Who's Answering Your Phones?

GET A GRIP: This is not the kind of fool you want dealing with your customers on the telephone.


Ring Ring.... "Hello. Thank you for calling Pizano's. I'm George, may I ask your name?" "Audrey, how may I help you?"

Answering the telephone may sound simple but did you know that one rude or inexperienced person answering the telephone could turn away thousands of dollars in business? Just because phone contact is not face to face, it does not mean that delivering unsurpassed guest service is a lesser priority. Here are some phone answering guidelines you can share with your staff.

Be polite and courteous to every caller— even if they are not paying guests. You never know the networking ability your callers possess. Because of your professionalism, maybe one day their neighbors or friends will become valued guests.

Answer the phone immediately. If you wait for more than three rings, you risk losing a caller to a competitor.

Deliver an enthusiastic greeting. An energetic greeting with an upbeat voice will set the tone for the entire call. At a minimum, the greeting should include: Thanking the caller, stating your company name, introducing yourself, and offering your assistance. Depending on your operation, you may also want to mention your specials or make a suggestion.

For example: "Good afternoon, thank you for calling Pizano's, home of the Red Hot Popper Pizza. This is Susan, may I ask your name? Carlos, how may I help you this evening"?

Louis Pappas, owner of Louis Pappas Market Cafe of Tarpon Springs, Fl, knows the importance of training their a in proper phone etiquette. "The phone is often the guest's first contact with us and creates their first impression of our establishment…the energy behind the voice is what sells you."

Avoid placing callers on hold unless you must. When placing them on hold, be courteous and ask: "May I place you on hold?" If you cannot service them within the 30-second period, let them know you will be right with them.

Win over callers by communicating effectively with your voice. Since 15% of your message is communicated through the actual words you use and 85% through the quality of your voice, tone and inflection are very important. Smiling when you talk—a smile on your face will stimulate a positive attitude and make for a welcoming call.

Be an effective listener. Ask the right questions to help expedite the call and/or clarify the order.

Speak clearly and articulate your words. Do not use filler words like yah, nope, uh-huh, etc. Use polite words such as: please, thank you, excuse me, good morning, would you prefer, may I offer, certainly and please let me verify.

Jot down important information when taking messages. Make sure to legibly and accurately jot down the name, the date, the time, the call-back number and the complete message.

Be patient, even if you find that you have answered the same questions with other callers. If you do not know the answer to their question, always find out and follow up.

Use the caller's name whenever possible. A person's name is the single most important action you can take to make someone feel valued. Always address the guest by the name they used to introduce themselves to you. If you absolutely cannot get their name, use "Sir" or "Miss."

When on the phone, do not ignore walk-in guests. Use head nods or hand gestures to signal recognition. If necessary, politely place the caller on hold and acknowledge the walk-in promptly. Let the caller know you will be right with them. On the other hand, if you are talking with a walk-in guest and the telephone rings, excuse yourself and let the walk-in know you will be right with them.

Refer upset customers to the manager. A manager should quickly deal with an upset or dissatisfied guests.

Thank the caller. Always show your appreciation by using the caller's name when thanking them. Depending on the call, you may thank them for their feedback or for their order.

Bid farewell. After thanking the guest, close the conversation with a pleasant farewell. For example: "Have a great day and call us again soon."

Use the phone for business purposes and emergencies only. Tying up the phone talking with friends can mean thousands of dollars in lost business.

Pam Simos, Founder of Five Star Training, has 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She can be reached at www.five-startraining.com [2]. Email: [email protected] [3]. Toll-free: (800) 385-7827(STAR) Direct: (727) 743-4041.