Ordinary people who know nothing of phonetics or elocution have difficulties in understanding slow speech composed of perfect sounds, while they have no difficulty in comprehending an imperfect gabble if only the accent and rhythm are natural. ~ Alexander Graham Bell
Whether in service or sales, dealing with customers over the phone demands a different approach than live interactions. In person, the customer can use both your tone and your body language to interpret the message holistically. On the phone, however, the customer has only your tone to help them decode your message.
If you have a dog, you understand the importance of tone. If I ask my dog, Sophie, if she wants to go out with a dull and flat tone, she might look at me and yawn. However, if I ask her the same thing in an excited tone, her tail starts wagging and she starts jumping to tell me she is ready to go for a walk. The only difference here is tone.
Tone also has an effect on people. For example, a low tone normally indicates you are bored with the person on the phone.
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My point here is that tone matters. With in-person interactions, you can communicate confidence and knowledge with your expressions and body language. On the phone, the customer has to use the tone of your voice to make all of these judgments. One study found customers trust the tone in your voice much more than the words you are using.
Clearly, tone is important to master. So when dealing with a customer over the phone, you really need to be smiling.
Smiling while talking makes your voice warmer and friendlier because the vocal cords are pulled differently than when you are not smiling. Physically smiling helps the voice smile as well.
One entrepreneur I know put a mirror in front of each member of his customer service staff so they could see if they were smiling when they were talking. This has made a big difference in the way his customers respond.
Another thing that works is to put family pictures around your cubicle. It is awfully hard for me not to smile when I see a picture of my grandson, Jackson, playing with his new dog.
Yet another thing you can do is make sure you breathe. Your tone will never sound friendly if you are continually grasping for air. Try to pause for two seconds after each sentence. I know two seconds sounds like a lot when you are talking, but it will give the customer time to digest the information and improve your tone significantly.
Now what about those inevitable cases when you are dealing with an upset customer? One of the best things to do here is stand up and walk around. This will reduce your tension and allow you to maintain that friendly, smiley tone.