10 TIPS ON HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE


When you really want to communicate and intimately connect with someone who isn’t in the same vicinity as you, what do you reach for? Your phone, of course. 

That really does tell you a lot about the power of phones. Being able to ‘effectively’ communicate over the phone is invaluable, both in business and personal life. 

Like other forms of communication, phone communication comes with its own set of unique constraints that make it all the more interesting and nuanced.

Before the advent of emails, social media, and other forms of communication, phone calls and physical letters were pretty much the world’s only means of staying connected. Fast forward to today, and the telephone is still very much relevant and even more powerful than it was a few years ago. 

Businesses today still use the phone to get across to their customers. Likewise, customers also rely on the telephone in reaching businesses.

In this article, we will be sharing ten tips on how to talk to customers on the phone. So, if you run a business and you haven’t been getting the results you want from calls to customers or potential customers, then read on. Even if you don’t run a business, these tips can help anyone step up their “phone game.” Here they are;

  1. Be Positive.
  2. Listen.
  3. Use their name.
  4. Acknowledge your customer’s emotions.
  5. Smile.
  6. Be honest.
  7. Never react emotionally.
  8. Reduce wait time as much as possible.
  9. Help them.
  10. Direct their calls to the right hands.

As a business owner today, you may be wondering, “Does anyone still use the phone these days?”, “haven’t we all moved on to emails, chatbots, social media, and the like?” 

Well, you may be right to an extent, but phones are still a key means of communication for many businesses today. According to the 2020 Customer Communications Review, 63% of respondents selected a phone call as their number one or number two choice for receiving customer support. 

That shows you that customers would rather talk to an actual person over the phone than communicate via chat or emails when they want an issue resolved. Although millennials prefer newer means of communication, the older generation still very much prefer communicating via phone calls.

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10IPS ON HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

1.   BE POSITIVE When Talking to Customers on the Phone

Your customers will call your business when they are looking for solutions or when they need help. They don’t want to know what you can’t do, but rather what you can do. So, keep your conversations with your customers as positive as possible even when you don’t have the answers they are looking for. It goes a long way in making your customers feel satisfied after talking to you. 

The words you use should connote positivity; if there is any negativity, don’t dwell on it, acknowledge it and quickly switch to a positive vibe. Positive language makes you more trustworthy in the eyes of your customers. They begin to see you as someone who truly cares and really wants to help.

For example, instead of using words like “no”, “can’t”, “won’t”,” don’t”, you can use words or phrases that give hope. Instead of saying “no, we can’t do that”, how about’ “although we can’t fulfill your request at the moment, we appreciate you reaching out to us, here are some other alternatives that can suit your needs”. The second sentence is verbose compared to the first, but it tells the customer that you are interested in helping them.

Another tip is to tell your customer that they are not alone. How do you do this? Instead of saying “you have to” or “you need to” or “I need you to”, you can say “let us do”, “we can do” and so on.

In as much as you try to stay positive, be careful when it comes to jokes because you never can tell if the person you are speaking to shares your sense of humor. However, if the tone of the conversation permits it, then you can throw in a joke or two.

2.   LISTEN ACTIVELY When Talking to Customers on the Phone

I don’t mean using listening as a tactic, but listening to truly understand.  As a rule of thumb, whenever you are on the phone with a customer, let them do more of the talking while you do more listening. Pay attention to everything that is being said and that which isn’t said. Pay attention to their choice of words, their tonality, try to pick up any hints in their voice.

If possible, dot down important facts as they speak, so you have all the information at your fingertips when it is your time to respond. Don’t try to think of what you will say next while you listen; focus on the listening part, and the responding part will take care of itself.

While listening, you can ask for clarification if you don’t understand or didn’t hear what the customer said. You don’t want them to go through their entire speech thinking you were with them every step of the way and then you say you didn’t understand what they have been saying. That would look really bad.

Avoid interrupting your customer, irrespective of how important what you have to say is. Let them finish what they have to say, and then you speak.

3.   USE THEIR NAME When Talking to Customers on the Phone

What better way to show your customers that you exist to serve them specifically other than calling them by their name? Using their name shows that they are important to you and that you are willing to solve their unique needs. Even more important, is using your customer’s first name.

Most times, businesses use their customer’s last name when addressing their customer, which is great but definitely isn’t as effective as using their customer’s first name. Using your customer’s first name feels more personal.  

People are used to being called by their last names in official settings and by people who they meet for the first time. On the other hand, people are called by their first name by their friends, family, and people who really know them. When you address your customer using their first name, they perceive you to be a friend or someone they have known for a while. It breeds trust and familiarity.

Aside from its endearing tendencies, calling your customer by their first name grabs their attention. According to Dale Carnegie, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” So, try to always call your customers by their name, their first name.

HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

4.   ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR CUSTOMER’S EMOTIONS

How would you feel if you walked up to someone you knew and you told them about something troubling you and then they say nothing or proceed to another topic like they didn’t hear what you just said? I guess that you will feel hurt, angry, embarrassed, and many other unpleasant emotions.

What do you do when your customer expresses their disappointment or frustration about your product or service? Do you try to cleverly navigate the situation without accepting blame or acknowledging that your customer has a right to feel the way they do?

My take is No, you should Always acknowledge your customers’ feelings and emotions. Let them know that they are being heard by someone who understands how they feel and wants to help. Empathize with them. Using phrases like “I can understand how frustrating it is when……….”, “I know how confusing it must be when…”, “I cannot imagine how upsetting it is to…”, “I realize how disappointing it is to….” And so on can go a long way in making your customers feel heard.

In most cases, when a customer is angry or disappointed about your product or service, aside from wanting you to find a solution to their problems fast, they also want you to empathize with them, to show that you understand their frustration. Sometimes showing that you care and understand maybe more important than actually fixing the issue that caused them to feel angry or frustrated.

5.   SMILE When Talking to Customers on the Phone

When talking to someone in real life, we usually use their tone of voice and their body language to decipher the “true” message they want to communicate, irrespective of the words that come out of their mouth. In the world of phone calls, the tone of voice is how we know what the person on the other end really wants to say. 

During in-person conversations, people pay attention to tone and body language, but people pay attention to the tone of voice during phone calls. The tone of voice tells you if a person is bored or not interested in the conversation; it tells you if a person is happy to hear from you, it tells you how confident the speaker is. You could even tell where a person is from based on their tone.

When talking with customers, your tone has to be that of warmth; it should be friendly and should indicate your willingness to help.

Research has shown that smiling when speaking on the phone makes a perceivable difference in one’s tone of voice. So, if you want to give your customers the very best experience they can get, you need to be smiling whenever you talk to them on the phone. It goes a long way in making them feel comfortable talking to you.

HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

Also, know when to smile. Smiling when a customer is angry or frustrated won’t help the situation. Smile when the situation is right.

6.   BE HONEST When Talking to Customers on the Phone

Like it or not, making mistakes is a part of life; there really is no way to avoid them. However, it is how you deal with those mistakes that matter. 

Customers are human, and they make mistakes, too. They are willing to forgive your mistakes if you are open and honest about them.  

It does you no good to hide your mistakes and make your customers think that the issues they are experiencing are their fault and not yours. Best case scenario, you are let off the hook in the short term, and your customer later discovers that it was your fault all along. They will feel betrayed, stop using your product and service, and then go on to tell others the experience he/she had with your company.

Most of the communication you have with your customers will be over the phone. Be honest in everything. Don’t say you can when you can’t; don’t stall by saying you have a product in stock when you are sold out. If you don’t like an idea, respectfully tell your customer. It literally costs you nothing to acknowledge and apologize for your mistakes, and your customers will trust you and become loyal.

7.   NEVER REACT EMOTIONALLY When Talking to Customers on the Phone

If possible, leave your emotions out when you are talking with your customers on the phone. There will be times when your customers will annoy you and test your patience, and you are expected to always be smart in your emotional response. 

Don’t raise your voice at an angry customer; don’t make fun of a uniformed customer. Always act objectively.

It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong; always be the first to apologize. Even if your customer is being unreasonable by every standard, you still have to apologize. Don’t be sneaky in your apology; apologize sincerely and move on.

Always be patient with your customers. They may not understand the product or service as well as you; it is expected that they will have some difficulty articulating their issues. 

Don’t interrupt them; wait for them to finish before you speak, even if what you want to say will help them, or even when you already understand what they are trying to explain, let them finish speaking.

HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

Consider feelings before the facts. Always strive to be the “calm in the storm” whenever you are on the phone with an angry or frustrated customer, your customers will appreciate it.

8.   REDUCE WAIT TIME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

These days, customers don’t want to wait too long for you to pick up or be placed on hold for long. According to the 2020 Customer Communication Review, 73% of respondents said that waiting too long on hold is the number 1 “very annoying” thing about being on the phone with a company.

Pick up after the first few rings, don’t let your customers get to voicemail. It’s better to pick up your customer’s call and put them on hold while you attend to another customer rather than not answering them at all.

There are different methods you can employ to reduce wait time. Hiring and properly training more customer support staff is one idea. It will increase your business costs, but your customers will appreciate the speedy response when they call.

Another idea is to provide your customers with more options for contacting you. Instead of relying solely on phone calls for customer support. Let your customers reach you via other platforms like live chat, email, or social media.

You could also offer your customers a ‘callback’ option. A callback system lets you call customers whose calls never got answered. The callback system logs missed calls and automatically calls the customer when a customer support staff becomes available. 

HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

9.   When Talking to Customers on the Phone: HELP THEM

Putting all the effort in the world into reducing your customers’ wait time will all be for nothing if you can’t help them when you answer the phone. Your goal for every customer call should be to leave them better than you met them. 

You should be able to add value in one way or the other. Even when you can’t give them exactly what they want, you should be able to offer alternatives to your customers. You could also offer them advice if the situation allows it. 

Although it may not be easy, you could even refer your customers to other businesses that are in a better position to help them. Doing all this will help you establish great relationships with your customers.

Don’t be in a hurry to hang up. Always end your calls on a positive note after settling any issues your customer may be facing. Little things like asking them if there is anything else you can help them with go a long way in influencing how satisfied they feel after the call with you.

10. DIRECT THEIR CALLS TO THE RIGHT HANDS

Have you ever been in a situation where you called customer support and you had to explain your problem over and over again only to be transferred to another person and then have to explain your problem again? It can be quite annoying. Avoid putting your customers through that.

Find ways to ensure that your customers get to speak to the right person who can solve their problems the first time around. Also, if you have to transfer a customer to someone else, then explain why to the customer, so they understand how that person will be able to provide the help they need.

CONCLUSION

According to the 2017 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, 34% of US respondents chose Automated Telephone System (IVR) and the inability to reach a live person for customer support as their most frustrating customer service aspect. What this means is that people want to interact with real humans. An automated telephone system can be an asset in many cases, but the majority would rather interact with a person.

Do well to apply the tips shared in this article in improving how you talk to your customers over the phone. Talking to customers over the phone isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s best you hone your skills as regards over the phone communication. So that you provide your customers with a great customer experience. Cheers.

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HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS ON THE PHONE

REFERENCES

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5 WAYS TO TOTALLY IMPRESS YOUR CLIENTS ON THE PHONEKATE WILSONhttps://startupnation.com/grow-your-business/customer-satisfaction/5-ways-to-totally-impress-your-clients-on-the-phone/
47 PRO TIPS ON HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERSEMILY TRIPLETT LENTZhttps://www.helpscout.com/talking-to-customers/
THE 2020 CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS REVIEWRING CENTRAL TEAMhttps://www.ringcentral.com/customer-communications-trends-report.html
BUSINESS PHONE SYSTEM STATISTICS: THE 2020 EDITIONRING CENTRAL TEAMhttps://www.ringcentral.com/us/en/blog/business-phone-system-statistics/
CUSTOMER SERVICE 101: PHONE ETIQUETTE FOR SMALL BUSINESSESSAMMI CARAMELAhttps://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6444-call-center-phone-etiquette.html#:~:text=Have%20everyone%20answer%20the%20business,and%20then%20their%20own%20names.
HOW TO TALK TO CUSTOMERS: 10 TIPS FOR STARTUP FOUNDERSMELISSA ROSENhttps://www.groovehq.com/blog/how-to-talk-to-customers
6 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS HAPPY OVER THE PHONEJAMIE LOWARYhttps://www.nicereply.com/blog/customers-phone-call/
10 TIPS TO MAKING YOUR CUSTOMER SUPPORT CALLS FRIENDLIERLESLEY VOShttps://www.cloudtalk.io/blog/10-tips-to-making-your-customer-support-calls-friendlier
10 STEPS TO HANDLE A TOUGH CUSTOMER ON THE PHONETALKROUTE.COMhttps://talkroute.com/10-steps-to-handle-a-tough-customer-on-the-phone/

Emidio Amadebai

For the past 2 years, I have been working as the head of Customer Experience, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Finance at an international pay as you go solar home system company working in rural areas in Africa. After my previous 7 years working in B2B, IT&Telecoms industry, as a Service Delivery and Project Manager, having worked with Vodacom, Huawei, and other multinational companies. My job is to make sure we improve the lives of thousands of families, with access to electricity, utilities (radio, TV, lights), doing our very best so that they get the best-in-class customer experience, and succeed in acquiring the products for themselves.

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