Technology, in the form of phones and computers, has become a kind of ubiquitous front door for customers to use any time and any place where they have the desire for a product or service. At least in theory, technology gives customers a more personal help desk than they are likely to find face to face in the busy rush of modern business. If you answer the phone as part of your organization’s service to others, that service is on the line.

Perhaps your job is to connect the customer to the right person or the right department. Maybe your job is mining the rich field of sales opportunities over the phone. Maybe you were hired to answer complicated technical questions. Or maybe you’ve got this job to tide you over while you write that novel. Whatever your situation, when you answer that call, for the customer, your voice is the voice of your company.

Caring for customers on the phone is a powerful customer benefit that builds positive and productive customer relationships. But you also gain some important benefits from customer care on the phone. It simplifies your work, it prevents many of the complications that can make your job unpleasant and overwhelming, and it makes you an essential member of your service team with a solid track record of adding value.

When you provide service on the phone, you wear many hats and play many roles. First and foremost, you can think of yourself as the host at an event. All business is people business, and all people business is relationship based. As far as your customers are concerned, you are the company. From their point of view, you are the consummate insider, the one who has valuable connections and abilities and upon whom their fate depends. To play the host successfully, you’ve got to know how to make your customer feel welcome!

Good record keeping will help you immensely, particularly when it comes to titles. Someone who recently went through a bitter divorce probably won’t like hearing Mrs. even one more time. Call a teenager Mister and he’ll think you’re talking to his dad. When someone introduces themselves as a ‘doctor,’ that’s usually a sign that they’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy to become one and they’d like to get a little extra mileage out of their title! How you say a person’s name is important too. The more formal name they’ve given you is usually preferred to an informal name unless you have permission. A good rule of thumb is that whenever you are unsure about how to address your customer, ask.

As a host, you may be responsible for a little small talk too! It isn’t that everyone likes small talk, but most people like to talk at least a little bit about themselves. Talk to the person first, their problem comes second. But when your customer needs to talk to someone in another department, that’s not the best time for small talk! As a good host, you’ll want to be sure the call gets transferred to the appropriate party in a welcoming way, and then follow up to make sure that your customers are truly being served!

Remember too that it isn’t just what you say but how you say it! It’s good to practice using the kind of language that makes customers say WOW! A study done at the University of Texas by Robert Peterson found that customer/provider relationships tend to be love/hate relationships, and that the emotional aspect of service is the most important aspect, yet it is most often neglected by service providers! Words used wisely can make something seem exciting instead of dull, or someone seem engaged instead of unconcerned. When a service rep says ‘You have my personal guarantee,’ your customers know they’re in good hands! If you say “No problem!” the customer feels like they’re talking to the owner.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Rick Kirschner has helped millions improve their communication skills and have better relationships and careers. He is co-author of the classic, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, and co-creator of the all-time bestselling audio and video program, How to Deal with Difficult People. His new book How to Click With People (July 2011) reveals the secret to better relationships in business and in life. For a free one-hour audio on Difficult People, visit: