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“Remember whatever the medium is, it’s a human interaction.”- Daniel Post Senning

Excellence in customer service is the foundation for every successful company and a very major portion of such service is about the way customers are ‘treated’ over the telephone. Poor telephone etiquette in business can and do have some serious consequences as a recent study revealed. The statistics are significant – at least 86% customers stop doing business with a company post a poor experience and service levels. 51% of customers also said that they had the patience to call only once for customer support and then gave up. Not answering the phone is poor telephone etiquette and today’s customer is unwilling to give more than one chance to be served and would much rather explore other options. The worst part is that a disgruntled customer is more likely to spread the ‘bad news’ about your company to a larger number of people as compared to a satisfied customer who will probably tell fewer people.

Every company has most definitely invested huge amounts of time, money, effort and other resources to grow and sustain their business. As a result of these efforts there would be people eager to learn more and will call your company to inquire – it is here that the handling of these telephone calls will have a huge impact. If your company’s representatives have poor telephone etiquette they would cost your company significant losses in terms of no conversions and also wasted money and time spent on the promotional efforts would be wasted. In addition, the prospective customers would leave with a very negative image of your company and would not only refuse to call again but also ‘warn’ others of the kind of treatment they would get, thus keeping even more people away from your company.

It makes for very bad business sense to spend huge amounts of resources on trying to convince an audience to use your company’s products and services and then when they do, the poor telephone etiquette displayed by your company, turns them away for good. Research has proved that people interested in starting an association with a company will not hold on to a phone call for too long if they receive shoddy treatment from the person answering the phone. Failure to make a good impression via this first contact point is enough to turn away customers, who will then seek out your competitors to do business and also convince their contacts and friends to do likewise. There is not much scope to recover from poor telephone etiquette since the people who are calling are most likely first time callers and no one wants to do business with a company that cannot even answer the phone politely and efficiently.

If your company and its representatives seem to be guilty of having poor telephone etiquette, it is high time that you took a look at how it would be affecting your business and profits. Poor telephone etiquette amounts to low levels of customer service and no customer wants to stay with a company that does not treat them right and does not give them the importance they deserve. As customers – both existing and prospective – begin to leave, the company’s reputation is severely tarnished and the integrity and credibility is destroyed and the loss of business will ultimately wipe out the company. With so many channels of communication, especially social media, disgruntled customers lose no time to post negative comments which are seen by a very large number of people. Such negative publicity closes many more doors of business opportunities than thought possible.

The first point of contact for any company is probably the single most important link between customers and a company and this is usually through the telephone. Poor telephone etiquette will insure that your company is perceived as unprofessional, discourteous and one that lacks any acceptable standards of customer service. This is not the kind of impression that any company – big or small – can afford to have in today’s cut throat fierce competitive world. The manner in which the company’s representatives answer the calls has a tremendous impact on the impression the customer will get about the company. A call that is answered with a smile and with a cheery greeting reflects warmth and lets the customer know that their call is welcome and the company is eager to serve them. Poor telephone etiquette – for example a bored or irritated voice repeating a rote script – is reason enough for someone to never call the company again.

Good and profitable business is the result of many things and prime among them is the first impression that a customer receives through the telephone interaction and poor telephone etiquette can kill the potential association. Poor telephone etiquette and other slovenly type of customer service tells customers that the company cannot be trusted, has no values and doing business with them would mean being subject to inferior quality customer service. This may probably be the most inappropriate image of the company but the fact is that customers have limited time but unlimited choices and hence would use the first impression they receive as the yardstick to judge a company.  More often than not, companies remain unaware of the number of lost business opportunities due to this reason and even with their existing customers only realize when their business begins to drop and complaints begin to rise.

The truth is that for a customer to be convinced of a company’s commitment and is able to trust the company they need repeats of positive experiences however a single instance of poor telephone etiquette is enough to turn the customer away. It is a given in customer service that customers remain with a company only when they feel valued and important. It is therefore imperative that each caller is treated as though they are extremely important to you since there is every possibility that this one caller turns out to be your most profitable partner or conversely your most dreaded nightmare (if subject to poor telephone etiquette). It is not rocket science to know that in customer service, each person must be treated as a prospective customer and even if they do not become a customer, each caller must be given due attention and respect.

Poor telephone etiquette undoubtedly impacts a company’s image and will drive away your customers for good. It is imperative to understand that if a person has taken time out to call your company (and not your competition) to enquire about the products and services, your company must make every effort to turn the query into business. Poor telephone etiquette on the other hand would make them believe that they have interrupted your day and that they are not valuable or important enough to be considered. You can wave their business goodbye!

From your own experience as a customer, you know that you would not enter a shop that looks dirty, untidy and insufficiently equipped to handle business. In the same way, if you were ‘greeted’ with poor telephone etiquette, you would take away the impression that the company is shoddy, careless and disgusting and there is no way you would put your hard earned money in their hands. If a customer does not feel confident and good about your company, they will show it in many ways and this could sound the death knell for your company.

A single representative of your company that displays poor telephone etiquette can potentially put your business up for closure. They would make your company appear unprofessional, not customer friendly and completely ill-equipped to handle customers and business. The good news is that telephone etiquette is something that can be taught and especially company representatives that front up with customers over the phone must be afforded this training on an on-going basis and then their performance monitored against company guidelines and the learning from the training.

The ill-effects of poor telephone etiquette must not be underestimated since they can be the difference between success and failure of the company’s business. Answering the phone with precision and politeness does not only attract more customers but also makes them loyal over time.

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