Phone etiquette for different industries
According to a study by Google, 61% of mobile phone users make a call to a business when they’re in the purchase phase of the shopping process. The increased use of other forms of communication, such as email and instant messaging, hasn’t lessened consumers’ reliance on the phone. In fact, BIA/Kelsey, an advertising, and marketing firm have predicted that calls to business will surpass 169 billion per year by 2020. These findings demonstrate that your business needs to prioritize phone etiquette as a way of communicating with customers.
Phone etiquette should be part of your business communication strategy irrespective of your industry. Whether you operate in the hospitality, retail, restaurant, or healthcare industry, how your employees talk to customers, vendors, and business associates on the phone will have a big impact on your business.
What is phone etiquette?
The website A-to-Z of manners and etiquette describes phone etiquette as:
- Being respectful to the caller.
- Showing consideration to limitations.
- Creating the right visual impression over the phone.
- Choosing our words carefully.
- Adopting the right tone.
Additionally, phone etiquette involves compensating for the lack of face-to-face contact to convey your message in a clear and courteous way.
Tips on phone etiquette
Each industry has its own nuances in relation to phone etiquette. Before we review some phone etiquette techniques specific to the retail, hospitality, restaurant, and healthcare industries, here are some general tips that all businesses can use.
1. Train your employees
Your employees’ customer service training should involve dealing with people on the phone. Every touch-point where your employees have contact with people outside of your business should form part of your customer service training. Your employees should be equipped to extend your brand over the phone. They should be aware of standard greetings and how to handle customers who are rude when on a phone call. You should involve role play so that your employees can act out different phone conversation scenarios.
2. Answer the phone promptly
No one likes to be kept waiting and customers who contact your business by phone are no exception. It’s recommended that your employees should answer the phone within three rings. Keeping the caller waiting may result in them hanging up or being irritable because they believe that you’ve wasted their time.
A delay in answering the phone will give a bad impression of your business. The caller may make the assumption that your business doesn’t prioritize customers or your employees are unorganized.
If you have a customer-facing business, your employees might experience the dilemma of whether to answer the phone if they’re already serving a customer in-store. In this instance, your employee should ask the customer whether they mind if the phone was answered. In most cases, the answer will be no, so your employees can attend to the caller.
3. Get permission before placing the caller on hold
Proper phone etiquette dictates that your employees ask a caller whether they can be put on hold. No matter how busy your business gets, your employees should be discouraged from answering the phone and putting the call straight on hold. It’s always best for your employees to do everything they can to deal with the callers’ inquiries without putting them on hold.
Employees need to ask the caller whether it’s alright to place them on hold for a short while. After the question has been asked, your employees should wait for the caller to respond before putting the call on hold. Ideally, callers should only be left on hold for under a minute. If your employees realize that the hold will take longer, they need to get back to the caller to inform them that dealing with their query is taking more time. The caller then needs to be given the options of either remaining on hold or providing their phone number for a return call.
4. Be familiar with your connections
Where a caller needs to be assisted by someone else in your business, it’s important that phone etiquette extends to connecting them to the right person. The employee who has taken the call must ensure that they inform the caller that they are about to be connected to someone else.
After the original employee has connected the caller to their colleague, a quick explanation of what the caller wants (including the caller’s name) should be given. This communication will prevent the caller having to repeat the same information.
5. End the call in an appropriate way
It’s easy for employees to fall at the last hurdle in relation to phone etiquette. If the phone conversation has gone well and your employees have helped the caller, ending the call the correct way will reinforce the good customer service that has been provided during the call.
Irrespective of the length of time the caller has spent on the phone, your employees shouldn’t end the call in a rushed way. Your employees should ask the caller if there’s anything else they need assistance with. If the answer is no, your employees could say something along these lines “thank you (insert name of caller) for calling (insert name of business), have a nice day.” This warm and pleasant end to the call will leave the caller with a great impression of your business.
Phone etiquette by industry
Now that we’ve reviewed general phone etiquette tips, here are some specific guidelines for different industries:
- Retail phone etiquette
- Hospitality phone etiquette
- Restaurant phone etiquette
- Healthcare phone etiquette
A retail store can be a fast-paced environment. It’s easy for employees to focus on the customers in-store in terms of providing the best service. However, your retail sales training needs to incorporate phone etiquette as a method of increasing sales and customer satisfaction.
As well as the tips above, retail phone etiquette should include the ability to focus on the caller. It may be difficult for your employees to concentrate on the caller when there’s so much going on. However, it has to be stressed that the customer being served at any given time – whether on the shop floor or on the phone – must be given absolute priority. Although there will be several other things competing for the attention of an employee who’s on the call, they have to shut out interruptions.
The music in a store is an important aspect of merchandising. However, loud music can also be a distraction and have a negative impact on retail phone etiquette. If your store is known to play loud music, you should designate a quiet place for phone calls to be taken. Under no circumstances should your retail employees shout at the caller due to loud music. If you find that your employees need to shout over the music to hear themselves speak during a phone call, you may want to consider adjusting the volume of your music.
The Oxford Dictionary defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Customers come to expect warmth and polite conversation when dealing with anyone in the hospitality industry. It won’t be a surprise that hospitality phone etiquette should emphasize that employees answer the phone and speak to the caller with a smile. A smile can transcend over the phone so that the caller will pick up on a happy and inviting vibe.
As well as a smile, hospitality employees should always answer the phone in an upbeat way. They should give the caller the impression that your business is a welcoming and exciting place to visit. You should provide your hospitality employees with a telephone greeting script. For example, if you own a boutique hotel, your greeting could include a short and unique fact about your establishment.
To deliver that personal touch, your hospitality employees should always use the caller’s name. If the caller is contacting your establishment in relation to a booking, your employees should have a checklist of things to ask to get a full picture of the reservation. Lastly, employees should only hang up the phone after the caller has ended the call.
Whether you run a fast food restaurant that accepts takeout orders or a fine-dining establishment that receives reservations, phone etiquette is a must for a thriving restaurant. Diners should experience the culture of your restaurant by phone, even before they visit. The following are restaurant phone etiquette tips to give potential and existing diners the right impression every time they call your restaurant.
There should be no food or drink being consumed when on the phone. This also extends to chewing bubble gum. Any type of food consumption while talking to a caller gives the impression that your restaurant is disrespectful towards their customers. If the phone rings and the person who’s supposed to answer it is in the middle of eating or drinking, they need to signal to a colleague to pick up the call.
Schedule your restaurant employees to spend a designated number of hours to answer the phone. Failing to answer the phone in a timely and appropriate way may mean that the caller orders takeout or makes a reservation with your competitors.
All employees who are responsible for answering the phone at your restaurant should have a thorough knowledge of your menu. The caller may ask about prices, specials, and allergy information. It’s poor restaurant telephone etiquette if your employee has to put the caller on hold to find out the most basic information. Your employees should also be in a position to make suggestions if someone is ordering takeout.
Where a caller is making a reservation, it’s proper restaurant phone etiquette for your employees to have a checklist of things to ask. The information required includes:
- Reservation details
- Special requests
If someone has called to order takeout, your employees should be using your point of sale system to enter the order to provide the correct price to the customer. The caller should also be notified about how long their order will take to arrive.
Dealing with patients must be done with the utmost care to instill confidence in your healthcare facility. Healthcare phone etiquette involves employees dealing with callers in a sensitive, caring and polite manner. It’s possible that patients are already feeling some anxiety about their health issue, so healthcare phone etiquette should be used as a way to reduce concern and instill confidence in your practice.
Listening skills are of particular importance for healthcare phone etiquette. Train your employees to practice active listening when dealing with callers. Active listening involves your employees repeating the information from the caller in their own words. This technique reassures the caller that they’re being listened to and gives the employee confidence that they have received the information correctly.
Healthcare phone etiquette involves being aware of confidentiality. Your employees’ interaction with callers should comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provisions. Therefore, your employees should be trained on the type of information that can and can’t be provided over the phone. They must also be aware that patients must not be discussed with third parties unless express consent is given.
Callers should be able to understand the information that is relayed to them by your employees. Advise your employees to avoid healthcare jargon and speak to callers in plain English. If a doctor has relayed information using abbreviations, it’s the employees’ duty to clarify what this means before relaying it to the caller.
Adequate phone etiquette is vital for every industry. When trained properly, your employees should have no excuse for failing to provide the necessary level of customer service over the phone. To find out how you can keep details of training that each employee has received in one convenient place, try Deputy for free and check out our new and improved employee profiles.