Communicating over the phone... how hard can that be? After all, youngsters spend a better part of their time speaking on the phone. However, the truth is that communicating professionally over the phone is quite different from having a long, late-night phone chat with your best friend. While making professional calls, you have to be polite, courteous, concise, and accurate. If you're looking to prepare for your first job or just want to brush up on professionalism, read on.
Well begun is half done
The thing about first impressions is that you only get one chance at them. Make sure that you make the most of them. Even though the person you are speaking to can't see your facial expressions, she will still have an initial impression based on the tone of your voice. Be warm and polite and smile as you say hello (the smile will reverberate in your voice!). Follow this up with a concise introduction. For example, say "Hello, I am John from the editorial division at so-and-so publishing house. How may I help you?" This statement is informative, helpful and courteous.
Be alert, be prepared
Whenever you receive or make a professional phone call, be prepared with answers. First off, keep a pen and paper right next to the phone along with a list of references you might need. Listen to the problems or requests of the caller, make brief notes and try and help in every possible manner which includes transferring the call to the concerned department. While transferring a call, keep both the parties informed i.e. tell the caller that you are transferring her call to X from Y department and also inform X beforehand. A 'blind' transfer where both the parties are caught unaware can result in complete chaos. Here is how you should handle the situation for a client or a customer - "Mr. Z, since your problem is technical in nature, I am transferring your call to X from the IT department." Besides maintaining a professional and courteous tone, you must also make sure that you speak slowly and clearly. In face-to-face conversations, facial cues are very helpful for understanding a person's point of view. Since your caller won't have access to these, speak more slowly than you normally would. Additionally, pause for a moment after the caller has stopped speaking. This can prevent overlapping, especially if there is a minute time lag on the line.
Take concise messages
If the caller asks for your boss or a colleague who isn't present at the moment, handle the situation diplomatically. For instance, don't mention that X is still at lunch or X has gone out for a while. This screams of an unprofessional attitude. Instead, simply say that X isn't available right now and offer to take a message. Include the name of the caller, the company she represents, the reason for the phone call, the date and time in the message. Now, deliver the message to the concerned person right away.
Conclude the call
If you had called to make an inquiry, thank your host for their help before concluding a call. Alternatively, if you were the one providing the help, summarize the conversation and ask the caller if her purpose has been solved. Finally, say 'goodbye' as politely as you said 'hello' in the beginning.
Are you making a video call?
With the growing popularity of Skype, video calls have become extremely common in the professional world. It can be a little unsettling to speak to a stranger on a video call, but never lose eye contact with the caller. Look right into the webcam as you speak; if you look elsewhere repeatedly, the caller might take this as a sign of your disinterest. Video call settings can be tricky; therefore, test light and the sound beforehand to avoid any technical glitches during a conversation. A video call makes way for more exposure which means that a caller can see your face and your office at the same time. A cluttered desk will send out the worst possible message, as would flustered facial expressions. Remain calm, polite and smile repeatedly during the conversation. Chances are that the caller is feeling just as uncomfortable as you are and a smile will ease her as well as you. Besides focusing on the facial expressions, the visual state of your office, and the technical aspects, follow the tips meant for a regular phone call and things should work just fine for you!