How to Provide Great Customer Service over the Phone

virtual phone agentKevin Gillam offers some handy tips on how to make every phone call with your clients great.

Phone call answering perhaps isn’t the highlight of your day, but some of the biggest business deals are made over the phone. You make a first impression every time you answer the phone, so it’s worth your while to make it a great one.

Companies that use call answering services understand the value of a great virtual receptionist who can help them make meaningful connections, act as a positive listener, ask the right questions and offer helpful responses.

By following a few simple tips, you, too, can make your clients and prospects feel as if they’re in good hands.

Why Customer Service on the Phone Matters

It’s easy to take a half-hearted approach to phone call answering. Poor phone etiquette and auto-attendants are the easiest ways to turn customers away. However, it’s not just those on the front lines – like a virtual receptionist – who need to mind their customer service techniques. Managers, sales associates and CEOs all benefit from making personal connections with callers.

A customer who calls a business has a goal. That goal usually has to do with addressing a need so the person can continue (or start) doing business with you. By offering an initial experience that’s engaging and personable, you’re more likely to keep your customers and partners happy and loyal.

Use Positive Words

If you want to let callers know you value their business or time, let them know. Simple phrases like “I’m happy to…” or “It’s my pleasure” communicate that you value the opportunity to help the caller.

Avoid using negative phrases like “I don’t know,” “I can’t” or “You have/need to….” Instead, tell a caller about options that are available. For example, if you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the caller that you’ll connect him or her with someone who can help. Trade in the phrase “You have to…” for something more eloquent, such as “It may be best…” or “May I suggest….”

Sound Positive

Anyone who has ever had a positive customer service experience on the phone has never stated that the person who helped them was upset, grumpy, or unhappy. Callers almost always feel like they receive better customer service when the professional who helps them sounds cheery. When you put a literal smile on your face, you also put a smile in your voice, which makes you sound happy to customers. Everyone loves service with a smile.

Be a Good Listener

Rapport is harder to establish over the phone than in person, but good listening skills can help you gain trust and make a connection. Relate with a caller by acknowledging his or her story. Say a customer tells you that she was busy with housework because of a new grandchild. Take a moment to ask when the baby was born. The bit of extra attention you give a customer shows you were listening and are invested in the conversation.

If the person on the other line is upset, reflect and restate the problem. For instance, simply stating, “I can see how this type of mistake can make anyone feel frustrated. Can you tell me more about it?” shows you’re interested and care.

Practice good listening skills when a caller gives you vital information. This takes the form of repeating the information – like addresses, telephone numbers, account numbers, dates and times – back to the caller.


Customers don’t like future inconveniences, so most are happy when you take the bit of extra time to get the job done correctly the first time. If you’re not screening a call, feel free to ask a caller to spell important words that have more than one spelling, are difficult to spell, or that you can’t quite make out over the phone. (Did he say Dan or Dale?) After the person verifies the spelling, repeat it back with an extra clarifying element. Instead of merely repeating the letters, add an example for each. For instance, you may say, “So, the spelling of the street is C like cupcake, O like outstanding, U like upbeat…”

A friendly and respectful exchange can be what your company needs to stand out from the competition and gain long-term customers!

About the Author

Kevin GiillamKevin Gillam is Director of Marketing at Ruby Receptionists a leading live virtual receptionist service in Portland, Oregon. Harkening back to an era when every call to an office was answered by a friendly receptionist, Ruby provides personalized, remote receptionist service.

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