Canadian Pizza Magazine

Test your telephone effectiveness

By Jeff Mowatt   

Features Business and Operations Customer Service

Jan. 21, 2010 – If your customers aren't impressed by your business on the telephone, they can merely
hang up and call the competition.

To find out how you and your co-workers or employees are
perceived, take this telephone test. 

While you're at it, have a friend make a
"mystery call" to see how your fellow employees measure up.


1.  How long does it take you and/or
your switchboard operator to answer the phone?

a) Five rings or less

b) Three rings or less

c) Under three rings

After two rings, callers are wondering
what's going on.  Your phone should be answered in-person by the second
ring or by your voice-mail system by the fourth ring.

2.  Do you answer your phone with any
of the following?

a) "Hello"

b) "Company name only"

c) "Last name only"

d) "Good afternoon, this is (your full
name), how can I help you?"

All of these greetings have flaws.  A,
B, and C are too abrupt and don't provide enough information.  D is too
wordy and dissuades callers from identifying themselves because it encourages
them to get to the point rather than saying their name. Plus it forces you
to check the clock to see if it's before or after noon. A better greeting
is, "Thank you for calling ABC Company.  This is John." If you
are taking a call that's transferred to you, always identify yourself as you
wished to be addressed.  Whether you choose to identify the department is

3.  Have you ever said, "Please
hold" to a caller?

a) Yes

b) No

Never put a caller on-hold without asking
for their permission and then waiting for their response.  Putting
customers on hold without their consent is a sure-fire formula to lose

4.  How long does it take a person on
hold to become annoyed?

a) Two minutes

b) 30 seconds

c) One minute

d) 17 seconds

Studies show that after only 17 seconds,
callers on hold become annoyed.  The exception is when the greeter
explains why the caller is being asked to hold and provides the estimated time
required.  Knowing beforehand how long they can expect to wait reduces the
chance of annoyance, particularly among long distance and cellular phone
callers. Another option to prevent frustration is to offer the caller the
option of either holding or hanging up and having their call returned within a
brief, specific time period.

5.  When you're talking on the phone
while a visitor walks in, who gets priority?

a) The visitor

b) The caller

The person who made the effort to show up
in-person gets priority.  That means you need to interrupt the
caller. The quickest way to get that caller's attention is to use their
name.  "George, I have someone who just walked in, can I ask you to
hold for a moment?" Wait for their agreement.  Then acknowledged the
visitor, tell them you'll be a moment and wrap-up your telephone conversation.

If you're talking to customer in person
when the phone rings, then get someone else to answer the phone or use voice
mail.  Abandoning customers to answer the phone is downright rude and is a
guaranteed way to lose customers.  As obvious as this seems, it's one of
the most common blunders in customer service.

6.  When receiving a call for a
co-worker, how are you most likely to respond?

a) "Susan's not in right now, so I'll
have to take a message."

b) "Susan's still at lunch.  Can
I take a message?"

c) "Susan's should be back soon. 
Could you call back in about 15 minutes?"

All of these statements have flaws that
make the greeter sound unhelpful and unprofessional.  Consider each

Response a) – The statement, "I'll
have to take a message," makes it sound like an inconvenient chore. 
Instead, change two words: "I'll be happy to take a message." The
bonus is that you don't work any harder but you convey the impression of
someone with a terrific customer service attitude.

Response b) – It's completely irrelevant that
the co-worker is at lunch. The caller might be thinking, "That's a
long time to be at lunch!" It's also irrelevant whether your co-worker is
"in a meeting" or "with a customer" or
"busy".  The only relevant information is they're not coming to
the phone.  Therefore, "Susan is not available right now" is the
most appropriate response, followed by, "I'd be happy to take a

Response c) – Asking a caller to phone back
later gives the impression that you're too lazy or disorganized to take a
message.  This gives a potential customer a terrific excuse to call your competitor. 

If you're like most managers and business
owners, you'll probably find that when you assess the phone practices within
your organization, there's room for improvement.  The good news is that
with just a little training, it's easy to develop the skills that ensure that
your customers keep coming back.

article is based on the critically acclaimed book Becoming a Service Icon
in 90 Minutes a Month, by customer service strategist and professional
speaker Jeff Mowatt.  To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire
about engaging Jeff for your team, visit or call
1.800.JMowatt (566.9288).

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