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Keeping to my customer service topic, I’d like to suggest a few ideas for starting off on the right foot.

In my years managing customer service departments and working for large Small Business Customer Serviceorganizations, I’ve been amazed at how the first impression can skew a conversation.

Whether we are talking about a big call center, a small company that employs a receptionist, or a sole proprietor answering their own calls…the following suggestions apply:

  1. When the phone rings, take a deep breath and forget about whatever task you’ve been working on.  The person on the other side of the receiver can hear if you are not engaged with them.
  2. Even if you are in a bad mood or feeling ill, put a smile on your face.  The listener can actually hear that smile through your tone of voice.  The more cheerful you are the better the conversation starts.  I’ve known people in call centers who even put a small mirror on their computer to remind themselves to smile.
  3. If you are not ready to take a call because you are engaged with another task, or not feeling your best, let the call go to your voicemail.  But, make sure your voicemail message is upbeat, and lets the caller know when they might expect to hear from you.
    The worst thing that can happen is that call goes into what I refer to as “the black hole of customer service”.  IE:  Totally being in the dark concerning the status of your response.  If you won’t be able to get back with them today, your message should say so.  If you typically respond to inquiries within a few hours, then put that message on your voicemail.  The more the customer knows, the better they will feel.

If you employ people who answer the phone for you, please pass on these few tips.  Customer service is a huge part of your brand image.  Keep that in mind every time you pick up the phone.