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Chapter 3: Winning Telephone Skills

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1 Chapter 3: Winning Telephone Skills
A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional Second Edition

2 Objectives Understand the power of the telephone
Handle calls professionally Avoid the most common telephone mistakes Use proven techniques to place callers on hold and transfer calls in a positive, professional way Use a variety of techniques to continuously improve your telephone skills Consistently convey a positive, caring attitude A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

3 Winning Telephone Skills
The telephone is the primary way that customers obtain service from many help desks The telephone will always play a role in customer service Professional telephone skills help to ensure that the help desk handles customer requests in a prompt, courteous, and consistent manner Consistency builds trust and teaches customers what they can expect during calls A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

4 Creating a Positive Telephone Image
Responsiveness and a caring attitude are fundamental to a positive telephone image A customer’s perception is influenced by: How long it takes to answer the telephone The energy and enthusiasm analysts convey Conducting business over the telephone can be frustrating and impersonal When handled properly, the telephone can be an efficient, effective way to deliver support A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

5 Understanding the Power of the Telephone
The telephone is one of the most common ways that businesses and customers communicate At a help desk, analysts may handle: Incoming calls Outgoing calls Telephone technology automates many of these activities A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

6 Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued)
Factors that influence the telephone technologies a help desk selects include: The help desk’s size The company’s goals The nature of the company’s business Customer expectations The technology a help desk uses affects how customer contacts are directed to analysts and how analysts’ performance is measured A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

7 Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued)
The best companies diligently manage voice mail messages Calls are returned promptly, even if only to let customers know: The call was received It has been logged in the company’s incident tracking and problem management system It is being handled A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

8 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish
Jan Carlzon refers to service encounters as “Moments of Truth” for a company Each and every service encounter is critical to the success of the company Each of these moments contributes considerably to how customers perceive an analyst and the entire company A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

9 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

10 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Using a script is a common help desk practice Script - A standard set of text and behaviors Scripts enable analysts to focus their energy on solving problems and handling unique situations Analysts may use scripts when they need to find a positive way to say something they do not feel comfortable saying, such as “No” to a customer Scripts also enable customers to perceive that the help desk delivers services consistently A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

11 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Answering the telephone: How you answer the telephone sets the tone for the entire conversation Pick up the telephone promptly, but with composure Use your company’s standard script to ensure that customers are greeted in the same, consistent way Announce the name of your company or department Give the caller your name Ask the first question A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

12 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
“Help Desk, this is Carmen. How may I help you?” “Help Desk, this is Sue. May I have your name please?” “Hello, Options Unlimited, this is Leon. May I have your Customer ID?” A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

13 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Listen actively to the customer’s request Ask for the same information in the same order every time If you speak with a customer regularly, verify the information rather than skipping over the step Skipping steps is a disservice to your customers and your coworkers The help desk is a team setting; by being consistent you: Communicate your company’s policies Convey to customers that anyone can assist them A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

14 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Handling Calls About Unsupported Products or Services: Few companies can be “all things to all people” The cost would simply be too high Many companies define a list of supported products and services Internal help desks support products most used by employees and that contribute to company goals External help desks support products and services that are developed or sold by the company (unless they are being compensated to do so) A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

15 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Analysts often have a hard time referring customers to another group or company Particularly analysts who may be familiar with the product the customer is calling about The number of analysts assigned to a help desk is determined by its projected workload Analysts who assist customers with unsupported products undermine the ability of the team to handle the work within its scope of responsibility A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

16 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Remember that there is always something you can do “What I can do is transfer you to the group that supports that product. They will be able to help.” If you do not know who supports a product, let the customer know you will look into it and get back to them Best-effort – A policy that means you do your best to assist the customer within a predefined set of boundaries, such as a time limit Let the customer know in advance that you are under a time constraint, or that you may have to refer them to another group or vendor A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

17 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Taking a message: If a particular analyst is unavailable, let the customer know that and ask “who is calling” Explain the analyst’s absence in a positive way Ask the customer if there is anything you can do to help Offer to take a message or transfer the customer to the analyst’s voice mailbox When taking a message, write down all important information The caller’s name, telephone number, the best time for the analyst to return the call, any message the caller chooses to leave A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

18 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Closing the call: There is often a temptation to rush the closing of a call Trust and customer confidence comes by taking a little extra time and making sure that the customer is comfortable with the steps you have taken, before you hang up the telephone Ending the call on a positive note leaves the customer with a lasting, good impression A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

19 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

20 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
Target resolution time - The timeframe within which the support organization is expected to resolve the problem Severity - The category that defines how critical a problem is based on the nature of the failure and available alternatives or workarounds Workaround – A way to circumvent a problem either partially or completely; usually before implementing the final resolution A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

21 Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)
A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

22 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Putting a customer on hold: When necessary, putting customers on hold in a professional manner instills confidence Let customers decide if they would prefer to have you call back rather than being put on hold If you are taking longer than expected, return to the caller and provide an update on your progress and the option of either continuing to hold or receiving a call back A good guideline is to never ask a customer to hold if you are going to be longer than three minutes A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

23 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Knowing when and how to transfer calls: There are a number of reasons why you may need to transfer a caller There are a number of different ways to transfer a caller: Hot transfer (conference call) Warm transfer Cold transfer A primary consideration of which technique to use is the amount of information you have received or given until the point when you determine a transfer is needed A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

24 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Hot transfer (conference call): Occurs when you stay on the line with the customer and the service provider Appropriate when: You can continue to contribute to the resolution of the customer’s request You can benefit from hearing how the problem is resolved Time allows A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

25 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Before establishing a conference call: Ask if it’s okay and if not, ask what the customer would prefer When establishing a conference call: Explain the problem to the service provider along with how you feel he or she can contribute to the resolution Ask the service provider if it’s okay Use common sense! When permission is granted: Bring the customer on the line and introduce the customer to the service provider Explain the reason for the call and provide any information the customer has given you thus far Stay on the line until the call is complete and close the call A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

26 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Warm transfer: Occurs when you introduce the customer and the service provider to whom you are going to transfer the call but you do not stay on the line Appropriate when: There is no perceived value to be gained or given by staying on the line Time does not allow you to stay on the line A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

27 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Before you warm transfer a call: Ask if it’s okay and if not, ask what the customer would prefer When warm transferring a call: Your company’s policy will determine whether you place the customer on hold first, or simply transfer the call Ask the service provider if it’s okay to bring the customer on the line When permission is granted: Bring the customer [or service provider] on the line and introduce the customer to the service provider Explain the reason for the call and provide any information the customer has given you thus far Give the customer and the service provider the ticket number Ask them to let you know if you can help and then hang up A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

28 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Cold transfer: Occurs when you stay on the line only long enough to ensure that the call has been transferred successfully Appropriate when: The customer asked to be transferred You quickly realize that the caller has dialed the wrong number or should be transferred to another person or department A cold transfer is not appropriate when the customer has provided detailed information about the nature of their request A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

29 Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)
Before you cold transfer a call: Let the customer know you are going to transfer him or her to the correct department If the customer does not want to be transferred, ask what he or she would prefer If a call back is preferred, set a time that is convenient for the customer Clearly communicate to the other service provider when the customer wants to be contacted When appropriate, provide the customer with the telephone number of the person or group to whom you are transferring the call A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

30 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills
Telephone skills, like any other skills, need to be honed Periodically attend a refresher course Learn new best practices Don’t forget the basics! Be responsive Demonstrate a caring attitude Acknowledge the fact that customers are living, breathing human beings who have called because they need your help A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

31 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
Using a speaker phone: If possible, use the speakerphone behind closed doors Ask all callers for permission before using a speakerphone Introduce each person that is present Briefly explain why each person is present Participants who are speaking for the first time or who are unfamiliar to other callers may want to identify themselves before they speak A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

32 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

33 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
Self-Study: Books, videotapes, and audiocassettes are available Take advantage of any training programs offered Make your supervisor aware of training possibilities that you think will help A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

34 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
Monitoring: An excellent training technique when used properly Analysts receive specific feedback on how they can improve their call handling Promotes the consistent handling of calls and provides employees and supervisors specific guidelines used in measuring performance Some companies use as both a training tool and as a way of measuring performance A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

35 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
A monitoring program must be implemented carefully and analysts must perceive they are being given the opportunity to be successful Most companies: Involve the help desk staff when designing a program Define guidelines Provide analysts a checklist or scorecard Used properly, monitoring enables you to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and objectively assess the quality of your service! A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

36 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
Customer satisfaction surveys: Event-driven surveys - Customer satisfaction surveys that ask customers for feedback on a single recent service event Overall satisfaction surveys - Customer satisfaction surveys that ask customers for feedback about all calls they made to the help desk during a certain time period Help desk managers use survey responses to: Measure the performance of the team Identify improvement opportunities Measure individual performance (event-driven surveys) Identify training needs A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

37 Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)
Use feedback to identify your weaknesses and determine ways you can improve. Remember that your recollection of an event and another’s perception of an event may represent different perspectives! A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

38 Letting Your Caring Attitude Shine Through
Providing superior customer support is a habit – a state-of-mind that requires enthusiasm and passion Using scripts is an excellent habit-building technique Help desks that respond to calls in a consistent manner are perceived as more professional Understand your company’s policies and resist the temptation to deviate from those policies If you believe a policy needs to be changed, explain why and provide reasonable alternatives Remember there is always something you can do A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

39 Chapter Summary The telephone is the most common way that businesses and customers communicate today Telephone technologies used by help desks range from simple voice mail boxes and fax machines to highly complex, automated systems Support providers must see each and every customer encounter, or “Moment of Truth,” as critical to the success of the organization Two things that frustrate customers most are being placed on hold for an extended period of time and being repeatedly transferred A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e

40 Chapter Summary (continued)
You can minimize customer frustration by listening to your customer’s preferences and carefully managing their expectations Telephone skills, like any other skills, need to be honed Techniques you can use include self-study, monitoring, and customer satisfaction surveys Superior customer support is hard work You have to work at it every day and you need to develop good habits Take care of yourself, stay relaxed, and let your caring, can do attitude shine through A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2e


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