Telephone Manners

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telephone manner

Telephone manners are critical to good customer interaction.

Call center customer service professionals have to be polite and lead the call, even if the customer isn't being polite because of a problem or service failure.

Ask anyone how they feel about phoning a call center and most people reply “I dread it”. Long call waiting times, press 1 for this and press 2 for that, cause blood pressure to rise, especially when “this” and “that” weren’t the reason for your call. So your customers may not be in the best mood by the time they get through to a customer service agent.

The skills and manner of employees can make a huge difference. If the Customer Service Representative is polite and helpful right from the beginning of the call, their manner can transform a call, and lead to a positive customer experience. It is, after all, very hard to be angry with someone who is polite and trying to help us.

Those skills might take a little longer to acquire, and consistently put into practice, but you can compile a list of things that are essential when helping customers by telephone.

Here are some ideas to help you.

  1. Answer calls quickly, waiting times are frustrating for customers
  2. Answer the call in a friendly helpful manner, but make sure that your greeting isn't delivered in a "sing song" voice; keep it real, make sure it's helpful
  3. Smile - the caller can hear it in your voice, and you'll feel better too
  4. Keep your voicemail message up to date. Callers don't want to listen to a message saying when you are back from your vacation and the date you are giving them is three days ago
  5. Don't eat or chew gum... Telephones seem to amplify these noises, and that's not a good experience for the caller.
  6. Always place the caller on hold if you need to check something. Leaving your handset or headset on the desk without doing this will mean that the customer can hear what's happening around you. This can be very frustrating for a customer. If they have a problem, and they hear laughter in the background, they may see this as very disrespectful
  7. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by what is happening around you. The customer will sense that and it's very frustrating for them. Give them your undivided attention.
  8. Always make sure you give the caller your name - there's some tips below for a verbal handshake
  9. Thank the customer at the end of the call especially if they have placed an order with you

So set the standards you require, make best practice a clear part of your customer service development programme and include the telephone manners you expect from your people when they are dealing with customers.

What can make the difference?

Good call handling skills and embedded customer service best practice  will of course make the difference. But ask a customer and they’ll tell you “simple manners go a long way”

In fact, calls are often “won or lost” in the first 30 seconds.  Click here to

Good first impressions

Call are often “won or lost” in the first 30 seconds.  Click here to download a useful article on creating the right first impression.

Try a verbal handshake - its good manners

A verbal handshake can make all the difference.

"Good morning, XYZ Co, can I take your name please?"

"James Bond"

"Thank you, how would you like me to address you as James or Mr Bond?"

"James is fine,"

"OK James, you are through to Em, how can I help you today?"

Taking Phone Messages

Think of the person the message is for, what will they need to know to be able to help this customer easily and effectively?

Using a message will usually include:-

  • Caller's name ( using the phonetic alphabet to check spellings if it's an unusual name )
  • Telephone number or the best way to contact them - make sure the telephone number is repeated back for accuracy
  • Date & Time of the call
  • Message, which might also include any details of the best time to contact the customer, or an indication of the urgency of why they are calling to reach your co-worker

Call transfers

It is in call transfers that good customer service practices and manners become essential. Handing over a call well and with courtesy is good for the customer, colleagues and inter-departmental relationships.

What needs to happen?

Letting the customer / caller know that while they are being put on hold the call agent will explain the details of their call / query, to the co-worker they will be transferring the call to.

The person taking over the call needs to summarise well their understanding of the reason for the call.

This makes for a joined up customer experience.

Dealing under pressure

When a new product is launched, there are operational issues,  invoices / bills have just been sent out, and call traffic is high, customer service personnel can become frazzled.

Agents may let off steam by talking about customers being rude. It's important that call agents understand their job is to lead the way even on the most difficult calls with the most difficult customers. If the call agent sets the standard of communication and tone, the majority of people respond.

If you find that there are members of your team who seem to have to deal with more angry customers than their colleagues. they may be triggering that anger. Review some of those calls with them - what happened that brought the customer's frustration to the surface?

The Intelligent Dialogue team have just published a free Go To Guide to Helping Angry Customers, which is well worth a look at. You can get your copy by clicking here

“Please”, “thank you”, and using the appropriate form of the customer's name, are all a given where telephone manners are concerned, as should be a helpful tone and attitude.

Ideas for exploring telephone manners in customer service training

Use real calls; play back real calls with real customers to the agents who made them. Call coaching done well, can make a huge difference. Why? Because the agent hears how they sound to customers, and can identify for themselves what they do well and might also do differently.

Make mystery shopping calls and ask your people to evaluate them. By asking the agents to consider the call from the customer's perspective, you can use this to explore what makes an agent sound helpful or rude, interested or disinterested.

Find more customer service training ideas by clicking on the links below

Customer Service Training News

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Other Call Center related information

Key communication skills when dealing with people by phone

What should your call centre training include?

The importance of Telephone Manners

Reducing errors by checking key details

Using Roleplay to build skill

Telephone Coaching Equipment

Build Skill Through Practice


Telephone Coaching Equipment

Build Skill Through Practice