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Telephones: Expanding Your Sphere Of Influence Through Better Business Communications
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

People of influence are the men and women within an organization whose opinions count-not necessarily because they rank high on an "org" chart-but because they have acknowledged experience or are associated with people of authority. This article is one in a series of five articles on how to expand your sphere of influence through better communications.

It never ceases to amaze me that companies will spend vast amounts of money on leading-edge technology and then fail to give their staff sufficient training so they can use it effectively.

In addition, if these "technology" tools are not handled correctly, they can rob staff of their professionalism, thus limiting their sphere of influence. Telephones are a case in point. Telephones have been around so long that North American business people take them for granted and seldom offer or seek training in this area. They forget the way the telephone is answered provides a one-second promo spot for themselves and their company.

Here are some concerns I have with telephone handling and some action items.

1. Telephone experts say most people use only a fraction of their phone's features.

Action Item: Check to see if a manual is available. If you add only one or two new features to your telephone "know-how," such as forwarding a message or transmitting a "delayed send," you will increase your productivity and your ability to serve others.

2. Although you may be on the phone with a caller for only a few minutes, the caller will be forming an impression of you and your organization and deciding whether working with you will be a good or a painful experience.

Action item: To handle a call professionally, you should work on conveying the following messages:

3. In a recent survey, 564 business people were asked what irritated them most about the way a business call is answered. The responses were:

Action item: To improve your company's initial impact with callers:

4. Another area that irks people is speaker phones. In a survey, conducted by a market research firm, 50% of the respondents said they can't stand conversations where the other party is on a speaker phone. The main concerns were the lack of privacy and the sound quality. Another sore point was the belief that the calls are impersonal or patronizing.

5. Have your ever checked your voice mail and found you had a message but you couldn't make out the name of the caller or his phone number? Frustrating, isn't it.

When leaving a message, state (in this order):

1. Your name slowly and clearly; spell it, if it is an unusual one.

2. Your phone number, then repeat it.

3. Company name and department.

4. Date and time of the message.

5. A message, if there is one.

6. If you need a call back.

7. Best time to call you back.

It is important to use this order because some messages cut out after a specified time.

6. Voice mail is so popular now we are surprised when someone actually does pick up the phone.

When you set up your voice mail message, keep it strong, upbeat and brief. You have only 10 to 15 seconds to create a favourable impression.

7. When speaking on the phone:

Telephones may not be an exciting new toy, but sloppy usage can cost you productivity and image and reduce your influence.


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