Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Business Phone Call Etiquette

So you're about to make a phone call to a business to get some information. Awesome! Even though they're sometimes jerks and assholes, the person on the other end of the line really is there to help. That person probably has the information you need, even if it isn't the information you want to hear.

Here are some tips to help you get that information in the most efficient, friendly way possible.

1. "I'm not sure I'm even speaking to the right department, but why don't I tell you what I need, and then maybe you can direct me." No lie. I hear this exact sentence at least twice a day, sometimes way, way more. I don't even take a lot of phone calls, so I can't even begin to imagine what it's like for real customer service reps. Here's a clue, guys... That's actually what we're there for. That's right! If we cannot assist you, we will, no shit, direct you somewhere that can. It's really irritating to have someone on the other end of the phone start off by telling you that they'd really enjoy it if you could do your job like so, thanks.

In the future, try something like this: "Hi, my name is *name*, I was calling to check on the status of my application". Since I don't handle applications, I'm probably going to ask you a few simple questions to attempt to determine why you ended up asking me about that, and then, if it's still not my issue, I'm going to get you to the person who can help you.

2. If I ask you for a specific piece of information (i.e. your name, your account number, your phone number, etc) so that I can look something up, please don't ask me if I'd rather have some other piece of information instead. If I did, I'd have asked for that.

Personally, I'm going to ask you for your name. Why? Because I know that every last person I'm going to talk to will be able to tell me what their name is. Not only do I know you'll be able to give me the information, but I also know that I'll be able to look you up and find out what I need to know based solely on that information.

I do not need your case number, license number, or, goddess help me, your online tracking number.

I need, specifically, what I just asked you to provide me.

3. When you tell me your name and/or address, please slow down and anunciate. I don't need you to spell "Van Nuys" "Van Ness" or "Venice", but I do need you to slow down and say them correctly so that I know what the hell you're talking about. I've lived in California all my life. That means I can have an entire conversation using only the word "dude", and that I know how to spell all those Spanish names.

Also, if you're going to spell something out for me, do me a favor and learn your phonetic alphabet. When I hear "a as in apple", it's really not doing any favors for you in terms of my opinion of your intelligence.

4. When I answer the phone, it is really, really not necessary to tell me all of the following information:

license type

What I need? I need to know what you need from me. The faster we can get that sorted out, the faster I can get you on your way with the information you're looking for.

Frankly, I will not remember your name after you get off the phone, unless there's a reason you don't want me to remember your name. I will also not try to trick you into giving me your name so that I can get you into trouble.

For those of you who give me the full TMI spiel and then do the *dramatic pause*... What, exactly, are you looking for in response? I mean, I think I've done a damn good job of repressing the urge to say "well, good for you", but I just cannot figure out exactly what it is you're looking to hear after that. Please advise.

5. "Hi, my name is John, we spoke last week..." Yes, John. You and more people than I can count and remain sane. Unless there is a specific reason why I should remember speaking with you (i.e., we were "working" on something), I don't. Sorry. If you were calling to ask me a generic question or even a specific question that did not need follow up... Our conversation probably hit the mental trash file shortly after it ended. And if it didn't, John, that's probably not bonus points for you.

6. "I left you a voice mail *this* long ago." Awesome. If that time frame is less than 24 hours, there is no reason you should be calling again unless there is a dire legal issue involved that directly affects me. Calling back within an hour is even more rude. If it's been more than a couple of days, unless there were unforseen circumstance preventing my attendance at work, you probably were not going to get a call back. Just be polite and ask your damn question. You don't need to passive-aggresively lecture me.

7. If we are on the phone, and I am telling you something I've already told you in a previous conversation, that I know I've already told you, and I use any phrase similar to "as I said when we spoke last" it is not in your best interest to act like we've never spoken before.

Trust me on this one.

Well, kids, that's about all I've got for right now. OK, that's about all I've got that I can discuss in a public forum.

But, whatever!

Tomayto, tomahto.

Please remember to be polite out there when dealing with your fellow humans. Show some respect and courtesy. Isn't that how you expect to be treated?

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