It's easy to assume that answering the phone is a pretty simple task. Receiver is lifted, vocal chords engaged and communication ensues. However, the ability to handle any call is in fact one of the most impressive feats in human psychology. The moment the voice on the end of the receiver begins to speak, we are unconsciously assessing the caller’s mood, whether we can assist with their problem and how we should respond.
Even if you aren't on the phone as much as a call answering company, chances are, picking up the phone is a big part of your business and it can be mortifying to find yourself lost for words. And let’s face it, we've all been there.
In an effort to reduce those moments of not knowing what to say, we've compiled some nifty tricks to help you answer even the trickiest calls.
When You Just Don't Know
The truth of the matter is that sometimes you will be asked a question to which you don’t know the answer. This is particularly problematic if the person on the other end of the phone is becoming irate or impatient, because all too quickly you can find yourself becoming flustered. The most important thing in this situation is to keep calm and not be afraid to pause for thought.
If you don't know the answer, but know a person who would, putting people on hold briefly can allow you to transfer them or get a message from the person you need. Equally, if you have no idea how to help a customer and also no idea as to who might be able to help them, then you also need to give yourself the time to find out. As long as you don't keep people on hold forever, then giving yourself a moment to consider what to do is not only fine, it’s necessary.
On the phone, in a meeting, heck, even in your own household, giving yourself pause to think is no bad thing. A few moments of silence shouldn’t be scary for anyone, honest.
When They Just Won't Quit
It's a classic tale, someone calls and demands to speak to a co-worker who isn't there, or pushes for information you don't know or can't give out, and once again you have to be the gate keeper.
It's easy to lose your head when you have a caller determined to get their way, but there are some great tricks to manage the situation without seeming flustered:
- Be assertive. Apologise for not meeting the expectations of the caller, but be sure not to sound too apologetic. If you do, then the caller may continue to berate you for something that is outside of your control, which isn't constructive for anyone.
- Don't get involved in any lines of conversation that focus on what you can’t do as it serves no purpose. If you can't give out certain information for example, then quickly move the conversation to a point where you can do something positive for the customer.
- If the query is regarding a colleague who has a schedule you aren't aware of, the best thing again is to not focus on what you don’t know, and instead reassure them that you will make sure a message is passed on and the call returned. People are much less upset by inconvenience if you make it plain that you are trying your best to work around the problem for them.
- Keeping calm is essential.
- Silence isn’t something to fear. It’s much better to pause and think, rather than spewing random words out of nervousness.
- Don’t linger on what you can’t do, always push the conversation so that it can end on a positive note.
- Be assertive and professional at all times.