WOULD YOU REPEAT THAT, PLEASE?
If 93% of communication is non-verbal, how can we ensure people understand what we say and mean when we are on the telephone? Some of the most frustrating discussions occur because we can’t understand what is being said. A voice that is too low, too slow, too fast, too soft, or too mumbled can be the difference between a successful business interaction and a lost client. Unfortunately, few people realize exactly how poorly they come across, especially on the telephone, and the power of speaking clearly.
WHAT YOU SAY
While many businesses train employees on the products and/or services they offer, few pay attention to the important aspects of a telephone call. And, since phone calls are often the first interaction with new clients, it is important to make sure all employees know what to say, and how to say it.
The greeting and closing of a call can make or break a caller’s trust in your company. Greetings need to be pleasant, informative, brief, and sincere. The greeting script should be short, include the name of the company, the name of the person answering the phone, and possibly a prompt to find out what the caller is interested in – why they are calling.
The closing provides a final impression, and therefore is equally important. It, too, should be pleasant and brief, and should also be used to ensure you have addressed the caller’s needs.
Thank you for calling, enjoy the rest of your day.
By addressing the caller by name, and indicating a sincere concern for their needs, you can build trust – and that can help convert a caller to a client. But, it’s not just what you say that is important.
HOW YOU SAY IT
Studies indicate that 87% of the opinions people form about us through telephone conversations are based on the tone of our voice. People are more likely to listen and interact with someone who has a friendly voice, over someone who sounds bored, angry, frustrated, or rushed.
A friendly tone of voice can be achieved through 6 basic qualities:
- Inflection. Avoid a monotone voice and instead, raise and lower your voice to emphasize certain points.
- Soft Volume. People don’t like to be yelled at, so speak normally, and with confidence. Too soft is just as bad as too loud. You don’t want people to have to ask you to repeat yourself, so you need to find a balance.
- Relaxed tone. Give your voice a more gentle and pleasant sound by relaxing your upper body, shoulders, neck, and abdominal muscles. Take deep breaths to relax.
- Pause. When you speak without pausing you sound rushed and impatient. Using adequate pauses helps exude a sense of confidence and authority.
- Speed. When we speak too fast, our words can become muffled and jumbled. In addition, the people we are speaking too may have trouble keeping up with us and may lose interest and stop listening. The same applies to speaking too slowly.
- Smile. While they may not see you, callers can “hear” the smile in your voice. Smiling while talking on the phone helps you come across as friendly and helpful. The more you smile, the happier you will be, too.
CLEAR AS A BELL
Vocal clarity and confidence can give you a more successful vocal image, and that can create a positive impression on your caller. There are a variety of exercises you can do to help improve your diction, but to start, you need to truly hear yourself speak because how we sound in our head is not the same as how we sound to others.
- Record yourself speaking. A videotape is best because then you can both hear and see yourself speak. Read a passage from a book, or an article from a magazine, and speak normally.
- Listen to your voice and identify how you sound relative to the 6 qualities we discussed.
- Practice diction exercises including tongue twisters and consonant practice.
- Whether standing or sitting, have good posture. This can provide breath support and help you speak clearly.
- Don’t eat or chew gum while on the phone. No matter how talented you think are at hiding it, food and gum get in the way of your tongue and callers pick up on it. Additionally, eating sends a message to your caller that you are not really interested in what they are saying.
- Try different inflections to express interest and excitement.
- Practice, practice, practice. Creating a clear, friendly voice takes time and practice. Work on it a few times a week, recording each practice session so you can hear what is working and what is not.
As you develop a clear and friendly voice, on and off the telephone, you may find it easier to work with clients and co-workers because you will have a confident yet friendly voice – and that can be very powerful.
Record yourself answering the phone several times. What emotion is conveyed through your telephone greeting?
Dugdale, S. Diction Exercises – to make sure they get your message. Write-out-loud.com. Retrieved online Sept. 24, 2013 from: http://www.write-out-loud.com/dictionexercises.html
Hunt, A. (2013) The Power of Your Speaking Voice – How Good Diction Helps. Hubpages.com. Retrieved online Sept. 24, 2013 from: http://vocalcoach.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Clean-Up-Your-Diction-Starting-Now
Noelle, C. (2010) Three Part Business Phone Call: Professional Telephone Greeting and Closing. Hubpages. Retrieved online Sept 24, 2013 from: http://caranoelle.hubpages.com/hub/3-Part-Business-Phone-Greeting-and-Closing
wikiHow.com. How to Develop a Friendly Tone of Voice. Retrieved online Sept 24, 2013 from: http://www.wikihow.com/Develop-a-Friendly-Tone-of-Voice