If you do not include a thorough section on business telephone etiquette in your new representatives’ training classes, perhaps you are assuming that your new hires have already mastered this essential skill. This assumption is pretty risky in our business, because if the reps don’t have basic etiquette or conversation skills, all the knowledge in the world about your products and services will be almost meaningless.
Say you find your company’s training materials on this subject lacking. Offer to add to, or rewrite them. Consider teaming up with a more experienced trainer at your company on the project. After all, this is important stuff!
Here are some tips to help spice up your phone etiquette training classes:
Here are some tips to help spice up your phone etiquette training classes: some ice breakers start thinking about etiquette, a telephone etiquette checklist, and a group activity to practice phone etiquette. These should help you get started on creating a memorable and successful training class for these skills.
At the beginning of the class, you can help “break the ice” for the subject, and peak the group’s interest in it, by asking one or all of these questions:
- Has anyone been treated rudely lately? How did you react? If it was a business, will you use that business again? Why or why not?
- George Washington wrote a book outlining his personal social standards and values called Rules of Civility. Some folks are stricter about their standards than others. What are some of your personal social standards? What every day behaviors do you think are bad manners?
- What did your parents try to teach you about manners? What do you teach your children, if you have any?
Expect all kinds of stories, such as being hung up on when calling a store, little kids not saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, or invited guests not sending back RSVPs. This discussion will encourage your class to start thinking about manners, what they already know about them, and why they are so important in everyday life.
Telephone Etiquette Training Checklist
If your company’s training documents do not cover one of these topics, add it to the class discussion or provide an extra handout that covers the topic.
- Proper greetings.
- Please, thank you, you’re welcome.
- Tone of Voice.
- Acknowledgment/Repeating back.
- Asking Questions for Clarification.
- Procedure for Using Hold.
- Procedure for Transferring Callers.
- When You Do Not Know Something (Statements to make or Actions to take).
- What Not To Do. (Telling customers to calm down or lower their voice, hanging up on customers, etc.)
- Closing the Call.
A training class activity that often proved beneficial for my classes is the “Group Phone Call”. The activity is to be conducted after the areas above have been covered thoroughly. The trainer plays the customer calling your company. The students play the phone representative. The first student says the greeting. Then the trainer responds as the customer. The next representative responds, instead of the first. Then the trainer responds as the customer again. The rep after that one responds, and this continues until the ‘call’ ends. The class often lightens up when a representative talks a second time when it is not their turn anymore. The group quickly learns that they must all pay close attention during the entire activity, or else they will be embarrassed when it is their turn and they don’t know what to say. The activity is a review in practice for the entire course.
Give praise during the activity to reps doing a great job. If a rep misses something, ask them to rethink their statement. If they can’t figure it out, ask the class what they think. Sometimes it’s good to let the group miss things, and see how the call can become difficult as a result. Then discuss the call and where things could have been done differently when the activity is done.
Detailed materials about phone etiquette skills, including the topics in the checklist above, are available at www.callcentercafe.com, and probably at your local library. Check them out to ensure your training classes include the best information. A representative thoroughly and effectively trained in telephone etiquette will have a strong foundation for customer service success. Your customers will ‘thank you’ for being committed to it![/hidepost]