Jul 09

CUSTOMER SERVICE CENTER: Improve your telephone voice

smile-when-you-talkApproximately 84 percent of customers will judge a phone rep’s attitude based on his tone of voice, rather than his words, according to telephone training consultant Kathleen Brown. She suggests you practice perfecting these aspects to ensure that your voice sounds as pleasant as possible:

  • Pitch. A monotone voice can indicate boredom. Vary your pitch: deep tones create a sense of confidence, while higher tones convey enthusiasm.
  • Rate. Many phone reps speak too quickly for their customers to keep up with them. But speaking too slowly can sound condescending.
  • Volume. Make sure you’re speaking directly into the mouthpiece, which amplifies your voice. If you don’t, you can sound too quiet and less confident.
  • Articulation. Pronounce every letter of your words, taking care not to drop the final letter of words (as in “How ya doin’?”). Mumbling or running words together may create the impression that you simply don’t care.
  • Pausing. Replace filler words (such as “um,” “like,” and “you know what I’m saying?”) with pauses. Pausing will give you a chance to gather your thoughts while letting your listener take in what you’ve said.
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Jun 11

CUSTOMER SERVICE CORNER: Customer service no-no’s — and what you should say instead

Impress your customersAs a customer service professional, you know that little things — an ill-chosen word or a lapse in your tone of voice — make a big difference.

Sometimes just being mindful of what sorts of phrases touch a nerve — and knowing what to say instead — makes the difference between a positive customer experience and a disgruntled soon-to-be-former customer.

Make the right choice with these three pairings to keep customers coming back:

“I will” v. “I’ll try.” Don’t say “I’ll try…” when explaining what you’re going to do for a customer — she will be skeptical about whether she’ll get results. “I will…” sends a message of confidence. Use it even when you’re not certain of the outcome.

“Will you” v. “You have to.” “Will you” makes you appear polite and respectful of the customer’s time. “You have to” seems indifferent and calls attention to a possible inconvenience.

“That’s our policy” v. “Because…” Explaining the reason for any customer request — for credit card or other information, for example — will foster cooperation and make the experience more pleasant for both of you.

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Jun 09

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Become an effective communicator

Develop sharp communication skills No matter what you’re trying to do in the office, everything revolves around communication. Leading your team, explaining company policies and running successful meetings all require sharp communication skills. Unfortunately, there’s no single definition of “sharp communication skills.”

Journalist Dr. Robert Ramsey has applied his years of supervisory and educational experience in books like Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way and How To Say the Right Thing Every Time. Here are his tips to communicate more effectively in your place of work:

Speak Straight. Don’t mix messages or try to use fancy jargon. Focus on the main idea that you need to convey and communicate as directly as possible. If you appear wishy-washy, your subordinates could second-guess your sincerity and commitment.

Anticipate. Organize your thoughts and anticipate the major objections to your proposals. Extra preparation will help you present your ideas clearly.

Consider Your Audience. You communicate up to managers and down to subordinates, so it’s easy to forget who your audience is. This is one of the biggest mistakes a supervisor can make, Ramsey says. To avoid it, always double-check your presentation slides and e-mail messages before you deliver them or hit “send.”

Tell The Truth. If you try to cover something up, you’re going to get caught. You’re better off being upfront; everyone will appreciate your honesty.

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May 19

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: 4 qualities to look for in your coach

qualities-in-your-coachYou’ve poured over your company’s balance sheets and attempted every in-house training you can think of — but your business still seems shaky.

Solution: Now may be the time to bring in a business coach, says Gary Hensen, president and founder of www.BusinessCoach.com. A coach can help you “focus on your goals, make concrete plans, and work towards executing them in an effective manner,” he explains.

Remember: Not every coach is created equal. Look for these professional qualities in yours:

  • Accountability. Your coach’s job is to whip you and your employees into shape. That means he must be accountable for pushing you toward excellence — but it also means that he must help you be more accountable for the decisions you make each day. How: A business coach might ask you to list your duties and responsibilities, and their effect on the company. Then he might help you prioritize and streamline your obligations so that they are more effective.
  • Open communication. When you hire a coach for your company, you must ensure that he communicates his ideas and strategies effectively. For instance, if he wants to make a change, he should be able to explain concisely why the change is important, how it will happen, and what bumps you’ll encounter in the process. Best: Before you sign a coaching contract, take a few days to interact with the coach. Does he respond effectively to emails or telephone calls? Do you understand what he hopes to help you accomplish? If not, you may want to keep looking.
  • Strategic planning. Anyone can tell you what you’re doing wrong, but a good business coach will also help you figure out ways to correct those problems and get your company moving in the right direction. Do this: Ask a potential coach to share a few of the winning strategies he has developed for other companies. Find out what challenges he overcame to develop that successful plan.
  • Leadership development. Your coach isn’t just a problem solver — he should also a teacher. Ask him how he’ll turn your employees into leaders.
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Apr 21

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Promote better communication by eliminating physical barriers

promote-better-communicationWith e-mail, telephone, instant messaging and a host of other communication channels available in today’s workplaces, you may find it difficult to figure out which one works best for your department.

But remember that face-to-face communication is still by far most effective.

So, what can you do to encourage your employees to speak to one another face-to-face more often? Try breaking down the physical barriers in your office to allow everyone that important in-person contact every day. Try the following strategies to eliminate the physical barriers that may exist in your workplace:

  • Communicate in cubes. If many employees work in separate offices, try restructuring your workstations into cubicles. Although you may hear some moans and groans from your employees about the cubicles, having everyone working in “open air” together will encourage them to talk to one another in person instead of picking up the phone or sending an e-mail. And explain to your employees that better face-to-face communication is your goal so they understand why you made the change.
  • Have an open-door policy. As a supervisor, you may have an “open-door policy” with your employees, but make sure they have one too. If you want to stick with separate offices instead of cubicles, ask your employees to keep their doors open to promote better communication in your workplace.
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