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Chapter 3: Winning Telephone Skills
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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

  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

  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

  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

  6. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued)

  7. 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

  8. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Voicemail - An interactive computerized system for answering and routing telephone calls, for recording, saving, and relaying messages, and sometimes for paging the user • 90% of HDI members use voicemail

  9. 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

  10. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Acknowledging a voice mail is not the same as resolving the customer’s problem or request • The first step is to simply let the customer know that their voice mail message has been received and logged • Voice mail requests are typically logged in the help desk’s incident tracking and problem management system • Most incident tracking and problem management systems automatically assign a ticket number or unique identifier to logged customer requests

  11. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Fax – An electronic device that sends or receives printed matter or computer images • Faxed requests are typically logged in the help desk’s incident tracking and problem management system • Customers may fax forms, letters, or information such as a report that has an error message • Fax-on-demand – Technology that enables customers to use their touch-tone phone to request that answers to FAQs, procedures, forms, or sales literature be delivered to the fax machine at the number they provide

  12. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Automatic call distributor (ACD) - A technology that answers a call and routes or distributes it to the next available analyst • If all analysts are busy, the ACD places the call in a queue and plays a recorded message • ACD software determines what calls an analyst receives and how quickly the analyst receives those calls

  13. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Analysts use an ACD console to perform ACD functions • Available state - An ACD state that means an analyst is ready to take calls • Idle state - An ACD state that means the analyst did not answer a call routed to his or her telephone within the specified number of rings • Wrap-up mode – An ACD feature that prevents the ACD from routing a new inbound call to an analyst’s extension

  14. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • ACDs can integrate with and use other technologies to deliver information • Announcement system - A technology that greets callers when all help desk analysts are busy and can provide answers to routine questions or promotional information • Automated attendant - An ACD feature that routes calls based on input provided by the caller through a touch-tone telephone • Skills-based routing (SBR) - An ACD feature that matches the requirements of an incoming call to the skill sets of available analysts or analyst groups

  15. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Voice response unit (VRU) - A technology that integrates with another technology, such as a database or network management system, to obtain information or to perform a functions; also called an interactive voice response unit (IVRU) • A VRU can collect a unique identifier, such as a customer’s employee ID or Personal Identification Number (PIN) • A VRU obtains information by: • Having callers use the keys on their touch-tone telephone • Speak their input into the telephone

  16. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Poorly implemented or improperly used telephone technology can lead to customer frustration and be perceived negatively • When customers mistrust or dislike technology, it affects how they interact with help desk analysts and how analysts receive their work • Companies can minimize these negative effects by: • Listening to customers and help desk analysts • Implementing the technology in a way that both perceive is useful and beneficial,

  17. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Implemented correctly, telephone technology is a powerful communication tool that can enhance the services a help desk offers and benefit help desk analysts. For example: • ACDs can broadcast messages that inform customers about, for example, a virus • ACDs and VRUs can use caller ID data or automatic number identification data to provide a caller’s name

  18. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Caller identification (caller ID) - A service provided by your local telephone company that tells you the telephone number of the person calling • Automatic number identification (ANI) - A service provided by your long distance service provider that tells you the telephone number of the person calling

  19. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued) • Computer telephony integration (CTI) – An interface that links telephone technology with computing technology to exchange information and increase productivity • Screen pop – A CTI function that enables information about a caller to appear, or pop up, on an analyst’s monitor based on caller information captured by the telephone system and passed to a computer system • A history of the caller’s previous problems and requests can also pop on the screen

  20. Understanding the Power of the Telephone (continued)

  21. 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

  22. Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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?”

  26. 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

  27. 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)

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)

  33. 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

  34. Handling Calls Professionally from Start to Finish (continued)

  35. 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

  36. Avoiding the Most Common Telephone Mistakes (continued)

  37. 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

  38. 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

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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

  42. 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

  43. 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

  44. 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

  45. 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

  46. Fine-Tuning Your Telephone Skills (continued)

  47. 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

  48. 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

  49. 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!

  50. 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