want to hear it pronounced right and spelled right. Don't be afraid to ask the caller on pronunciation if you're not sure. They'll appreciate it a heck of a lot more than you trying to butcher their name. The same thing goes for spelling it properly ... just ask! Don't assume. Are you aware there are 19 ways to spell the last name of "Nichols" in the New York phone directory? Not everyone spells their name the same: Tom, Thom and Tomm; Christy and Kristy; and Charlie and Charley. The list goes on. Get it right! Avoiding mouth noises on the phone I cannot tell you the number of times I talk with people on the phone and it sounds as though they have a mouthful of mush. Either gum or candy, or they're finishing their lunch. The only thing that should be in your mouth when you're on the phone is your tongue. Remember, please, the phone is a microphone and anything that is in your mouth will sound 10 times louder to the caller as you think it will. Empty your mouth before you pick up the phone! Leaving a positive last impression Most of us have been taught about making that 'great first impression.' And yes, that's so important. We don't get a second chance to make that first great impression. Well, consider making a great last impression, as well. Don't screw it up at the end of the call. Let the caller know: "It was so nice to meet you by phone," "I'm glad I had the opportunity to help you," "Thank you for calling," or "We appreciate your call." Do something that will make that lasting positive impression. Because when we hang up, they turn around or think to themselves and say either: "Wow, that was a super call." or "Man, I'll never call there again." How do you want your callers to think of you? Nancy Friedman, "The Telephone Doctor," has spoken at the past four consecutive National Association of Mortgage Brokers Annual Conventions and is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St. Louis, Mo. Nancy is a frequent speaker at meetings and conferences worldwide. She may be reached at (314) 291-1012.