Post Emily Post: Phone Fun for Everyone

This past weekend, I had to spend some time on the phone returning a few items to a well-known retailer. Imagine my reaction when my explanation as to what was wrong with the product was greeted with the phrase, “Whatever….”

With this in mind, I thought I’d put together a few do’s and don’t for handling customer service interactions.

1. Decide how you want callers to be greeted. For example, with the name of the business? Or “How may I help you?”

  • If you are going to have representatives saying the name of the business make sure they say it clearly. Yes, it may be the thousandth time they’ve said it, but it may be the caller’s first time hearing it.
  • If they are going to say, “How may I help you?” they need to have a tone of genuine inquiry.

2. After the caller has described their situation, representatives should say, “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

  • They MUST sound sorry. If they sound like they are reading the ingredients on the side of a cereal box, I guarantee the caller is going to become more agitated.

3. If it is necessary to put the caller on hold have the rep say, “I’m going to put you on hold for a minute (or five minutes—however long it might take.)

  • Don’t have them say “May I put you on hold?” as being put on hold is definitely happening.
  • Giving people an estimated time on hold is critical. We wait much more patiently when we know how long that wait might be.

4. Prior to putting them on hold, have the rep get a number at which the customer can be called back if he or she is lost during the hold-time.

5. When the rep comes back on the line, he or she should thank the customer for holding.

6. If it is necessary to transfer the customer—and it’s at all possible to do so—have the rep stay on the line and introduce the customer to the next problem-solver.

7. At the end of the call the rep should ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

8. Reps close with “You’re welcome,” or “My pleasure,” NOT “No problem.”

  • Not only does “No problem,” sound indifferent, they’ve just solved a problem—why bring that word up?

I promise that laying out these ground rules, and having staff internalize them, will go a long way toward ensuring your customer service division enjoys a stellar reputation.