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Effective Telephone Communication Skills for Receptionists Term Definition Introduced in: Active listening The highest level of listening; the listener is engaged and entirely focused on the speaker Module 3 Empathy Understanding the complaint with no interest in either agreement or disagreement, but instead acknowledging emotion(s) Module 2 Evaluative listening A level of listening where the listener hears what is being said, but is focused on their response and not the speaker Module 3 QTIP An acronym that stands for Quit Taking It Personally Module 4 Selective listening A level of listening where the listener is tuning in and out, but not fully engaging with the speaker Module 3 Glossary Page 1

Active listening Evaluative listening the speaker Module 3 · great first impression is never more applicable than during that first call. During this important dialogue, you'll begin

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  • Effective Telephone Communication Skills for Receptionists

    Term Definition Introduced in:

    Active listeningThe highest level of listening; the listener is engaged and entirely focused on the speaker Module 3

    EmpathyUnderstanding the complaint with no interest in either agreement or disagreement, but instead acknowledging emotion(s) Module 2

    Evaluative listeningA level of listening where the listener hears what is being said, but is focused on their response and not the speaker Module 3

    QTIP An acronym that stands for Quit Taking It Personally Module 4

    Selective listeningA level of listening where the listener is tuning in and out, but not fully engaging with the speaker Module 3

     Glossary Page 1

  • Page 1

    EFFECTIVE TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION SKILLS MODULE ONE Female: It's Friday afternoon. Your bosses are ready to pile the ton of work on

    your desk. There are three people waiting to talk to you. And the phone

    is ringing. There's a lot of requests coming in very fast. And it's easy to

    feel a little bit overwhelmed. And imagine trying to answer the phone.

    You might end up with a little bit of irritation in your voice.

    Now, answering the phone can certainly be an annoyance at times. I

    understand. You've got a lot of priorities. You've got a lot of things that

    you need to get done. But the first step to acquiring exception telephone

    skills is to understand when the phone is ringing, no matter who you are,

    no matter what you're doing, no matter how urgent your current task is,

    answering the phone is the most important activity of the moment.

    Now, unfortunately, in a busy workplace, answering the phone in a timely

    manner might be challenging, let alone staying consistent call to call and

    person to person. The saying you never get a second chance to make a

    great first impression is never more applicable than during that first call.

    During this important dialogue, you'll begin to create a perception of the

    quality of your company or practice and the level of your service.

    In fact, if you work in a medical office, it might be at this point where a

    potential patient makes the decision to come in for a consultation or not.

    You might be the one person that can directly influence the overall health

    and financial wellbeing of the entire company.

  • Page 2

    Really your title should be the director of first impressions. You are the

    one that is the voice of the company. And how you answer that phone will

    create an immediate image in the mind of the caller, especially the first

    time caller. You have the most important role in the entire company or

    practice. And it all starts with a smile.

    When speaking on the phone, smile. When we smile, we change our

    facial expressions. It effects the sound of our voice. Our vocal tone can

    be greatly affected by the manner in which we use our facial muscles.

    One of the oldest telephone tricks is to have a mirror near the telephone

    so you can monitor your facial expressions and be sure that you are

    smiling.

    Several studies have indicated that as much as 87 percent of the opinions

    people form about us when speaking to us on the phone are based on the

    tone of our voice. If 87 percent is based on the tone, that means only 13

    percent is based on the actual words we use.

    With all that we do, people can hear our personality and mannerisms

    through the tone of our voice. And it's important that by smiling we bring a

    more pleasant, more welcoming tone to our voice. And it helps all callers

    feel greeted and welcomed.

    Now, with your greeting, you need to be consistent caller to caller, person

    to person. And this starts with making sure that you answer the phone by

    the third ring. Now, I know you're busy. I know you have a lot of other

    things going on. There's a lot of things happening at this moment. But

  • Page 3

    that call is truly one of the most important things that you can do. And

    answering that phone by minimal the third ring, shows the caller that they

    are important, not just to you, but to the company, because remember you

    are the face of the company. And once you've answered the phone, and

    of course you're smiling, you want to greet the caller with a warm and

    sincere welcome.

    As the director of first impressions, you need to be consistent how you

    answer the phone. Your customers will come to know what to expect from

    you through this greeting. And in order to help you be consistent person

    to person and call to call, you want to use a script. And the script doesn't

    have to be long. It doesn't have to be detailed. It just needs to be a

    guideline of what you're going to say when you answer the phone.

    Now, many companies use a simple script like, hello, XYZ Company, this

    is Kim, how can I help you? Something simple. Something to the point

    and something direct. Shares with them that identify what company

    they've called, who they're speaking with, and that you're there to help

    them.

    See, your role as a reception is to be the face and the voice of the

    company. You are the first contact that the caller is going to make when

    they call your company.

    And that being said, you need to clearly enunciate the words that you say.

    This means speaking them in a clear and concise way that can be easily

  • Page 4

    understood. This means avoiding slurring or speaking too fast, or maybe

    even speaking too slow.

    And I'll share with you -- I recently was working with a hospital down in

    Miami. And many, many times when the folks would answer the phone,

    they would say their name so fast. And it was often with a little bit of an

    accent, and possibly even a little -- the names were unfamiliar to me, that I

    often found myself saying, "I'm sorry, could you say your name again?

    Who am I speaking with?" And it became very frustrating.

    And even when I left messages, I might say, "Hi, Joanne, this message is

    for Dr. Gozabels. Just needed to follow up on scheduling his

    appointment." When she would leave me a message back, she would

    say, "Hi, this is Joanne from Dr. Gozabels' office. Just needed to follow up

    with you. Give me a call when you have a chance. Bye-bye." And she

    would say it so fast that at times I couldn't tell if she was saying Dr.

    Gozabels or Dr. Gonzales. And I had mistakes occur because I could not

    clearly understand what she was saying. So it's important that especially

    if you are leaving voice mails or if you are creating your own voice mail

    message that you do speak clearly and that you clearly enunciate the

    words that you are saying.

    Again, this is going to be especially important if you have a regional

    accent that might affect the communication.

    Now, we ought to be prepared. You never get a second chance to make a

    first impression. So we need to start with the basics.

  • Page 5

    When the phone rings, we've answered it, we've greeted them, and now

    we're ready to find out what they need. They've called us for a reason.

    So we want to have a pen and paper ready. When they start telling us

    what that reason is, we want to write down their name and give it a little bit

    about what they're telling us. We need to be fully engaged in what the

    conversation is. We want to be able to use their name in conversation, be

    able to call them by name, and to speak with them in a tone that is

    professional and polite.

    Now, in order to do that, we're going to have to make sure that we never

    answer the phone with food in our mouth. Now, I understand you have to

    eat and I understand sometimes you do eat at your desk. But it is

    important that if you do have food in your mouth that you've got two

    options. One, is you hurry up and swallow it, yum, yum, yum, and get it

    down or you go ahead and you wait and let the call roll over to another

    receptionist, or possibly to a supervisor or someone else that can handle

    it, or worst case to voice mail.

    But, again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. It's

    better not to answer the phone when you have food in your mouth than to

    answer it with food in your mouth.

    And we've all made that mistake. I know I'm guilty of it, you know, we

    want to answer that phone, it's right there, it's ringing. But we want to be

    conscious of that first impression, it's very, very important for our

    customers and for our clients.

  • Page 6

    We got to remember customer is number one. We want to focus on

    providing great customer service and focus on that customer's call. Give

    them the attention that they're looking for and prevail to provide the

    information that they're looking for to be able to have a successful call.

    {End of recording.}

  • Page 1

    EFFECTIVE TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION SKILLS MODULE TWO Female: Module Number Two. Right Words for the Right Message. Worlds have

    meanings. And they have meanings beyond their definitions. And

    sometimes we get frustrated with that, and especially if we get a phone

    call that's asking for someone and that person's not there. It's happened

    to me many times, and both on the calling side and the being called side.

    And it's important that we manage what we say. We need to use the right

    words to convey the right message.

    Take for example, if you were to call your accountant, and it's three o'clock

    in the afternoon, and you call your accountant and the receptionist says,

    "Yeah, hold on, let me see if he's in. Ah, no, sorry, he's got to take -- he

    took his dog to his vet. He won't be back till later. You want to leave a

    message?" That leaves a certain impression in your mind. I mean think

    about what kind of words might describe that type of interaction. I

    certainly wouldn't use the words professional, and I certainly wouldn't use

    the words high quality. It almost sounds like an unprofessional business.

    And if that's the kind of people that my accountant works with, I'm not sure

    I want to work with that accountant. If that's his level of standard, if that's

    the quality that he produces, I'm not interested. I'm willing to pay a little

    more for a higher quality person and higher quality effort.

    And it's important that, as a receptionist, we portray the higher quality.

    Our clients, our customers will pay a little bit more if we treat them a whole

    lot better. So we want to have a quality conversation with them, and we

  • Page 2

    want to make sure that the impression that we give of the business is one

    of quality, that it is one of promptness, it's one that we are taking control of

    things, we're in business, we're professional, we're taking care of you.

    And if you consider that -- I mean if I think about my accountant taking his

    dog to the vet at three o'clock in the afternoon, I almost kind of think that

    he's lazy. What's he doing? Why's he taking his dog to the vet at three

    o'clock? Most people are working at three o'clock. What's up with that? It

    just doesn't sound very professional.

    So want to be very, very careful of what we say. And it all starts with a

    greeting. So let's review the greeting.

    A simple script for greeting would be something like, good morning, XYZ

    Company, this is Kim, how can I help you? And this is a very common

    script used by many, many companies. Now, of course your company

    might have a slightly different script, and you want to follow the guidance

    that your organization has provided. But if you don't have one, this is a

    great script for starting.

    Now, there's couple things you want to note about this script. First, it says

    good morning. Could be good afternoon or good evening, whichever's

    appropriate. But it starts with these two words because when someone is

    calling you, they're doing other things sometimes. They're looking around.

    They're waiting for the phone to be answered. They're not a hundred

    percent engaged in that call. Not yet. And so when you pick up and you

    say XYZ Company, this is Kim, they miss the first tenth of a second, the

  • Page 3

    first couple of seconds, until they can engage and get with it. And in that

    second, they miss what you say. Have you ever had that happen;

    someone says something and you go, I'm sorry, what did you say? And

    before they even get to answer, your mind's playing back what they said.

    It took you a second to catch up. And that's exactly what's happening

    here. So when you start with good morning, this allows the caller's brain

    to engage so they can hear XYZ Company, this is Kim, how can I help

    you? So it's important that you start with those simple little words; good

    morning, or good afternoon, or good evening, to be able to provide the

    listener, the caller, a chance for their brain to catch up so they can hear

    the rest of what you're going to say.

    But, now, it is important that you don't speak too slow or too fast when you

    say this, because, keep in mind, speaking too slow sounds something like,

    good morning, XYZ Company, this is Kim, how can I help you? It almost

    sounds like I'm kicked back, I'm relaxed, I'm hanging out, I'm just not really

    on top of things, I'm just kind of -- I'm doing my thing. And it doesn't sound

    super professional.

    Now, if you say it too fast, good morning, XYZ Company, this is Kim, how

    can I help you, it sounds rushed. It sounds like I might not have time for

    them. It's I'm doing other things. This call might feel like an annoyance.

    So we want to get the right tone, the right tempo, and certainly want to

    make sure to smile, because, remember, 87 percent of your message is

  • Page 4

    going to be in your tone. So having a good script, being able to have the

    right tempo, will convey the right message.

    Now, a few things you want to make sure to avoid. Here's a few no-no's

    that we're going to take a look at.

    The first is my personal pet peeve, and that's giving too much personal

    information. Let's start with personal information like someone being on

    vacation, taking a kid to school, or doctors, being out of the office for

    illness, or any other item that might be considered personal. As the

    receptionist, you truly do control the image of the business. And when you

    share too much information about others, it effects how the client or

    customer thinks about the business. In the last example, it is best not to

    share the personal information. Instead of saying that the accountant is

    out taking his dog to the vet, it might be far better to say, Mr. Jones is

    currently not available, can I have him return your call when he returns?

    This would maintain a professional image. It would help the client keep

    their trust and their faith in the business. And it would show him in a much

    better light.

    Now, of course, your company may already have guidelines for this. But if

    they don't, it's best not to share any personal information that can affect

    the customer's impression of your business. This would include being on

    vacation. I mean imagine if you worked for a very successful lawyer that

    takes three or four vacations a year. Now, the client doesn't know that he

    stays there every night till 9 p.m. and he gets up at 6 a.m. every single

  • Page 5

    morning to be in that office. But when they hear that he's on vacation

    again, they might get the impression that he's lazy, he's not really working

    their case. And this would affect how the client sees the attorney. This

    would affect his relationship, the customer -- the client-attorney

    relationship. And this is also true for being sick, especially if you have

    someone who might have allergies take them out several times in a year.

    The client might think, man, this person's always sick. It's not the

    impression you want.

    You want to avoid putting additional barriers in your customer's mind. You

    want the customer to see your company as professional, as on top of

    things, as getting things done, as doing quality work. And when you add

    personal information, it unfortunately only degrades the quality. So it's

    important that we don't add personal information.

    On top of that, you want to avoid slang or jargon. This is another time that

    your words will adversely affect the business. And in many companies,

    trust and professionalism is very important. And how you speak on the

    phone is an indicator of how the company is seen.

    Take for example, if you called your largest vendor and they say, "Hi, ya,

    how you doin?" And you ask for Mr. Smith. And they say, "Ah, Mr. Smith,

    yeah, we call him Joey -- Joey Smomie. Hold on, let me see if Smomie's

    available." You might think a little differently about your vendor if you were

    working with that kind of receptionist.

  • Page 6

    So it's important that we up our professional language. Avoid using words

    like okay. Okay's good, but certainly is much more professional. No

    problem is not very professional, but very well is much better. And avoid

    ums. Ums are usually placeholders. They're time pacers. And we use

    ums to fill up time when we don't have other words to fill it. It's okay for

    there to be dead air. It's okay for there to be silence. We don't have to fill

    every second of every day. It's okay not to have to fill the space.

    If you find yourself saying ums, be conscious of it, and every time you say

    um, just put a tic mark. And after time, what you'll notice is the number of

    tic marks will gradually reduce as you become more and more aware.

    And ums, again, are just time holders. So a lot of times when you find

    yourself saying um, it's okay just to be quiet.

    You know, a lot of times conversations might be, well, hold on while I'm

    looking for that information. It's okay to say, hold on, let me take a look.

    Look for the information and then come back. That's much more

    professional approach.

    Another pet peeve that we need to deal with is the hold a minute. There's

    nothing more annoying than being transferred improperly. Have you ever

    called a company, told your whole situation to the person answering the

    phone, just to hear hold a minute, and then be transferred to someone

    else who says, "How can I help you?" What does that mean? It means

    you have to tell your story all over again.

  • Page 7

    So here are some hard and fast rules in transferring a call properly. After

    listening to the caller's concern, say something like, I understand. Or even

    better, repeat the situation back to them to make sure you heard it

    correctly. Then tell them what you're going to do. No one likes to be in

    the dark when they're being transferred. And they can't read your mind.

    They don't know where you're going to send them. So saying something

    like, I'm going to connect you to Jane, she's in charge of our accounting

    department, and she'll be able to help you from here. I will call Jane,

    make sure she's available, and tell her your situation before I transfer her.

    Is that okay? And a lot of times they'll say, yes, absolutely, that's great.

    And what a great way to keep the communication clear and clean, and

    keep them up on what is going on.

    Now, of course, after you speak to Jane, come back to the caller and let

    them know that you're going to put them through. Always give them

    Jane's direct line in case they get disconnected. Now, if in calling Jane or

    someone internally, you reach a voice mail, do not transfer them first

    without giving them the option. Ask them, I've gotten Jane's voice mail,

    would you like to leave a message or would you prefer I take a message?

    And then you're able to take the message or do the transfer appropriately.

    Now, another area that can help you to sound much more professional

    and using the right words, is empathizing. And empathizing means you

    understand where they're at, you understand what's going on. And some

    great words that will help you to empathize would be, I see why you feel

  • Page 8

    that way, I understand how frustrating this must be, and that must be very

    upsetting.

    Now, again, we have to be careful with our tone. In this instance we could

    easily manipulate these words so that they sound almost critical or

    sarcastic. And we want to be careful not to do that. So monitor your tone

    to make sure you truly are giving the right message.

    And, lastly, let's take a look at a few words that you're going to want to

    replace, that have a little bit more of a professional sounding appearance.

    Now, first is, I don't know. I don't know really says more of I don't care.

    So better -- something better to say would be, let me find out for you. We

    can't do that. We can't do that again; it sounds more like we don't care,

    that's not important, it's not our issue. Instead, we want to take care of the

    customer. Want to help them in what we can do, and to maintain a

    positive attitude. It's better to say, well, here's what I can do for you, and

    to provide the proper can-do information. Instead of saying, hold on, just

    use instead, will you hold while I -- and tell them what you're going to do.

    Avoid saying, who is this? Instead say, may I have your name please?

    And this will provide a much more professional image.

    And the last one we're going to briefly touch on is sentences starting with

    you. Avoid this. This can sound sometimes accusatory. So we want to

    try and start sentences with I. And that's very simple, just start your

    sentence with the word I, I can help you with this, I can do this for you,

    instead of you can't do that, or you don't know what you're talking about, I

  • Page 9

    can help you, I can show you, let me show you where to go. And that will

    help you to sound much more professional and much more in sync.

    {End of recording.}

  • Page 1

    EFFECTIVE TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION SKILLS MODULE THREE Female: Module Number Three. Improving Your Listening Skills. Listening is

    critical to providing great service. When I first started working with

    customers, my mentor had to remind me that we have two ears and one

    mouth, and I need to use them in that proportion. And I struggled for a

    while. It took me a while to slow down and just listen. But after months of

    practice, I learn to stay quiet. And I thought I was listening. I was nodding

    and I was patiently waiting while they spoke.

    And maybe you've seen this as well. You're talking to someone and they

    look like they're engaged, but then you ask them a question and they're

    nowhere to be found. And I found out that although someone looks like

    they're listening, they may not actually be listening.

    And so let me share with you a quick story, and let's see how good your

    listening skills are. A quick little listening test.

    So all you have to do is listen carefully. There's only going to be one

    question at the end. You don't have to write anything down. Just a very

    simple three or four sentences. I'm going to ask you one question. You

    ready?

    Okay. You're the bus driver. Now, you get to the first stop and four kids

    get on the bus. You get to the second stop and three kids get on the bus

    and one kid gets off. Now, you get to your third stop and four kids get on

    the bus and two children get off. Are you ready for your one question? It's

    a simple one. What color are the bus driver's eyes?

  • Page 2

    Hum. I could almost hear you thinking. And I can hear some of you

    screaming, I don't know, you didn't tell me what color the bus driver's eyes

    were. But wait a minute. Think back.

    The very first thing I said was, you're the bus driver. And if you're the bus

    driver, the eye color is your eye color. But, see, I know what happens. If I

    guess right, you were calculating how many kids were on the bus and how

    many kids got off the bus. See, you weren't really listening. You were

    calculating the whole time.

    And, see, active listening requires that we're fully engaged and we're

    hearing everything, then we process it and respond. And that's why it's

    important often when we're listening, to take a couple second break after

    someone stops speaking to process what we heard and then respond.

    Interrupting indicates that we're not really listening, because if we're

    thinking, we're not listening. It's important that we just listen. So to help

    you understand that, let's review the four levels of listening.

    The first level is the Charlie Brown level. That's not listening at all. And

    we all know this one. It's how Charlie Brown's teacher sounds in any of

    the cartoons, and it goes something like, waa, waa, waa, waa, waa, waa,

    waa, waa, waa, waa, waa, waa. And that's Charlie Brown's teacher. And

    why can't we hear Charlie Brown's teacher's words? Cause Charlie

    Brown's not listening. He's not hearing it.

    Now, many of us, we have individuals in our lives, sometimes spouses,

    sometimes bosses -- and I won't tell them -- but, that we tune out. And

  • Page 3

    that's the first level of listening. It's the lowest level that we can achieve.

    It's not listening at all. We've tuned out what's going on. We want to avoid

    doing this when we're working with customers.

    Level two is selective listening. And we've all had this happen. Imagine

    you're at a dinner party, and you're gathered, and you're chatting, and

    you're talking to different people, and you're engaged in a conversation

    with one individual, and all of a sudden, somewhere on the other side of

    the room, someone says your name. Your lead whips around, and you

    look over, and you go, who was it, what'd you say?

    We weren't really listening to the conversation we were having. We were

    selectively listening to what we wanted to hear. And we have to be

    careful. We do that. I know I catch myself doing that, especially when I'm

    dealing with argumentative people. I listen to the points of the argument

    that I want to hear, and then I counter them. That's selective listening.

    That's not really fully engaged listening. And that creates more arguments

    than anything else I've ever seen. Selective listening is the second level

    we want to avoid. We need to get into active listening. But before we get

    there, we've got one more level, and that's evaluative listening.

    In evaluative listening, we look like we're listening. We're nodding. We're

    doing the headshake. We're going, uh-huh. But in the back of our minds,

    we're thinking, we're calculating, we're strategically listening to what

    they're saying and we're waiting for them to stop so we can answer. This

  • Page 4

    is evaluative listening. This is not active listening. And we want to avoid

    this. And the best way to avoid it is to engage in active listening.

    That means fully listening to what they're saying. That doesn't mean --

    that means not thinking. That means not calculating your response. That

    means listening. That means understanding what they're saying.

    And the best way to do this is just to practice listening, not thinking, not

    drawing, not writing, but listening. And this is a learned skill. Just like

    anything else, it takes time. Many of us hopefully won't be starting at the

    not listening level. But I know I started at the selective listening. And then

    I had to -- once I got out of selective listening, I found myself into

    evaluative listening. Once I learned that I was evaluating, then I worked

    getting into active listening.

    And as the progression happened, more and more and more percentage

    of my time, I was able to spend in active listening versus evaluating or

    selecting. It is a process, and it does take time. But as you take a step,

    one step gets you closer to the next, gets you closer to the next, and

    before you know it, you'll spend more time in the active listening.

    {End of recording.}

  • Page 1

    EFFECTIVE TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION SKILLS MODULE FOUR Female: Module Number Four. Professional Image. Although the person at the

    other end can't physically see you, they certainly can hear you. And what

    you say says a lot about your professionalism. Being professional adds

    credibility to your organization, gets you respected as an individual, and

    maintains great relationships with your clients.

    Being professional means being competent, credible, skillful, and positive.

    Competent means that you know what you're doing, you know what to do,

    you know how to do it, and you're able to give the customer what they're

    asking for. You're competent. And this takes some time. Especially if

    you're a new receptionist, it might take you some time to become

    competent in all the information the customers are going to ask for.

    Second is credible. And credible means that they believe that you're

    competent. They have trust in you. And this is more of an attitude than it

    is actual skill. And the attitude is, I know what I'm doing, I can answer you

    confidently.

    And confidence really means I believe in myself, I know what I can do.

    And as you develop your self-esteem, you become more and more

    credible, and people are willing to believe you and challenge you less.

    Now, skillful means you're able to get everything done. And positive really

    is an attitude as well, is that I can do it, I'm here to help you.

    And remember, every company exists to serve their customers. I think it's

    so important, I'm going to repeat it. Every company exists to serve their

  • Page 2

    customers. Customers are not there to serve the company. So it's

    important that as part of the company, as the face, as the voice of the

    company, that you are there with a positive attitude to be able to help the

    customers to get the information that they're looking for, to get the action

    that they're looking for, and to do it in a way that says I'm here to help you.

    Now, I understand that as a receptionist, you might be getting a lot piled

    on your desk. In fact, you might be getting pulled here and there, and

    being pulled on this project and that project. In fact, you may even be the

    chief fire putter outer in your office. But you have to be careful to never be

    unprofessional. And being unprofessional might be something as simple

    as answering the phone when you're rushed.

    Have you ever talked to someone and you could clearly tell they didn't

    want to be on the phone? They had something else they wanted to do.

    That's a simple sign of unprofessionalism.

    Another sign of unprofessionalism, as we talked about earlier, is the

    language you use. You want to make sure you're using professional

    language. Avoid jargons. Avoid sharing personal information about any

    of your colleagues.

    A simple reminder to stay professional is to put a little note on your desk; I

    will be a professional at all times. And things happen. We understand

    emergencies break out. Sometimes you have to drop everything to pitch

    in to solve the problem. We have to remember that first impressions are

    everlasting. It's important that when we pick up that phone, that we are

  • Page 3

    calm, cool, and collected. We need to be able to portray an image of pure

    professionalism.

    Now, I understand this isn't always as easy as it sounds. I mean I

    understand that you're not just sitting around all day doing nothing, waiting

    for that phone to ring. There's life going on. But before the phone rings,

    stop, take a breath, and answer the phone. Give yourself that moment to

    pause. Give yourself that moment to recollect so that you can be there

    and be present for that call, so that you can answer their questions, you

    can provide them the information that they're looking for, and you can do it

    at the highest level of professionalism possible.

    Now, I know that sometimes the callers, they're not always the easiest

    people to deal with. Sometimes they're a little demanding. Sometimes

    they're angry, upset, and frustrating.

    And we got to remember that part of dealing with the customers is to know

    that it's not what we've done, it's who they are. And we don't want to bring

    any of our frustrations into that challenge to be able to make their problem

    more difficult. So it's important staying calm, cool, and collected. Now, in

    order to do that, you're going to have to know when to say no.

    Sometimes, especially if you're the pleaser type -- and I know I am -- is I

    like to say yes to everybody. If you need something done, I'm the can do

    person that can do it. You need a report? Done. You need that

    document? Done. I can do it. I can get it done. I like being the go-to

  • Page 4

    person. I like being able to get results. I like being able to show people I

    can do it.

    The challenge comes in is knowing when to say no. When do we not do

    things so that we can do other things well, because if you're stretched so

    thin that when that phone rings, you can't portray a professional image

    cause there's so much other stuff going on, need to reconsider what your

    tasks are and what is most important. And sometimes we have too much

    on our plate and we have to reprioritize. So it's important, in order to do a

    great job, we have to know when to say no.

    Now, of course, when callers call, it may not always be a two-minute

    conversation. It may not always be a quick answer. You may have to

    look something up. You may have to get back with them. And it's

    important when answering questions that you're prepared and you know

    how to handle that. Again, some questions may be very easy ones you

    can answer very quickly, the caller can move on, and you can move on.

    But other ones might require you to go look up information. May require

    you to make another phone call or reach out to another internal staff

    member. So you need to understand how to handle that and have a

    protocol.

    And here's a couple options. If you have to get back to the caller or if you

    have to answer a question that is not right at your fingertips, do you tell the

    caller you'll call them back, look up the information and get back to them

    or do you put them on hold while you research the information? Both are

  • Page 5

    acceptable just depending on your situation. And this is something you

    want to decide ahead of time. Which is the manner in which you're going

    to handle it? What is your preferred methodology.

    Now, of course the caller may demand that you get the answer right now,

    and that can sometimes happen. If they insist, just say hold on, please

    give me a moment, and I'll get your file or I'll get that information. And that

    will allow them to feel like they're getting the information they need while

    you can get the information in a timely manner and move on as well.

    Now, you may encounter situations where you have to return calls, voice

    mails are left. And it used to be getting back to someone within a week

    was acceptable. Today many individuals will expect a call back within 24

    hours. Some might even expect a call back by the end of the day. So

    we've come in a much more fast-pace society than we've ever seen

    before. Things are moving faster than we've ever seen. So you want to

    make sure that you are returning those phone calls. Waiting two or three

    days certainly will not create a level of professionalism that would be

    expected.

    Now, the other thing we might want to address here is if you're out of town

    or if they go to voice mail and you're not able to return that call within 24

    hours, let them know. It could be something as simple as I'm currently out

    of the office, I expect to return on -- and I'll be returning calls on that day.

    Make sure that they're aware of that just while you're out of the office.

    And then, of course, make sure to stick to that. Once you do get back into

  • Page 6

    the office, make sure to go ahead and review your voice mails to return

    those calls promptly.

    Remember people are working on a deadline, and they may need that

    information urgently. So do make sure to return those calls promptly.

    Now, one other item we're going to touch on here is ending the call.

    Ending the call professionally, one of the best tips I've ever learned is

    paraphrase what the next step is. Provide the next step for that caller.

    This will help reduce confusion and help get better results with each and

    every call. And it's as simple as this. Let's say for example that you're

    scheduling an appointment for one of the clients, customers, to meet with

    one of the internal staff members. It could be something as simple as,

    great, well, I'll look forward to meeting you at our office at -- here's the

    address -- at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, and we'll go over the samples at

    that time; is that correct? Great. We'll look forward to seeing you then.

    Have a great afternoon. Something as simple as that.

    You want to summarize what the expectations are, what the next steps

    are. Could be a meeting. Could be a phone call. Could be a fax.

    Whatever the next step is, you just want to go ahead and summarize it so

    that they're very, very clear in where they're going.

    Now, of course, you may get difficult callers. You may get callers that are

    frustrated, and they start blaming you, and attacking you. And we need to

    remember to remain professional at all times.

  • Page 7

    And one tip to remaining professional is use the acronym Q-tip. And Q-tip

    simply stands for quit taking it personal. Quit taking it personal. See, it's

    not about you. They're not attacking you. They would attack anybody

    who happen to be answering a phone that day. It just happens to be you.

    So it's important that we use the Q-tip acronym. And I used to love to tape

    a little Q-tip to my computer screen to remind me that they weren't

    attacking me personally. They were just in the attacking mode and I

    happened to be in their path. So we want to remember, any time you get

    a difficult customer, difficult client, they just don't want to listen, it's not

    about you, it's all about them. And remember the acronym Q-tip, quit

    taking it personal.

    {End of recording.}

  • Page 1

    EFFECTIVE TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION SKILLS MODULE FIVE Female: The Difficult Customers. The difficult callers. You're a professional.

    You're calm, you're cool, you're collected, your day is going great. And it's

    an hour to go and your phone rings. You're not expecting this. The caller

    is mad. They've called before, and everyone has hung up on them.

    They're demanding that you help them right now. You ask them good

    questions. And the caller goes on and on and on, and gets more upset

    and more upset. They start to become verbally abusive, using four-letter

    words left and right. They're angry. They're mad. And you're stuck.

    What do you do?

    See, it's frustrating being at the other end of that phone call. And you

    didn't do anything to provoke or prompt it. But the key starts with

    understanding the signs of an angry caller. And those signs start with a

    high-pitched voice.

    When we're relaxed, our vocal cords are relaxed. But we get stressed,

    we get tense, our vocal cords get tense, and you start to hear that their

    pitch starts to raise. You'll find that they take long pauses because they're

    upset, they're angry. The sighs, the demands, the short terse answers,

    and the volume gets louder. So these are all signs that you're dealing with

    an angry customer.

    Now, why do they get angry? Usually it's because they have a specific

    problem that needs attention. Now here's what's interesting about that, is

  • Page 2

    that problem may not be the reason that they called. That problem might

    be something totally different.

    Say, for example, last summer when my cell phone wasn't working, I was

    extremely upset. I was to the point of being angry, because I had talked to

    five different people from my cell phone carrier's office, and all of them

    said it will be fixed in 24 hours, 24 hours, 24 hours. Five different people,

    two weeks later, and it still was not fixed. I was frustrated. I was mad.

    And I was going to let somebody have it cause this shouldn't be.

    I went down to the cell phone office and I was ready to give the manager a

    piece of my mind. I was ready to tell him how upset I was, and how angry

    I was, and how I was leaving their company, I was going to tell everybody

    how bad they were. And by the time I left that office, I was thanking the

    manager. I had gotten no compensation. I'd gotten no solution. But she

    had solved the problem. The problem was I didn't feel like anybody cared.

    And as soon as she showed me that she cared and she reach out and she

    gave me specific examples of things that she was going to help me get it

    resolved, my problem was solved. The problem wasn't that the phone line

    didn't work. Of course, that was a bit of a problem. But the bigger

    problem was the phone company didn't care.

    And so it's important that we identify what the real problem is. And that

    comes through answering questions.

    Let's go through a couple step process and how exactly to handle an

    angry caller. First starts with asking specifics, finding out the information,

  • Page 3

    what are they looking for, what are they upset about, why are they angry?

    Then it goes into summarizing the problem, sharing with them what you

    feel their problem is.

    Next is offering choices. Well, we can solve the problem by doing this or

    by doing this; which would you prefer, customer? And then follow up on

    those choices. Okay, it sounds like you'd like to do this. I'm going to go

    ahead and do that for you. And lastly, offer extras. Extras could be

    compensation, it could be free giveaways, it could be any number of

    things.

    What is important is before you get to the angry caller, make sure you

    have some extras that you know you can offer. It could be as simple as

    putting them on a list to get coupons. It could be as simple as sending

    them a thank you letter for bringing the problem to your attention. It could

    be compensation, but not always.

    So you want to understand and take a look at what does the caller really

    want, ask the specifics, summarize the problem, offer the choices, follow

    up on the choice, and offer the extras.

    Now, on the don'ts -- when dealing with an angry customer, don't interrupt

    them. Let them vent. Don't try to be logical. It's only going to get them

    more upset. Have you ever tried being logical with someone who's angry?

    Oh, it's a losing battle. There is no logic because not a logical issue, it's

    an emotional issue. And definitely don't put the blame on somebody else.

  • Page 4

    This is not the time to play blame game. It's not the time to deflect the

    blame. Accept the blame as part of the company and move on.

    I will share with you, when people get angry, they get upset. And when

    they get upset, they don't always think clearly. In fact, one study said that

    when someone is angry and they're so mad they start seeing red, they

    actually lose half of their IQ.

    Now, I can tell you I've met with a lot of people, and some people can't

    afford to lose half their IQ. So we want to be very, very careful in dealing

    with angry people. They are not logical. They're not thinking clearly.

    If an average person loses half of their IQ, an average hundred point IQ

    goes down to 50, that's about the IQ of a third grader. That's what you're

    dealing with. So it's important that we try not to reason, we try not to logic

    -- and definitely don't put blame or get defensive when people get angry.

    Now, anger triggers abuse. They get so mad they can't communicate,

    they're upset, they start saying all kinds of interesting things, most of

    which are four-letter words. Now, wherever you work, I am a hundred

    percent certain that they do not condone you having to accept verbal

    abuse from customers or clients. I understand customers and clients are

    the key to your business, but I am absolutely certain there's no workplace

    in the planet that I know of that forces you to have to accept that kind of

    abuse. So let's take a look at how to handle the abusive caller.

    The first is stay calm. Remember Q-tip, don't take it personally, you're not

    the target. Now, oftentimes the abusive caller is going to be using words

  • Page 5

    and accusations that are not true, they have no basis for validation, and

    they're simply letting off steam. So you want to give them a warning. And

    usually it starts with, I beg your pardon? The second time they do it, say

    something, like, sir, if you continue to use that language, I will have to end

    this call. And the third time that they do it, sir, I'm going to have to end this

    call, and you hang up.

    Now, once you've done that, document what happened and make sure to

    inform the supervisor of the call. Many times these folks will call back and

    say something like, that customer service person of yours, or that

    receptionist, they hung up on me. And you need to document what

    happened, the fact that you gave them three warnings, and that you

    terminated the call.

    So it's important that we do not accept this kind of abuse. It is not part of

    our job. It is not a requirement of our job. We just need to know how to

    handle it so that we don't have to deal with it.

    Now, avoid making value judgments. Be careful and stick to just the facts.

    Avoid adding more emotion. A lot of times when we say I think, I feel;

    those are value judgments, you know, I feel like you're attacking me, huh-

    uh. Sir, I need you to lower your tone of your voice. Sir, I need you to not

    use that kind of language. Stick to the facts and avoid the opinions. You

    don't want to give them anymore ammunition to start a fight. They're

    already argumentative enough. So at this point it's important that you not

    argue with them anymore.

  • Page 6

    Now, the argumentative caller, you need to make sure to speak softly with

    them. They're looking for a fight. They're looking to draw you in. So be

    careful not to pick a fight with them. Ask their opinion and reply in yes or

    no sentences.

    Now, a couple more tips to dealing with your difficult callers is identify the

    central ideas and facts, and stick to them. Take notes. Avoid judging their

    motives and illuminate your distractions. There's a lot of distractions that

    can happen as we are talking with someone, and certainly people coming

    up to our desk, people wanting things, emails, smart phones. We need to

    make sure that we're eliminating as many of those distractions as we can

    to make sure we stay focused on the call at hand.

    Now, we want to accept concern and build a rapport to be able to work

    with this caller and to move them forward.

    Now, lastly, is the talkative caller. And these are the ones that start

    innocently enough, they find out how your day's going. And then by the

    second call, they're chatting a little longer. By the time you're on the fourth

    of fifth call with them, it's an hour or two, and it's out of control.

    I have a client that I work with that the first couple calls were great. Today

    I dread calling them, because I know it's going to be an hour and a half

    call minimum. And he just goes on and on and on and on. We know

    these type of callers. And when we see their number come up, we almost

    want to send them to voice mail. But we have to be professional. We

    represent a company. We have an image to maintain.

  • Page 7

    So let me give you couple tips when dealing with a talkative caller. And

    the first tip is use the caller's name to get their attention. So if the caller

    was Joe and Joe was talking and talking, he's telling you about his

    weekend, and his kids, and his dog, and the fun he had -- you'd say, Joe,

    hold on a minute. And then change the subject and move on with the call.

    Now, silence works as well. You do have to be a good listener. You want

    to be careful to ask them closed-ended question.

    Now, open-ended questions are questions that require them to give you

    feedback or to give you more information than just yes or no. Closed-

    ended questions are questions that require a yes or a no answer. And

    you need to be polite but be firm.

    Now, one of the tricks that I found is a lot of times talkative callers don't

    feel like they're getting heard. So they constantly rehash or they tell you

    the same things over and over again. And the good way to move past that

    is say, okay, Joe, let me see if I got this. What you told me is you were

    doing this, this, this and this, and you were looking to do this; is this right?

    We paraphrase and summarize. And by paraphrasing and summarizing,

    we're able to show them that we're listening, and they can move forward.

    And this sometimes prevents them from rehashing the same information

    over and over and over again. They now feel heard.

    Couple of things to avoid. Avoid showing them frustration. This becomes

    unprofessional. So we don't want to say, Joe, okay, I get it. But I know

    many of you, like me, are thinking that in your mind. You might even put

  • Page 8

    the phone on mute and go, oh, not him again. We understand it's

    frustrating having a caller that just goes on and on and on. But it's

    important that we remain professional.

    We want to avoid interrupting them rudely. We know they do it to us.

    They don't let us get a word in edgewise, but we have to remain

    professional.

    We also want to avoid dominating them. It could be very, very easy,

    especially if you're a strong personality to say, look, Joe, I just don't have

    time for this, call me back when you really need something. It's not going

    to come off very, very good. You don't want to dominate them.

    You could try, sir, could you hold on for two minutes, I have a call on the

    other line. And let them sit for two minutes. Come back, finish the call,

    and move on. Now, of course, you don't want to do this too often, but

    certainly with these extra talkative callers, you do need to draw the line.

    You need to draw the boundary as to where they are and where you're

    going.

    Dealing with difficult callers can make our life as a receptionist very, very

    hard. But if you follow these simple steps through dealing with the angry,

    the argumentative, and even the talkative caller, you'll find that being able

    to handle them is so much easier. It will allow you to stay professional, to

    keep a great smile, and to be able to answer the phone confidently every

    single time it rings.

    {End of recording.}

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