Administrative Support: How to answer phone call and deal with clients queries
This is day 3 of our five days training specially design for our area coordinators.
We have already talked about the history behind Excellent Home Classes, who an area coordinator is, the roles, qualities needed and how much you can earn.
We have also looked at marketing and how to get students, parents and tutors alike.
If you have not yet read this, I suggest you start from here:
Day 2 – Marketing: How to source for students, parents and tutors
In this lesson, we are going to look at administrative support and in specific we will be looking at how to answer phone calls and respond to customer’s queries.
Answering phone calls
Using proper telephone etiquette, whether answering or making calls, leaves your respondents with a favourable impression of you and your company.
If the person answering the call is unprofessional, it may be that customer’s last impression, too!
Here’s how to answer the phone properly and win business instead of losing it.
- Try to answer the phone within three rings. Answering a phone too fast can catch the caller off guard and waiting too long can make the caller angry.
- Answer with a friendly greeting. (Example – “Good Afternoon, Excellent Home Classes, Naa speaking, how may I help you?”).
- Smile – it shows, even through the phone lines; speak in a pleasant tone of voice – the caller will appreciate it.
- Ask the caller for their name, even if their name is not necessary for the call. This shows you have taken an interest in them.
- If the caller has reached a wrong number, be courteous. take the time to find out where they should be calling/to whom they should be speaking.
- Use the hold button when leaving a line so that the caller does not accidentally overhear conversations being held nearby.
- When you call someone and they answer the phone, do not say “Who am I speaking with?” without first identifying yourself: (Example – “This is Romeo from Excellent Home Classes. To whom am I speaking?”)
- Always know and state the purpose of the communication.
- When you reach a wrong number, don’t argue with the person who answered the call or keep them on the line. Say: “I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number. Please excuse the interruption.” And then hang up.
- If you told a person you would call at a certain time, call them as you promised. If you need to delay the conversation, call to postpone it, but do not make the other person wait around for your call.
- If you don’t leave a number/message for someone to call you back, don’t become angry if they are not available when you call again.
Handling Rude or Impatient Callers
- Stay calm. Try to remain diplomatic and polite. Getting angry will only make them angrier.
- Always show willingness to resolve the problem or conflict.
- Try to think like the caller. Remember, their problems and concerns are important.
- If you are not in a position to help: Offer to have someone talk to the caller or call him/her back if the caller persists.
- If you are in a position to help: Be willing to handle irate callers. Speak slowly and calmly. Be firm with your answers, but understanding. Sometimes the irate caller just wants someone in a supervisory capacity to listen to their story even if you are unable to help them.
Placing Calls on Hold
When putting a caller on hold, always ask permission. Examples: “Would you mind holding while I check?” or “Can you hold briefly while I see if Mr. Jones is available?” When taking a caller off of hold, always thank them for holding.
- Sometimes you may have other lines ringing too. Remember to write down the names of callers holding so you avoid asking who the caller is holding for more than once.
- Be prepared with pen and message slip when you answer the phone.
- When taking messages be sure to ask for:
- Caller’s name (asking the caller for correct spelling.)
- Caller’s phone number and/or extension (including area code)
- Ask about the subject of the call.
- Repeat the message to the caller.
- Be sure to fill in the date, time, and your initials.
There are several ways that you can end a long phone call without making up a story or sounding rude:
- Leave the conversation open, and let the other party end the conversation.
- Promise to finish your discussion at another time.
- End on an “up” note.
- Tell the person how much you’ve enjoyed speaking with him/her.
- Before hanging up, be sure that you have answered all the caller’s questions
- Always end with a pleasantry such as : “Have a nice day” or “It was nice speaking with you”
As long as you are honest and polite with the other person, you shouldn’t have any problems getting off the phone and onto something else.
Responding To Emails
As an area coordinator, emails will be the most common form of business communication so it’s important to get it right. Although emails usually aren’t as formal as letters, they still need to be professional to present a good image of you and the company.
Professional emails are neither written like letters nor text messages. They are in the middle. They are not as long and overly formal as letters neither are they as short and overly informal as text messages.
Below are 9 tips that would help you write and respond to emails more professionally and effectively:
- Choose Your Email Subject Very Carefully
Time is very precious. Parents today receive hundreds of emails daily and often have little time to decide which of them is worth reading. So, ensure your subject is not ambiguous and is straight to the point, for example,
“In-Home Tuition for Deborah”
Avoid using ‘URGENT’ or ‘IMPORTANT’ as subjects in professional emails. They are commonly used for spams.
- Address Your Email Recipient Correctly
Your address sets the tone of the email. It determines whether it is cordial, serious or casual.
You can begin a professional email with ‘Dear Ms. Williams’ or ‘Hello Ruth’ depending on your relationship and previous communication with the person.
‘Hello Ruth’ is okay for someone you have already developed a form of relationship with and can call by the first name. However, ‘Dear Ms. Williams’ is a more appropriate address for people you are contacting for the first, second or third time.
In the end, you should always aim at making the communication more cordial after the first few interactions. After a while of continuous communication, you should address each other by first names.
- Introduce the Email Body on a Good Note
In responding to professional emails, it is always better to open with a compliment, for example,
‘’Thanks for a swift response’’ or ‘’I really appreciate the detailed explanation you gave’’.
Even when you receive a nasty email, you must write professionally in your response. Generally, replying emails warmly and professionally puts your reader in a good mood to answer your questions or requests and shows you are business-minded.
Do not respond to rude emails right away. Take a break to ensure that you are acting as intended and not reacting to the contents of the email.
When writing a fresh email, you can introduce yourself warmly by stating where you met the person previously or where you got the email address.
- Always Acknowledge the Receipt of Emails
Though it is more professional to reply emails in time, sometimes you would need more time to think or prepare the documents you need to send. In times like this, let your reader know you have seen the mail and would get back to them soon.
You can respond with:
Thanks for a swift response. I shall get back to you shortly.
That is a great way to let your clients or partners know you take them very seriously.
- Answer all Questions in the Email and Anticipate Other Questions
When responding to professional emails, first answer the questions in the email before passing on fresh information.
It is better to answer them stepwise or start with the first question to the last. Also, you should answer each question using a short paragraph.
You should also quote what part of the email you are responding to.
- Keep it Simple and Sweet (KISS)
Professional emails are not formal letters and should not be excessively long neither are they text messages, so they should not be meatless.
Remember, email recipients are eager to know what you have written but do not have the luxury of time to read through unnecessarily long emails. To simplify the reading of your email, use one paragraph for each point and use bullets for lists.
Basically, write the information with little or just enough explanation to help your reader understand. Avoid using abbreviations like ‘U’, ‘HTH’,’ASAP’, and avoid colloquial English also.
Read over your emails before hitting ‘Send’ or ‘Reply’. Always bear in mind that once the message is sent, it cannot be modified. Check carefully for grammatical errors before sending a professional email.
- Conclude the Body of Your Email Intentionally
If you expect a response, state it. For example’
I look forward to your response.
Otherwise, just conclude the email such that your reader does not need to reply you unnecessarily.
- Sign off Cordially
How you sign off an email is important. It often reflects your personality.
Unlike in letters where most people use ‘Yours faithfully’, it is often better to end your emails with,
- Use a Professional Email Signature
Your email signature is not just for the professionalism of your email. It is a major contact tool.
You can use something like,
Excellent Home Classes
As a recap, you had better make sure your email replies are:
Clear and direct and unambiguous
You need to know what they ask you for and what you want to say in the email. Just write it shortly and briefly because there’s no point in writing thousands of useless words.
Make your responses one-to-one (between you and the reader)
You should definitely be the one who takes responsibility for your email response and speak directly to the receiver.
For example, instead of writing:
It would be appreciated if you are able to send the final contract tomorrow.
You should write:
I would really appreciate if you are able to send the final contract tomorrow.
Remember to respond within 24 hours
In business, everything should be fast. Responding to an email within a day (24 hours) is good etiquette. Certainly, we should response as soon as possible so your receiver will be assured that you respect them and their concerns are being heard.
In some cases, if the email you receive is emergency or powerfully expressed, a phone call may be more appropriate than taking time writing an email.
Keep it Short and Simple
Just write straight into the main matter. Long greet and thank you are not considered polite. The length of your email replies can even determine if receiver will read it or not. If it’s too long, sometimes they can miss the point you want to convey.
Dealing With Difficult Clients
Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” And knowing this I suspect Bill’s done a lot of learning over the years.
Difficult clients are part of the cost of doing business. Most often, they’re difficult because they’re unhappy with the service you’ve provided. Sometimes, they could simply have a personality that clashes with your company values, or they have expectations that are way out of whack with reality.
Sometimes, they are simply a bit too odd.
When you’re faced with a difficult client in your service business, it can be hard to know what to do.
Here’s how we recommend calming the waters or a turbid client relationship.
- Stay calm (or rant in private)
Even if a client is screaming at you down the phone or making a scene in the office, you’ve got to remain cool and collected. If you stoop to their level of hostility, you put your reputation on the line.
You get your point across much clearer with a calm voice and stern demeanor.
According to research, people will often mirror the emotional signals you emit. When you’re angry, you’ll often get an angry rise out of someone else. But if you’re calm, you can often encourage them to be calm, as well
- Listen to their concerns
Often, a difficult client feels as though the process has run away with them, and they want to be heard. Simply taking the time to listen to their problems without getting defensive could be all that’s needed to solve the issue.
Make sure your client understands that you’re focused on their problem (even if it’s an imagined problem). Ask follow-up questions, repeat their statements back to them, and acknowledge that you’ve heard and understood.
When a client feels their questions or concerns aren’t being dealt with, they often fall into language like “everything’s wrong” or “nothing’s working!” Ask them to clarify so you can get to the root of the issue.
- Deliver a prompt reply
Do you know what doesn’t help sate a difficult client? The passage of time.
As soon as a client raises an issue, make it a priority to get it sorted out. When you do this, you validate the client. You’re not accepting blame (and you should try to avoid saying you’re sorry at this stage), but you are establishing a good communication from the start.
Try this email template to help you establish and acknowledge that you want to fix the issues:
Dear Client Name,
Thank you for your email listing your concerns about our service. I think there may have been some misunderstanding around the original brief and the tutoring outcomes.
I’d like to call you this week to discuss before we proceed any further. Would 3PM tomorrow suit you?
- Figure out what the hell happened
Often, client problems arise when they have expectations that are out of alignment with the service you deliver, or when a communications issues has made them believe one thing, when actually the opposite is true.
Talk to the relevant parties, and check your records. Find out where things went wrong (if they did in fact go wrong), and how you might be able to improve processes or communication in the future.
- Offer a solution
Again, this isn’t about admitting you’re wrong (in many cases, you won’t be), but in finding a way to solve the problem for the client without losing your head in the process.
If you’re in the wrong, admit it upfront, and show the client how you’ll make amends and get their issue back on track.
If the client is in the wrong, then point to the relevant clauses in their contract or website and explain that you’re happy to wipe the slate clean, but with a careful outline of what they can expect from here.
If a communication breakdown is to blame, then offer alternative ways to communicate so the client feels included. Give them options – a monthly phone call, email update, face-to-face meeting, or regular check-ins via your client management dashboard – so they can choose what works best for them.
- Cut your losses
Finding a solution to a difficult client will often cut into your bottom line. At the end of a difficult client’s job, you may come away without any profit for all your efforts.
Your reputation and integrity are more important than your bottom line. Fixing the problem – even if that solution comes at a loss – will have benefits for you in the future. Your previously-difficult client may turn into a dream client, fiercely loyal and excited to tell all their associates how you went the extra mile.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to fix an issue, and you’ll have to terminate a difficult client. This can be heart-breaking (especially if it’s the first client relationship that’s gone sour), but if you keep your dealings professional, you’ll come out stronger and smarter.
- Review and learn
Take a step back and evaluate what happened. Ask yourself:
- Why did this problem arise in the first place?
- What could we have done to prevent it?
- What lessons have we learned that we can apply in the future?
There may be simple solutions – clarifying communications, changing workflow processes, re-wording contracts – that could prevent a repeat situation.
Having a sense of humour about the experience will help you pull through.
- When worst comes to worst… firing a difficult client
Sometimes, even if you follow the steps above, things between you and your client don’t get any better. Prioritize your client list to focus on the clients who bring in the majority of your revenue, while also being the easiest to work with. By getting rid of your “D-and-E-list clients,” you free up space to bring on more A-list clients and improve your bottom line.
Keep these in mind
Under-promise and over-deliver
If we go back to psychology for a moment, think about this: it’s much easier to impress a client if you first give yourself the room to provide exceptional service.
Saying yes to every deadline, extra feature and demand creates the expectation that you’ll meet those demands, even if for you, they’re actually quite a stretch. The client assumes their demands are the norm.
However, if you tell the client, “actually that’s not a reasonable time-frame. You’re more likely to be looking at this,” you set their expectations from the onset. And then, you can blow their expectations out of the water.
So, impress by under-promising and over-delivering every time. If you manage to meet their deadline after all, you get to be the hero, and the whole dynamic between you and the client shifts.
Don’t compromise your values
If a client asks you to do something that’s against your professional ethics, or you feel yourself morally challenged, then go with your gut and move the client on. Your integrity is worth more than what any client could pay you to try to cheat the system.
Phone Etiquette for Answering Calls
Phone Etiquette for Concluding a Call
Four Tips for Dealing with Difficult Clients
How to Answer the Phone at Work
Click here and complete your assignment for this lesson.
Coming up next
Day 4 – Supervision and monitoring of lessons.