Lesson 7 – Telephone Techniques

Telephone Techniques

One of the biggest misconceptions on the phone is that people can’t see your expressions. However, this is not always the case. Our voice and tone can convey exactly what our face is expressing. What types of telephone calls do you make or respond to?

The most important thing to remember about telephone communication is your tone. The reason is that tone accounts for 87% of how the receiver interprets your message. Your words account for only 12% of the response, and body language counts for only 1%.

(Source: “Silent Messages” by Albert Mehrabian)

The Initial Greeting

Identify the organisation, the department, and yourself. Be sure not to use verbal shorthand or internal jargon. Don’t make the caller say, “Is this eLearnSA?” or “To whom am I speaking?”.
By using the correct tone in the first words, you can convey a friendly welcome, which will imply your willingness to be helpful. You should also personalize your service and communication skills.

When answering the phone – always keep the following scenario’s in mind:

  • The person they wish to speak to is either not available or in the office.
  • You have to transfer a call.
  • You may have to put a caller on hold to obtain the necessary information they required and return to the line.
  • You may have to take a message. Be sure to have a deskpad and pen at hand.

Transferring Telephone Calls

The impression of poor service and lack of interest often results when calls are transferred improperly or incorrectly within an organisation.

You should only transfer a call when you are unable to attend to the clients’ enquiry and therefore transfer it to the best capable person to do so.

The reason for the transfer should be explained, along with the name of the person to whom the caller will be transferred. This prepares the caller for what is about to happen, and doesn’t look like you are giving him/her the run-around. It also ensures that the caller doesn’t feel like he/she is being passed along to the next person like a hot potato.

Here’s an example: “Mark Jenson in Fire Prevention handles that. I’ll transfer you to him, Mrs. Smith.”

When you transferred the call, announce the call to the person who will be handling it by providing him/her with all the necessary details to eradicate the need for the caller to repeat their whole story.

Putting Callers on Hold

If you are handling a call and you have to put the caller on hold, ask their permission first and explain to them why you have to put them on hold. You should also give them your best estimate of how long they will be on hold.

If you think the waiting time might be more than 3 minutes, give the caller the option of holding or having you call them back. Waiting times always seems longer than it actually are.

Progress Reports

A progress report means informing the waiting person what progress is being made on the call. Here’s an example: “Mr. Johnson, I’m still checking the code for that. Do you mind waiting a little longer or should I call you back?”

Proper Return to the Line

Catch the attention of the person on hold by calling them by their name or using a suitable introductory expression. This way you wouldn’t have to repeat any of the information. Always thank them for waiting.

Taking a Message

Taking a message for your supervisor or another employee should be relatively simple. However, a great deal of business is lost each year by incomplete or forgotten messages. A courteous punctual person returns telephone calls. Accurate messages reduce errors and eliminate unnecessary calls.

Tips on Taking Messages Accurately and Completely

  • Keep a notepad close to the telephone at all times.
  • Take down notes, numbers and information during the call and not afterwards.
  • Politely obtain personal information… Say, “If I may have your name, please…” rather than, “What is your name and number?”
  • Verify spelling.
  • Get their first name as well.
  • Spell their name out phonetically if you are struggling with the pronunciation there of.
  • Give feedback for verification. (For example, “So that’s spelled J-a-y-s-o-n?”)

What to Record

  • The intended recipient of the message.
  • From whom: The name of the caller and his business connection.
  • Where: The caller’s telephone number and extension number.
  • What: The message itself.
  • Why: Action requested and the action promised.
  • By whom: Name of the person who recorded the message.
  • When: Date and hour of the call.

Other Tips

To guarantee the accuracy of the message, and to ensure that you have obtained all the necessary information, consider the following suggestions:

  • Listen attentively to the message.
  • Confirm that all the telephone numbers are correct and use feedback for verification.
  • Verify the spelling of difficult names, by spelling them phonetically – remember people are sensitive.
  • After the call add additional notes to the message from memory.
  • Attach the message to the relevant documents, reports or lists of information that would support the person receiving the message.

Should the caller decline your request to take down a message for the intended person by saying: “No, I will call back,” politely ask again. You could say: ” He would appreciate it, if I could tell him who called.” Please feel free to call again if that would suit you better.”

Personalizing Service

Every customer is equally important. As a whole, they represent the fundamental foundations of the company. Each customer wants to be recognised and acknowledged as a individual. We can certify their individualism by using their first names or to remember personal details about them.

A Quick Formula to Practice

  • Prepare to hear the clients name.
  • Write it down immediately.
  • If you missed it, ask the person to repeat it.
  • Repeat their  name immediately in your next comment/sentence.
  • Use their name occasionally during the conversation. It draws attention at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Ask, “Let me confirm that I have spelled your name right. Is that J-a-y-s-o-n?”
  • Thank the person and use their name again as you are parting.

Addressing a Person

Should you call a person Mr., Ms., or Mrs., or use their first name? It really depends on the company and whether you have spoken to this person before. It is better to be cautious and use “Mr.” or “Ms.” until the customer says otherwise.

Your Telephone Voice

  • Speak at the right volume, not too loudly or too softly.
  • Use a pleasant, friendly tone. Speak clearly, pronounce your words carefully.
  • If you have an accent that customers or clients might have trouble understanding, spell things out or use wording that is easier to understand to make sure they have it right.
  • Remember not to talk too quickly.
  • Last but not least, smile! Customers can hear a smile through the phone.

Your Listening Ear

Never interrupt someone while they are talking. Make sure your caller is finished before you start to talk. Don’t hesitate to ask your customer to repeat anything you did not understand. You, in turn, should repeat important information you are given such as numbers, spelling of words, important names, cities, and streets. Listen for the caller’s mood to make an effort to determine not only what they are saying, but how they feel about it. Remember; it is important to ask questions and to continue to do so until you are certain that you understand the problem, or have as much information as possible.

Your Format for Closing

If necessary, summarize the main ideas of your call by confirming details discussed or follow-up actions promised. Rather than just saying, “Goodbye,” try to end the conversation with a friendly, courteous well-mannered greeting such as:

  • “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
  • “It was nice talking to you.”
  • “Thank you for calling.”
  • “Thank you for your assistance in this matter”

Dos and Don’ts

Do say… Don’t say…
He’s not in his office at the moment. He hasn’t come in yet.
She’s away from her desk at the moment. She’s on her coffee break.
He’s out of the office until tomorrow. He left early today.
She’s not in the office today. She’s sick today.
He’s out of the office for the next two weeks. He’s on vacation for the next two weeks.


Phrases to Avoid Using

  • “I believe he went to the men’s room.”
  • “He’s taking a nap right now.” (This actually happened. The man had had a heart attack and his physician ordered him to rest 45 minutes after lunch each day, but this information would not be known to the caller.)
  • “She has a doctor’s appointment this afternoon.”
  • “He’s at the barbershop.”

Sentences That Damage Your Image or Lose Goodwill

  • “I can’t put your call through unless I can say whose calling.”
  • “I don’t have anything to do with your problem.”
  • “He’s busy, would you call him back?”
  • “I’m working with someone right now, could you call back?”
  • “There’s nothing I can do about it – that’s our policy.”
  • “We might have it but I don’t know for sure.”
  • “We’re getting ready to go home – would you call back in the morning?”
  • “I just came in – could you call back in about 15-20 minutes?”

By remembering and using these telephone techniques you will be able to provide the same exceptional service on the telephone as you would give your customers and clients in person.

Let’s see how NOT to do it….