Proper Telephone Etiquette – Sales Matter

by Miss Mentor on September 29, 2010

The question of the week concerns telephone etiquette and an obnoxious co-worker . . .

I work in a 3 person office. there is one co-worker who feels she is the boss and can make changes at will because she is older and has the most seniority. However, we all hold equal positions. This co-worker has decided to answer all calls on our main line on the first ring. If the call is not for her she tells the customer in the future please call on their priviate number making the customer feel badly and apologetic. Yet we dare not do her calls that way for fear of her lashing out. Please let us know how to handle this delicate situation. (Using proper telephone etiquette).

Okay, so normally I suggest you handle things among each other and avoid getting “management” involved . . . THIS however is not one of those times. Here’s the distinction. Your co-worker is upsetting clients. If that’s true, that is very, very bad. If she’s irritating you, well, that’s too bad. but if she’s irritating clients . . . I’d fire her. Seriously, she’d get 2 reprimands and then be asked to leave. That straightforward. No joke.

Making a customer feel inferior, inadequate or otherwise uncomfortable about working with your company – that is an offense for which I have no trouble writing a pink slip – the sooner the better. Your customers create your jobs. Hers too. She needs an officer of the company to help her understand this reality. If she chooses to answer the main line on one ring, great. But she must understand appropriate protocol for directing callers to the appropriate party, pleasantly.

If I were in your shoes, I would speak with the director of HR or (if you are without a true HR – is the 3 person office the only office or are you part of a larger company?) the highest ranking officer who will listen to you with patience. If it is just the 3 of you, who owns the most of the company – that person gets to be in charge. Explain how she is answering the phones. Explain (most importantly) how customers are relating the experience to you. If the HR director or company officer is blase about the situation,

1. They don’t think it is a problem. You work for a sinking ship – get out asap.
2. They don’t believe you – you do not have credibility at your company . . . get out even faster if you value your sanity.
3. They don’t have the power to do anything about it – go higher. Find that person’s superior. The owner of the company will care.

If you can, explain the problem in terms of cash flow. Has she actually cost you additional sales on a client account? Can you quantify it? Existing clients are the easiest to gain additional sales from . . . so, anyone that interferes with growing sales among existing clients is costing your company big time. Think about it this way:

In a service practice, it may cost an average of $429 to acquire a new client. But it costs almost $0 to sell that same client the newest version, latest update, etc. So additional sales to the same account cost $429 less to acquire.

Find out the numbers for your company (your controller/CFO will know). What is your client acquisition cost? What is the sales to existing client ratio? It’s more work than sitting around complaining, but it makes you a valuable voice. Anyone who let’s an employee berate a client is a fool. She must be reprimanded. Period.

Customers are not gods, and they don’t always know best, but they do pay your bills.

(That being said, some customers are not worth keeping so if your boss doesn’t do anything, maybe the offending office mate knows how to get rid of the bad ones. It’s only a problem if she’s driving off the good ones.)

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

-Miss Mentor

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