Using the Phone More Effectively
These days everyone seems focused on the touch screen or keyboard of smartphone use – forgetting that the “cel” or “mobile” or “iThingie” is also useful for voice communication – even for social media
Indeed the telephone is still one of the most useful of communication media. But it needs skills to use it well. The following will give you some very useful basics.
Telephone Contact Essentials
Any telephone conversation is simply two-way communication.
Like any communication, there may be a good deal hanging on it. Any problem will dilute the chances of success. And the problems of ‘voice-only’ communication are considerable, and in some cases prohibitive. Try describing to someone how to tie a necktie for example – without any gestures or demonstration. It pays, therefore, to consider all the factors that can make vocal communication successful, and not underrate it as ,simply a telephone call.
Such factors are perhaps best reviewed in terms of how you use the telephone itself, your voice and manner, obtaining and using feedback, and planning. The telephone distorts the voice, exaggerating the rate of speech and heightening the tone. You must talk into the mouthpiece in a clear, normal voice (if you are a woman, it can help to pitch your voice lower.) It is surprising how many things can interfere with the simple process of talking directly into the mouthpiece: smoking; eating; trying to write; holding a file or book open at the correct page and holding the phone; sorting through the correct change in a call box; allowing others in the room to interrupt; or allowing a bad-quality line to disrupt communication (it is better to phone back). This is all so obvious, yet so easy to get a little wrong, thus reducing the effectiveness of communication.
Voice and Manner
On the phone you have to rely on your voice and manner in making an impression. None of the other factors of personality are perceptible. Here are some suggestions to help you.
Speak at a slightly slower rate than usual.
Speaking too rapidly makes it easier to be misunderstood and also mistrusted, although speaking too slowly can make the listener impatient or irritated.
Smile. Use a warm tone of voice.
Though a smile cannot be seen, it does change the tone of your voice. Make sure you sound pleasant, efficient and perhaps most important, interested and enthusiastic about the conversation. Enthusiasm is contagious.
Get the emphasis right.
Make sure that you emphasise the parts of the communication that are important to the listener, or for clarity. You only have your voice to give the emphasis you want.
Make sure you are heard, especially with names, numbers etc. It is easy to confuse Ss and Fs for instance, or find 15 per cent taken to mean 50 per cent.
Have the courage of your convictions. Do not say: ‘possible’, ‘maybe’, ‘I think’, or ‘that could be’ (watch this one, professionals are apt to be far too circumspect)
Ensure a continuous flow of information, but in short sentences, a logical sequence and one thing at a time. Watch for and avoid the wordiness that creeps in when we need time to think, e.g. ‘at this moment in time’ (now), ,along the lines of’ (like).
Whether jargon is of the organisation (e.g. abbreviated description of a department name), the specialisation (e.g. technical descriptions of tax regulations or legal procedures for instance), or general (e.g. phrases like ‘I’ll see to that immediately’ – in five minutes or five hours? ‘Give me a moment’ -literally?). At least check that the other person understands they may not risk losing face by admitting you are being too technical for them, and a puzzled look will not be visible. Jargon can too easily become a prop to self-confidence.
Anything that conjures up images in the mind of the listener will stimulate additional response from someone restricted to the single stimulus of voice.
Your style will come across differently depending on your position. For example, there may even be certain kinds of call that you can make better standing up rather than sitting down, such as debt collecting or laying down the law perhaps. (Really! Try it, it works.)
Get the right tone.
Be friendly without being flippant. Be efficient, courteous, whatever is called for.
Be yourself. Avoid adopting a separate, contrived, telephone ‘persona’. Consider the impression you want to give: Mature? Expert? Authoritative? In command of the detail? Try and project just that.
Your intention is to prompt the other person into action. You should speak naturally in a way that is absolutely clear. Here are some useful additional rules.
Be courteous. Courtesy makes good conversation easier . “Please” and ‘Thank you’ are words that will be appreciated
Be effective. Know what your objective is and focus on achieving it
Project the right image. Decide on what image will be most effective with your listener. Fun? Formal? There are many alternatives
Be personal. Use “you” and ‘I’ – say what you will do.
Be appreciative of their time.