Poor Telephone Manners ruin Customer Service

All right – if I just left it at the heading, it would suffice. It’s common sense, which unfortunately is not so common in many companies even today. It is a basic of good business that the first point of contact, more than others, must be in top shape in business etiquette. Poor telephone manners ruin customer service since most customers still contact businesses via the phone – it is an everyday and relentless part of customer service and if they are treated shabbily, it’s shutters down for a company sooner than later.  Doing away with poor telephone manners should be one of the prime concerns of companies and must be dealt with in all earnestness when teaching communication skills.  Why do poor telephone manners ruin customer service – the call the customer makes to connect with a company is the first contact forming the first impression for the company.  First impressions are the last – poor telephone manners does not leave a great impression and this could potentially ruin the company’s chances of landing new business and as these poor first impressions become regular, people will talk about them, ruining the chances of prospective business too.

With so many new companies and so many ways to access information, customers are in no mood to be treated poorly and with so much new technology there is no reason for customer service agents to keep customers on hold or not answer the phone within the first 3 rings. A standard courteous greeting too is not that hard to remember, is it? Customer service agents must sound genuine and cheerful – not giggly or over the top but enough to let the customer know that the person speaking with them is ready to do whatever it takes to provide great service. It’s surprising that despite good telephone manners being such an obvious and basic part of customer service, some people still struggle with getting it right. Customers – both prospective and current – call for a number of reasons.  Poor telephone manners will ensure that not only customers refuse to connect with your company, they would also stop business and with social media comments being so popular, they are sure to advertise the poor service for all to see. Conversely if they are met with great phone etiquette they are sure to come back and let others know how much pleasure it is doing business with your company. Great telephone manners can potentially raise your popularity and take your customer service a number of notches higher.

While facial expressions and body language cannot be seen over the telephone, it is very easy for anyone to ‘see’ whether their call is being treated as important. Tone of voice and a smile are extremely vital for the customer service person to be ‘seen’ as polite and courteous. After the standard greeting the customer service person must ensure that they speak kindly to put the customer at ease, ensuring that the customer can completely and comfortably state the reason for the call. It is part of essential communication skills to first master the art of listening. No one likes to speak with a rude person and so if the first impression the customer gets is one of rudeness, impatience and irritation, it is very likely that a simple query call will turn into a full-fledged complaint.  Companies must focus on teaching and coaching their customer service agents to speak clearly, slowly and use correct words and sentences.  Poor telephone manners are not the result of a language problem but more an issue of poor attitude and non-service demeanour. When customer service agents are constantly reminded and trained on the importance of good telephone etiquette, they would be able to service customers better and pay more attention to how they ‘appear’ to the customers.

What do you think – are poor telephone manners detrimental only for some kinds of businesses or all organizations? In our opinion, any business that has customers, any kind of poor customer service can potentially lead to ruin. Poor telephone manners ruin customer service and at the initial stage – this couldn’t be very good for business, could it? What steps have you taken to ensure that poor telephone manners are not part of your customer service?

  • Put yourself in the customers place. What are some of the things that irritate you or put you off when you call in as a customer at some company? Make sure that your customer service agents are not doing any of these. Use these annoyances as examples in the customer service training programs – recordings of calls that were clearly inappropriate and displayed poor telephone manners are a great way to teach. For me the most irritating start to a call is when the customer service person supposedly greets. The greeting is mumbled, too quick paced and one cannot really make out whether the person is greeting me or hurling cuss words. What about you – what irritates you most? Make a list and ensure that these poor telephone manners are done away with immediately.
  • Customer service training must start at the ‘beginning’ for everyone in the team. This is irrespective of how experienced the staff maybe. The speed to answering the call, the greeting and the tone of voice together make that all important and crucial first impression. Ensure that each customer service agent gets it right. Everything about the greeting must tell the customer that the company is happy to receive the call. There must however, be a balance between the way a customer service agent sounds – too bubbly or cheery could irritate someone as much as a dead pan and almost robotic sounding agent.  Again using the recordings of such calls – the greeting and the customer’s response – proves extremely helpful in finding the right way to answer customer calls. Remember also, that being greeted by an automated voice menu is among the top most annoying and poor telephone manners.
  • What better way to further irritate an already irate than by ending the call with – ‘have a nice day’. This tells the customer that your rote scripts and standard methods of answering calls will not change no matter how inappropriate. Wouldn’t you much rather end with a reiteration of the apology than risk sounding fake? Customers will not do business with a company they cannot trust. Another part of poor telephone manners is not being able to manage a call. Most companies have put down what the average call length should be. If a customer service agent is unable to manage the customer’s query in that span of time, they usually sound hurried towards, what they deem should be the end of the call. This never goes down well with customers. It makes them feel that their issue is unimportant and is being treated as just a ‘call’ that must be got over with. Poor telephone manners at their best! Training for telephone etiquette must teach the agents that the quality of each customer call is more important than answering many calls with poor telephone manners. If the agents have great communication skills, knowledge of the product and their company and know how to conduct themselves while speaking with customers, they would be able to handle each customer call with the equal sincerity and high standards as is expected.
  • Poor telephone manners do not only comprise of only sounding discourteous or hurried but also seeming ignorant, even if that is because of being stressed or under pressure. Saying things like “I don’t know”, “I am not sure who to ask” or providing an answer just for the sake of doing so, all amount to providing poor service. When customers call they expect that they would be connected to someone who is smart enough to answer some basic queries or direct the call to someone who can help. Such poor responses will lead the customer to feel that they are dealing with a bunch of dim-wits and would much rather do business with a company that comes across as sharp and intelligent.

We have discussed at length that no two customers are unlike and so what one considers as reasonable maybe completely unwarranted for another.  Customer service is about knowing your customers well and telephone manners are part of customer service. Before enrolling customer service agents to answer the phone, remember that they will create the first impression. Ensure that you have only the best – those who will present and carry forward the professionalism of the company at this crucial first stage. Take care of your customers and make them feel welcome is a great start to the business relationship – don’t let poor telephone manners ruin your company’s chances of success.

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