By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resources LLC
The telephone is one of the top 100 inventions of all time, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Wikipedia traces the telephone's development from 1844, when Innocenzo Manzetti first discussed the idea of a "speaking telegraph," through April 1877, when "Edison filed for a patent on a carbon (graphite) transmitter." Alexander Graham Bell is generally credited with developing the first telephone for which he was awarded a U.S. patent in 1876.
From its inception, the telephone has been an integral part of our lives; it is essential in today's ever changing workplace. And with current economic restrictions, business is increasingly being conducted by telephone rather than in person.
How you answer your business telephone identifies your company as professional or amateurish, and it sends signals about your company's character and culture. A pleasant, energetic and enthusiastic voice represents your business as a vital, growing entity.
Whether you are a single-person merchant level salesperson office or the largest ISO, you need to convey the highest level of professionalism. Good manners are always appropriate. "Thank you," "you're welcome" and "please" are essential in creating a positive impression. In certain parts of the country, "yes, ma'm," and "no, sir," are expected expressions of respect.
Here are some telephone tips to keep in mind:
If you accept calls for another person, and voice mail is not in use, never ask the caller to call back. Instead, carefully take a message that includes the date and time of the call, the caller's name, company name, telephone number for a return call, and information on the purpose of the call.
If voice mail is available, responses such as, "He is out of the office for the morning. Would you like to leave a voice mail?" or "She is unavailable at this time. Would you like to leave a voice mail?" are good. If at all possible, include a time frame for when the person will return to the office or be available for calls.
Voice mail is an essential part of today's communication arsenal. However, it can be cold and impersonal if not handled carefully. You need to utilize it effectively and professionally. Remember, voice mail is more than a tool; it is also a reflection of your business.
Get in the habit of returning messages promptly. If you do not return calls, people will assume you are screening your calls, hiding behind voice mail or simply refusing to deal with issues.
Even if you have minimal or negative information to convey, it is important that you communicate clearly and frequently.
Here are some tips for outgoing messages:
You may frequently find it necessary to leave a voice mail for clients or colleagues.
When doing so, keep the following in mind:
Your word choice and tone of voice affect the way your communications are perceived. Unfortunately, a message delivered without care might come across as rude or offensive. Being aware of the language you use and the tone of your voice will help you communicate in a positive manner, even if the message itself has negative content.
Here are some words that help convey a positive message:
At all costs, avoid these words:
The telephone is a vital tool when handled with professionalism. Take a few minutes and evaluate your own skills and those of employees who work for you. Remember, that voice on the telephone is frequently the only contact someone has with your business.
Be sure it accurately reflects the image you want to convey.
Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 601-310-3594.
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