Making a Great Impression on the Phone
By Patti Wood, M.A.
all had this experience. You
call a business, a harried voice asks you to hold, and before you have
a chance to say, “no!” you’re listening to some prerecorded
music while you linger there, trapped “on hold.”
Or you call up to ask a simple question such as how late the
store stays open and the voice on the other end responds as if you
have asked them to push a Mack truck across the country with his big
toe. Perhaps the person on
the other end of the line uses the right words, but the tone of the
voice says, “You are an idiot and I don’t have time for this.”
how do people feel when they call your organization?
Are the nonverbal messages you give out over the phone making a
good first impression? Are
you energetic, respectful, and professional on the phone?
If you are, you can bet that people notice it, appreciate it,
and value you and the service you provide.
the caller’s mind, the nonverbal message is as important as or more
important than the words. If
the verbal message is different from the nonverbal message, people
will rely on the nuances of the voice rather than the words to infer
meaning. These nuances are
called paralanguage and include accents, pauses, volume, emphases,
tone, tempo, and rate. On
the telephone, much of the emotional impact and true meaning of the
message is interpreted from those nuances and other nonverbal cues
such as time and background sounds.
are certain techniques you can use to improve your effectiveness on
the telephone and create a positive impression:
Answer Your Phone Promptly.
Time is a powerful nonverbal communicator.
When waiting on the phone, there may be little or no
stimulation or distractions to make the time pass, affecting callers'
perceptions so wait time seems longer.
If someone is calling with a question, a concern, or to
purchase something, the longer your phone rings, the less important
the call becomes. It also
allows time for the caller’s concern to grow or for a purchase to
quickly stops these feelings from getting out of control and helps
callers perceive that you are quick and efficient.
Avoid letting the telephone ring more than three or four times.
Research shows that each additional ring after three makes the
caller an average of 10 percent more likely to hang up and 15 percent
more likely to be irritated when you finally do answer.
Use a Warm, Sincere Voice in Your
Make sure that the first words, such as “good morning” or
“good afternoon,” are delivered with warmth and sincerity.
The most important aspects we look for in first impressions are
qualities that make us feel safe, such as friendliness and
genuineness. If you use an
automatic greeting, you will give an impression of insincerity and
unfriendliness. On the
phone, it takes a mere fortieth of a second to form a first
impression, so the voice you use is critical.
We don’t just form these impressions with strangers; we also
form first impressions of the moods of people we already know.
Give the Caller Adjustment Time.
Our ears are very sensitive to sound.
It takes 10 to 30 seconds to adjust to voices.
Make a habit of saying, “Good morning,” or “Good
afternoon.” This gives
the caller time to adjust to your voice before going on to the most
important part of your greeting such as your name or the name or your
business. Say it clearly
and don’t rush it. If
the caller isn’t given this adjustment period, he or she may not
retain the information you give. The
caller may hear it, but won’t absorb it.
Answer Immediately But Slowly.
Don’t rush through your client’s name and greeting.
It’s a habit everyone gets into.
Remember that a rushed voice creates a perception in the mind
of the caller. It can make
callers think that their business is not important to you, that
you’re busy, stressed, or that you want rush them.
Take a deep relaxing breath before you pick up the phone and
focus on using normal conversation speed in your delivery.
Be Understandable in Your Communication.
Take precautions to ensure that you speak clearly.
That means not just slowly, but articulately.
You can test how clear your voice is by taping yourself reading
a paragraph. Then bite
down on a tooth prop like a large marker and read a few paragraphs.
The tooth prop makes your lips and tongue work harder.
Then take out the tooth prop out and immediately turn back on
the recorder and read again. If
the voice sounds crisper, with harder t’s, c’, k’s and d’s you
need to use the tooth prop regularly to have a clear sounding voice.
If you have a significant accent, accent-reduction classes
might help your phone voice as well as your career.
Match Voice Tone, Volume, and Rate of
You may have heard about the value of matching or mirroring
body language to establish rapport and make someone feel safer and
more comfortable. Did you
know that matching the voice on the phone has the ability to do that
as well? Remember that the
caller does not have face-to-face cues to help read you and make him
or her feel safe. Matching
the nuances of the person’s voice in the first few minutes of the
call puts a person at ease.
Making Background Noise.
Have you ever heard someone on the other end of the line
clicking on computer keys? Chances
are it made you wonder if you had the person’s full attention.
In this world of multi-tasking, we may think it’s all right
to do more than one thing, but to the person who expects your
attention, it can seem rude, unprofessional, and disrespectful.
Don't Interrupt Your Customer.
When you are face to face with another person, you use body
language cues such as leaning forward and eye contact to indicate
whose turn it is to speak. When
these are absent, you need to carefully avoid interruptions as they
come across more severely and can appear rude.
Wait until it is clear that the person has finished speaking
before you respond.
is crucial to consistently practice these skills to establish and
maintain good first impressions. Your
tone, energy, and even the speed at which you speak, need to be the
same for everyone at all times of the day.
It makes no difference how you are feeling that day; your
caller needs to feel appreciated and satisfied.
Read other articles and learn more
about Patti Wood.
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