This week we have a guest blog from Christina one of the copywriters from Face For Business. Christina and I had a lovely catch up call on the phone and decided that although VAs are generally experienced PAs – it would not do any harm to revisit the topic of Telephone etiquette, especially as some VAs don’t originate from a PA or EA background.
Telephones are an absolute saviour – even in todays day and age where we have become increasingly mobile with instant messaging. But for most of us, speaking over the telephone is still the fastest and most convenient way of getting the answers you need.
As a VA you’ll often find yourself being the first point of contact for clients – but should you be handling multiple calls then telephone answering could very well come to aid. It’s important to handle clients professionally whilst remaining friendly and calm, which can often come across challenging if a client is demanding or asks a question you genuinely don’t know how to answer.
You’ll be well versed in the art of confidence over the telephone and so some of these tips may seem like common sense, however refreshing yourself on the basics might be just what you need to establish effective communication call after call.
So without further ado – here are our 20 do’s and don’ts of telephone etiquette for you to follow:
- Have the option to provide VOIP services for your clients
- Ensure you answer the phone stating your name and name of the firm, followed by a polite greeting such as “how can I help you today?”.
- Always ask if this is the right time to speak to ensure you can pace the conversation well without taking up too much of the client’s time.
- Speak as clearly as you can and check you are smiling. By smiling you’re more likely to convey a positive tone of voice which your customers will sense right away.
- Before making the call, always be sure of its purpose and communicate this to keep the conversation relevant and focused.
- Always use a friendly tone regardless of how difficult a conversation might be. This ensures you handle a conversation professionally and don’t say anything that could be emotionally (and negatively) charged.
- Some clients can be chatty which is completely normal. Take an interest in the conversation, but then divert it back to the purpose of the call and/or wrap up the conversation if the purpose of the call has been fulfilled.
- Avoid arguing with an angry caller no matter what. This ensures the business owner doesn’t lose their client or damage the hard-earned relationship. If a situation becomes increasingly difficult – offer to forward their call on to the owner to deal with their specific query.
- Never forget to return missed calls promptly. This ensures opportunities aren’t missed and any urgent queries are dealt with in a timely manner.
- If taking/making calls abroad – these very useful country etiquette tips will make your conversation more pleasant
- Do not hurry up your phone conversation. Offer or reschedule so that you can dedicate ample time and detail to the client.
- Do not forget to follow through with your follow up calls. If you don’t then this could come across trying to bat-off a client which can damage the business-client relationship.
- Always take down the best number to reach a contact on, plus an alternative number. This ensures if the main contact number is unavailable that someone else can attend to the call.
- Use active listening skills and take notes of important details that you’ll need to use in the future, or are more likely to forget.
- Calls related to payment must always be made in private settings to minimise fraud risks.
- Do not contact a client before 9am or after 6pm – unless given permission to do so.
- Do not answer the phone if you are chewing gum (or eat whilst on the phone!) this can muffle your speech and come across highly unprofessional.
- Do not interrupt a caller – always allow them to finish, find the right pause and then respond.
- Summarise your calls and close the conversation politely to ensure your client feels like they can ring back and receive the same level of professionalism.
- Avoid using filler words like “um” or “uh” as this can come across as unprofessional. Fillers often stem from nerves. When you do feel the urge – learn how to pre-plan transitions to the next topic or use 1-2 second pauses between sentences to compose yourself.
Christina is a Copywriter for Face For Business – a telephone answering and messaging service offering first-class telephone handling solutions.
Footnote: VACT Limited are not customers of Face For Business but do recommend both VAs and small business owners generally use the services of a call answering company.