Using Proper Phone Language

Every environment we enter requires a different form of ‘language’. For instance, we wouldn’t enter a team meeting with the same type of language we may use in the break room. The same is true for the telephone. Telephone language is different than our everyday language and can take some time to get used to its flow. But with the right tools, it can be easy to adapt in no time.

Please and Thank You

Using good etiquette is a way to show respect and consideration to those we interact with. Some of the basic essentials of proper etiquette are phrases such as “Please” and “Thank you”. When asking the caller for something, such as their name or account number, always follow with “please”. After the customer has given something to you or says something polite, follow with “thank you” to show your appreciation for their help. Using “Please” and “Thank you” when speaking with a customer allows the operator to remain professional while still showing courtesy and respect.

Examples:

  • “May I have your name, please?”
  • “Please hold for one moment, Mr. Smith.”
  • “Thank you for your time today.”

Do Not Use Slang

Slang is typically defined as a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal and are used in everyday speech. Common examples include “Yeah”, “Y’all”, “I guess so”, and “ain’t”. Slang is not appropriate to use on the telephone and should not be used, even if we know the caller. Slang language implies inconsideration and disrespect to the caller and can make them feel as though you do not want take your time to help them. It is important to always use professional and courteous language in order to convey to the caller that you are there to help and can get the job done.

Avoid Using the Term “You”

When speaking with someone on the telephone, it can be easy to get lost in speaking with the caller and letting them know what they may need to do on their end. However, it is important for the operator to avoid using the term “you” excessively. When we continuously use the term ‘you’, in reference to the caller, it sends the message that everything is their responsibility and that the person on the other end of the line is not there to help them. If we continuously tell them they have to complete a task before we can help them, the company not only looks unprofessional, but unwilling to do business with them. 

Avoid phrases such as:

  • “You will need to call back tomorrow.”
  • “You have to take your bill to the other office.”
  • “I need you to come into the office for that.”

Emphasize What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t

When we are speaking with someone on the phone, for any reason, it can be hard to communicate what the caller wants or needs from the operator. Sometimes the operator is quick to tell the caller that they cannot complete a certain task or that they cannot help them at all – but this type of attitude does not build relationships. Flatly telling someone you cannot do anything for them shuts the door on negotiations and portrays a negative light on the company. Instead, emphasize what you can do for the caller. Offer ‘favors’ or alternate tasks you can do for them to help them get what they need. If you’re genuinely not able to answer their questions or do something for them, it’s alright to let them know that, but offer an alternative action for them, such as finding someone who can help.

Examples:

  • “I can help you with that.”
  • “I’ll be happy to transfer you to the department.”
  • “I can take a message if you’d like.”
  • “I don’t know the answer, but let me find someone that does.”

Case Study

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Andy and Kim were reviewing some telephone etiquette training measures before their next employee meeting. Andy began reviewing some of the company’s proper scripting techniques while Kim reviewed some basic telephone speaking terms. Andy asked Kim for some ideas on how to make the company scripted sound less ‘scripted’. Kim looked over the material and suggested adding various ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ phrases, since it would make Andy sound friendlier when speaking. Kim made a copy of the script and decided to practice it out loud with Andy. She made several notes of remembering to eliminate the slang words ‘Ya’ and ‘gonna’ from her speech. Before they stopped for the day, Andy suggested they print a copy of the extensions for other departments, in case a caller needed to be transferred. 

“After all, if I can’t help them, I’ll find somebody that will.” Andy said.