That is the first impression a person has of you on the phone. Your tone, delivery, manner of speaking, and undertone are all noted in that one word, and people have a tendency to make quick judgments. How you present yourself, represents you and your company.
Whether using the phone at home or at work, there is a certain custom that people follow. “Hello, is John there” or “This is John,” and then the conversation continues about the purpose of the phone call. Not talking face to face with a person requires different senses in order to establish a relationship. You can’t see hand gestures or facial features; it is all verbal. How does that affects our attitude about the person? A friendly voice is always a plus, so the other person on the line knows you want to talk with them. Since they can’t see you, the only impression they have of you is the tone in your voice and what you are saying. The number one thing, in my opinion, is to be polite when talking to a customer or friend. This says a lot about you as a person. Remember, you are representing your company if these are business related calls, and how you present yourself will put an image to the company for the customer.
Picking up the phone
The tone in your voice is either going to make people interested or turn them away. If you are monotone and sound bored, the person on the other line is not going to be interested. Caller ID has become a great invention so you can see who is calling and prepare in advance for a business interaction or a personal conversation. If it is work related, answer with the company name and your name. It lets the caller know they have reached the correct sender. A proper goodbye, “have a nice day”, “thank you”, or “looking forward to speaking with you next time,” are always a plus.
“You have reached Nicole. Please leave a message with your name and number, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.” We have all heard this before as the most common answering machine message, and it works! It is simple and to the point, stating all the important information.
Your answering machine allows you to add your own personal touch to your phone, but keep in mind who is hearing it. If business related, it should sound professional, stating the contact person, the company’s name, and times available. Especially, if you are job hunting, you want your possible employer to hear a polished machine.
One of the funniest things is when people leave a long message, rambling on, and then forget to say the important information like their name or phone number. When leaving a message, you want the person to want to call you back. Be clear when stating your name, phone number, and what you want (a call back, a message left for you, returning a phone call, etc.) Don’t ramble. Once people hear that beep, sometimes they freeze and forget how to make complete sentences. It’s okay; it happens to me and then I find myself rambling and repeating everything. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to plan in advance what you want to say. In the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, one of the girls wrote a script for the message she was going to leave on a guy’s voicemail. That way, you know you are prepared, and the voicemail sounds good instead of a bunch of gibber jabber with no actual point to the message. Follow up phone calls are good too after an interview; it shows that you are interested.
Returning Phone Calls
Most people have those relatives they don’t want to call back, but returning a voice mail should be done in a considerate manner of time. Just think, if you were trying to get a hold of someone, you would want them to call you back as soon as possible. Don’t make the sender have to leave another messages. Callers should wait no longer than 24 hours to hear from you; be courteous. Keep time changes in mind.
Phone Tag: we have all played this game, where two senders keep reaching each others voicemail and leave several messages back and forth. To help avoid this, leave a time frame for when you will be available.
Of course, things are going to be different when talking to friends. They already know you. But when talking on the phone, they still can’t see your facial expression or body language, so you are communicating with just your voice. Some relationships are based on phone calls: long distance relationships, placing phone order, etc. It matters how one represents him/herself. If you are a salesperson, someone is more likely to buy your product if you are polite and excited about it.
Coming Soon: Communicating with Customers in the Moving Business. A similar article, but more geared specifically toward service providers communicating effectively with customers.