How I overcame my fear of the telephone

By Laurie Parish | April 23, 2013

A TIME Mobility poll found that Americans ages 18-29 send and receive an average of nearly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 telephone phone calls. Even in the 65 and over group texting edges out calling.

I don’t think this means that customer service via the telephone is now obsolete. In fact, I think it is more important than ever to have a comfort level with all types of customer engagement channels.

Delivering great service over the telephone is an art, but is it a lost one? Well, according to the statistics mentioned above people prefer texting or emailing to using the phone, due to fear of confrontation, dislike of disruption, and an inability to express feelings person to person via hand gestures.

But why is it even more important than ever to reach customers by telephone?
One word—relationships.

It is difficult to build rapport and empathize with a customer via email, text, or chat. A customer is more likely to do business with a company that s/he has a relationship with. This causes a great dilemma – how to get there when the audience is unwilling?

I grew up in an era without smart phones or personal cell phones. As a teen I worked part time in a real estate office in reception. When booking appointments, typing Offers to Purchase, and doing administration for agents, I began to live on the phone from 5pm to 9pm every weekday.

I learned how to…
• Not only keep my cool, but also to use humour and charm to build a relationship with the person on the other end of the phone.
• Calm the ferocious tenant who was irate over the home they rented being put up for sale and would try to block all viewings.
• Tell from the tone in a person’s voice whether they were kicking tires or sincerely wanted to view a home.

I not only began to like it, but also to excel at it. People do respond positively to a friendly and informative telephone conversation. This small skill served me well throughout my career in sales and into customer success.

Customer service today requires the same finesse in a more challenging environment. Competing in the marketplace with the overwhelming noise coming at prospects and customers via social media, email, phone, text messaging, billboards, and TV advertising is intense and not for the faint of heart.

Picking up the phone and beginning a conversation with a chat about weather or baseball creates a rapport. Rapport creates improved communication and a better sense of the personalities that you’re dealing with on a daily basis.

You ignore this communication channel at some risk and all it takes is a little practice. There are some great tips for making it work for you including… adjusting your posture… smiling… making natural small talk… and using the name of the person on the other end are just a few.

Make your conversation memorable in some way and that contact will remember you when you eventually visit or email them later. They may even call you next time.

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