Every telephone contact is important, and training your staff in handling each call professionally and effectively is essential. Telephone skills training should be done in short sessions on an ongoing basis. Refresher training is good for all.
The Objectives of Training
The purpose of training is twofold:
1. To refresh our purpose with Callers, and our goals on each telephone call
2. To refresh our skills on each call from beginning to close
The goal is to clarify the trainee’s focus, and to heighten the trainee’s awareness to effective use of skills on every call.
When looking at the call itself, the call structure is a great method to improve skills throughout the call.
Using the Call Structure to Train Staff
Every telephone call has a structure. The structure is made up of the essential phases or stages of the telephone call from the greeting to the close. The call structure may vary. A credit control call has a different structure to a Customer care call. A complaint call has a different structure to handling an easy Customer query.
It is important that you work out the key stages of your typical calls, and that you use the training session to improve the technique at each stage. For example, what is a good greeting? What are good ways of asking questions? What are not so good ways that we should avoid?
When handling difficult calls, it is really important to make sure the beginning stages of the call are done effectively, so that the whole call is handled professionally.
The Call Structure for Customer Service
A good call structure for a standard Customer service telephone call is:
1. Good greeting. The greeting should always begin with good morning, or good afternoon. Not only is this a nice way of greeting someone, but it also ensures that the first word a Caller hears is positive. The greeting also includes the identification of the Company or Department and the name of the person answering the call. Giving your name ensures the call is personal.
2. Positive first response. The Caller will state their query or request. Again, the first thing they should hear has to be positive. Certainly I can help with that, or no problem, I will be happy to help.
3. Good questions. The representative will ask questions to tease out the issue and ensure they have the information they need to provide help. Questions can often be perceived as aggressive or intrusive. Have your Team review how they ask the questions to ensure they are not creating adverse reactions. A good method of doing this in a training session is to first ask the questions badly, and then ask the same questions really nicely. The group can then analyse the bad and the good to identify the difference
4. Listening and listening responses. When the Caller has answered a question, the representative should repeat back numbers or key details, or respond encouragingly to the Caller. This ensures details are correct, and that there is no silence.
5. Confirming understanding. This is a key stage in the call that is often overlooked. The representative summarises the issue or query back to the Caller, and confirms with them that they have the issue correct. There are two major benefits of this stage of the call. One is that the representative really does ensure that they get it right before providing a solution. The other is that the Caller gets a very positive feeling that the representative has listened and also that he or she understands. With an irate Caller or a tricky situation, this phase is the key to handling this call well, say it back to them!
6. Provide a solution. At this point the representative will offer information or a solution. This is done using positive, definite language rather than negative, submissive or aggressive language. Even if you cannot offer a solution, we can still be positive and helpful. The format for this is, unfortunately we can’t do this, but what I can suggest is that. Ensure you have a positive option to offer.
7. Gain the Caller’s agreement. The effective representative will ask closed questions to gain the Caller’s agreement and to move smoothly towards the close of the call.
8. Close the Call. Have alternative closes for different types of calls. Remember that the close is the last thing the Caller will remember, so ensure it is positive.