Contact Center Trends

20 Ways Poor Call Center Phone Etiquette Can Ruin Small Businesses

By Shauna Geraghty

0 min read

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According to a recent study, nearly 75% of customers determine whether to continue doing business with a company based on their interactions with customer service. Even worse, many prospective customers will decide whether to engage with a company based entirely on the first phone interaction — making the first impression crucial to the health of your business.

Even though the statistics on this are well documented, somehow poor call center phone etiquette is still rampant throughout sales and customer service departments — creating enormous potential to ruin your business if you’re not careful. Not sure how? Check out 20 ways poor call center phone etiquette can ruin small businesses and avoid these mistakes before its too late!

1. Lack of a friendly greeting

You know what they say about the power of a good first impression? You would be amazed how much a simple friendly tone (or lack thereof) can make or break the rest of the exchange. Remind everyone to smile for every greeting — it is proper call center phone etiquette that customers can “hear” through the phone.

2. Impossible to understand

Your call center relies upon clear and easy to understand agents — if they mumble, have an indecipherable accent or otherwise cannot be understood, your calls will be over before they start. For customer service departments, this is especially poor as your customers will only become more agitated.

3. Ambiguous purpose for the call

Still working on your sales script? Then don’t make any calls. If your agents aren’t able to convey a clear, direct call to action then prospective customers won’t understand what you want and will feel you’re wasting their time.

4. Forgetting to ask if the time is convenient to speak

Running a small business? Your time is precious and you can’t always get on the phone. Well, your customers may have the same issues. Teach your agents proper etiquette by encouraging them to ask whether the customer has time to speak right now or if another time would be better. It is a small but powerful gesture that conveys respect and care.

5. Inability to manage the customer’s request

Customer service departments have to be able to provide good customer service — which ultimately means addressing the needs and concerns of customers. You may not be able to assist everyone exactly how they want to be assisted but failing to manage even basic requests is a recipe for disaster.

6. No transfer of information along with the caller

It happens more often than not in a call center — a caller ends up with one agent only to have a request that requires the assistance of another. They are transferred — but the 15-minute explanation of their problem is not. The new agent needs all this information — and ruins the customer’s experience by forcing him or her to repeat the problem again. A great way to ruin a small business.

7. No one available to take the call

Are there times when high call volume makes it impossible to handle calls efficiently? Call center software can help you manage high volume and prioritize callers, but ultimately you need a plan B to get all hands on deck. And customers waiting should never wait blind — give them an option to receive a call back or let them know how long their wait should be.

8. Non-functioning voicemail

If your agents’ voicemail boxes are full or unavailable, you will irritate callers. This is an easy one to avoid — just check them regularly!

9. Lack of decision maker or management on site

Sometimes callers have issues that must be elevated to management — and not having anyone who can serve in that capacity available to manage a problem is a recipe for disaster. Small businesses with limited resources and staff may face this problem more often than large call centers — but simply keeping the cell phone number of the decision maker handy can help reduce the risk of not having management available to handle problems.

10. No previous call history available

Recurring customer service problems or a long sales cycle depend on call history — not having it available to the call center agent is a recipe for disaster. Your customers can and will go to someone who will remember their personal details.

11. Inefficient automated system options

Whether you have just a handful of options or people to reach, or an extensive network of call center agents, your automated system needs to function as efficiently as possible. Try to limit the number of menu options and automated dialogs callers have to get through — and keep an option for speaking to a live person available when possible.

12. No call queue management

Heavy call volume? Make sure you have a system in place to manage and notify call queues — otherwise your callers will already be annoyed by the time they get to a live person. And consider call back from queue options — nearly 75% of customers say they would prefer the option to be called back rather than wait in a queue.

13. Poor connections between departments

Failure to transfer calls easily between agents and representatives is a good way to ruin your small business — make sure everyone has directions to transfer calls as well as all necessary phone extensions to facilitate transfers.

14. No follow up or return calls

Proper call center phone etiquette necessitates the opportunity to return calls or follow up on prospective sales (or issues if that is the case). Small businesses can reduce the risk of this problem by using automated call center software to trigger tasks and follow up notifications.

15. Rote scripts without personalization

Nothing says “we don’t care about our customers” more than an inability to go slightly off script — if your call center agents are unable to do more than repeat predetermined responses, your customers will be unhappy.

16. Lack of customer buy-in

If your call center engages in sales or cold calls, one of the most important things you can do is make sure to get your customers’ buy-in — which you can do by making sure there is interest early in the phone exchange. Don’t annoy or alienate customers by getting into the entire sales pitch without knowing whether your customer is interested.

17. Not hearing the full story

Angry or upset callers need your agents’ full and undivided attention — and they need empathy and a personal reaction. Not listening to the full story is a great way to ruin your small business — your callers will feel ignored and unappreciated.

18. Not going the extra mile or attempting to find a suitable solution

While you may never be able to help every caller, every time, never being able to assist callers past routine issues will ultimately result in failure.

19. Forgetting to ask for or properly pronounce the caller’s name

Any phone interaction should start by simply getting the caller’s first name. And then saying it correctly — don’t create a nickname or add an accent to a name if there isn’t one.

20. No directory or operator to assist with reaching the right person

Reduce the risk of annoying customers by making sure the right people and departments are easy to find and connect to. Creating obstacles, such as entering an account number, without providing alternate routes to help, such as to speak to an operator because you don’t know your account number, will only further your customer’s problems with your company.

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Shauna Geraghty

As the first U.S. employee, Shauna helped to scale Talkdesk to over 1,000 employees in 7 offices globally. During her tenure, she has built Talkdesk's Marketing, Talent and HR functions from the ground up. Shauna has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has applied foundational knowledge from the field of psychology to help propel Talkdesk along its hyper-growth trajectory.