The 10 best and worst things to say on the phone
Als gute Sekretärin wissen Sie, wie wichtig die richtige Wortwahl ist, gerade am Telefon. Aber sind Sie sicher, dass Sie sie auch auf Englisch immer treffen? Mitden Tipps von Secretary Today lernen Sie, wie Sie sich immer verbindlich, höflich und professionell verhalten.
We’ve all heard it said many times: Everyone is in Customer Service. Whether you are in direct contact with your company’s customers or working with colleagues whose functions require your cooperation, it is important to have an attitude of service.
Having an attitude of service means constantly being open to encourage other people to do their jobs better, to help customers make good buying decisions, or to give them proper assistance when they need help or have a complaint.
The best secretaries and PAs think they are doing this, but, unfortunately, even with the best will in the world, many fail to provide good service through choosing the wrong words and conveying the wrong message. Conveying the
right message is difficult enough in your mother tongue, in English, it is even more of a challenge.
Here are the ten worst things you can say to people when you are trying to serve them, together with more professional alternatives. Next time you need to help someone on the phone, watch out for these “worst” choices and try out
the alternative suggestions. You will be surprised at the different reaction you get.
We can’t process your order until we receive payment.
You have to pay a deposit before we can deliver.
We don’t deliver without a down payment.
This sounds like an ultimatum and it suggests that you’re not sure payment will be forthcoming. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Your company policy is not going to change but you can tell the customer in a more friendly way.
As soon as we receive payment, we will process your order.
If you give us a down payment by next week, we can deliver by the end of the month.
If you’d just like to get the deposit out to us we’ll get the goods out to you.
I’m sorry but that’s not my responsibility.
You’ve been put through to the wrong department.
Even when you say I’m sorry, these statements are guaranteed to put the caller’s back up. It sounds as if you don’t want to help. If a customer calls the company and you pick up the phone, you ARE the company at that moment. Your job is to solve a problem or provide help. If you have to pass the person
on to someone else, use positive words.
The person who can help you with that question is Margaret Mills in our accounts department. Her direct number is 111-2222, but I will put you through.
When you reach Margaret Mills, tell her what the situation is before putting the customer through. For example: There’s a Mr John Brown on the line. He’s calling about a reminder he got for an invoice he paid. This will save the customer having to tell the story all over again.
Sorry to have kept you waiting.
This is a phrase people often say when they have left you waiting on the phone. At first glance, it sounds friendly enough. The bad thing about it is that it focuses on the negative act of waiting. It is much better to focus on the positive and thank the person for their positive attitude.
Thank you for waiting, or Thank you for your patience.
I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you, but I have been really busy.
The person you are calling is likely to be insulted. “Too busy to think of me, the customer?”, “I’m not important enough for her to return my call?” It is best to make no excuses, but to focus immediately on the purpose of the call.
I couldn’t get back to you sooner, but I’ll do my best to find the information you want immediately.
This is your second chance. Don’t mess it up! Make sure you take care of the problem immediately and efficiently or you will lose credibility – and perhaps a customer.
I’ll have to ask the manager / my boss.
There’s nothing wrong with speaking to the manager or your boss, but this makes it sound as if the caller has asked for something really unusal and as if you have no authority to make decisions. You need to let the person know that you are trying to help.
If you’d like to hold on I’ll just check with the manager.
I’ll just ask my boss and get right back to you.
I’m sorry, that should be OK. I’ll just check with my boss.
I think I don’t know – I’m new here.
It’s not important to the caller whether you’ve been in the company for five mintues or five years. If you don’t know the answer to a question, simply say so and find someone who does.
If you’d like to tell me what you need to know I’ll find out for you. That sounds like a simple request, but this is my first week and I don’t know my way around yet. Just hold on a moment and I’ll ask my colleague.
There is no need to apologise for being new. Everyone was new in their job once. Just be friendly to the caller and when you know the answer to the question, remember it for next time.
It wasn’t our fault.
You’ve got that wrong.
I don’t know who told you that but it’s not correct.
This is a classic cover line. But the caller doesn’t care whose fault it was. Blaming someone or something does not solve the problem.
I’m sorry that happened. Let’s find a solution.
I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
This may be true, but it is too vague. When is ‘as soon as possible’? Within an hour, in two days, next week?
I’ll get back to you this afternoon.
I’ll check with accounts and call you back tomorrow morning.
When would be the best time to get back to you?
Be sure to keep your word and remember, it is better to underpromise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver.
My computer’s down.
We’re having server problems.
This is not the caller’s problem. Business should run with or without active monitors. Take down the caller’s telephone number with a pencil and promise to call back at a specific time.
If you’d like to give me your number I’ll call you back in two hours when the server is working again. Let me take your details and get back to you this afternoon.
What was your name again?
Saying this implies two things, both equally bad. Either you didn’t ask the name in the first place or it was not important enough for you to remember. If you don’t know the name of a caller, you have little chance of building rapport. If you didn’t understand the name, or if the caller didn’t give his or her name, ask at the beginning of the conversation, then use the name. If the name is difficult, ask the caller to spell it, then check the spelling.
May I ask you your name?
Could I write your name down, please?
Could I ask you to spell that, please?
So, Mr Miller, how can I help you?
You may think you are being helpful and attentive to callers, but they won’t know if you choose these wrong ways of communicating. Listen critically to what you say to customers and colleagues on the phone – and try out these more positive expressions. Your customers, your colleagues – and your boss – will be grateful.