Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Three Telephone Tips Provide Exceptional Customer Service

To provide exceptional Customer Service, common sense and common courtesy should go hand in hand. The following telephone tips offer both.

First, help eliminate the biggest time waster in business communications.

When you leave a voice mail message, say your name and telephone number clearly and slowly at least two times. Depending on your message, you may want to say them three times.

If you do, you win! You will sound more professional and you will save time and get better results for yourself and the person you called.

Next, when dealing with customers on the phone, avoid multi-tasking. Yes, you are capable of doing a number of tasks while on the phone. But, to provide Exceptional Customer Service, you should use telephone time with customers as the one Exception to your multi-tasking tool box.

Exceptional Customer Service means total focus on your customers. Besides, unusual pauses, noises and comments tell the customer that you are distracted and not paying attention to them.

Finally, the telephone skill that seems to scream for common sense and common courtesy says, hang up last and gently.

For some reason, the number of customer contact people who throw, slam, or drop the telephone receiver on the cradle seems to be on the increase.

Even though we are in the age of cell phones, many businesses still use the conventional handset phone.

For this reason, customer contact people should be reminded to be sure customers hang up first. That ensures that the customers have completed their thoughts and are satisfied with the discussion.

But, as an added measure, customer contact people should return the handset to the cradle gently and softly. Slamming or dropping the handset sends a piercing sound through the wires and into the ears of customers who have not yet hung up.

The telephone is an extremely useful communication devise. Used properly, it becomes a powerful business tool.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Quickly! Name three things that drive you nuts about Voice Mail.

Let's see how close you came to my three.

1. People who ramble on and seldom get to the point

2. People who don't leave a message

3. People who mumble their telephone numbers so that I have to
play the message five times to get the number

I'm sure your list included little irritations such as:

1. People who do not leave their number

2. People who assume you know who is calling and don't identify

3. People who are not sure or clear why they called

But the message here is clear.

A lot of people are missing a great opportunity when they use
Voice Mail.

To ensure you never fall into one of the categories above, please
consider Five Rules for Using Voice Mail Correctly.

1. Approach Voice Mail with a positive attitude.

The chances are extremely high that when you call someone, you
will hear that person's Voice Mail message. Consider these
circumstances a great opportunity.

If you are making a business-to-business call, you should welcome
Voice Mail. This is your invitation to present a 30 second
commercial for yourself.

This is your chance to exhibit the true professionalism that
creates rapport, builds trust, and forms relationships. It is
your chance to show the person at the other end of the line that
you value and care about her or him.

When you commit one of the six sins mentioned above, you destroy
all sense of professionalism.

2. Expect to leave a message.

If you approach Voice Mail with a positive attitude, you will
save time. You will save yourself time and you will save time for
the person on the other end.

Let me explain. Before picking up the phone, prepare yourself for
the possibility of leaving a Voice Mail message by thinking
through or scripting out what you plan to say.

For example, if you are calling someone to ask them a question,
ask the question. Doing so can prevent a long game of telephone
tag because it allows the person at the other end to think
through or research the answer and then call you back.

That person may have to leave the answer on your Voice Mail, but
at least you now have an answer. That scenario is much better
than playing an endless game of telephone tag.

3. Do a Core Dump.

A Core Dump is a three step process I teach Business Writing
participants in my workshops that helps them organize their
thoughts before writing. It works equally well before picking up
the phone.

The three steps are:

a. On paper, dump all the thoughts you have running around in
your head about the reason you are about to call someone. You need to do this
to help you focus on your message.

You spend a lot of time multi-processing during the day. The Core
Dump will help you cut through everything going on in your
business and personal life to concentrate on what you need to say
to the person you are calling.

b. From everything you've dumped on that paper, select no more
than three things you need to tell or ask that person.

c. Rank those three things in the order in which you wish to
express them for maximum impact.

Now, you are ready to make the call. Now, you are ready to leave
a clear, concise, complete and conversational message.

4. Slow down; speak clearly; show respect.

You show respect for that person and that person's time by
clearly and slowly stating your name at least twice and repeating
your call back number at least twice. Remember, slowly and
clearly, twice.

5. Remember those two magical words.

I am embarrassed that I even have to remind you about this. But,
so many people neglect to say these words nowadays, I must end
this article with them.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Grammar Checkers Improve Business Writing

Someone once said, "There's no such thing as good writing, just good re-writing."

I prefer to say, "There's no such thing as good writing, just good editing."

In the hectic business world, finding time for editing and re-writing your business writing becomes a challenge. However, investing the time to run your business writing through grammar checkers pays huge dividends.

Many of the latest versions of word processors already come equipped with grammar checkers. Investing some time learning how to use this valuable tool will definitely help save you time, improve the quality of your writing, and eliminate the embarrassment of misspelled words, incorrect grammar or confusing writing styles.

Grammar Checkers are far from perfect. Sometimes they can be confusing and frustrating. But, so can kids and parents. You don't dismiss your kids or you don't ignore your parents because you sometimes don't understand or agree with them.

Let me share a few of the benefits of investing a little time learning your Grammar Checker and then using it.

1. Grammar Checkers can catch errors in grammar and writing style that you never knew or considered. That could mean the difference between readers not understanding your meaning and you getting results.

2. Grammar Checkers provide you with Readablity Statistics that show you how clear your business writing is and where to look to improve it.

Most Grammar checkers will provide you with the following two categories of information.

Sentences per paragraph
Words per sentence
Characters per word

Passive Sentences
Flesch Reading Ease
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level

Rather than explaining these categories in detail, let me offer guidelines for you to strive for.

Sentences per paragraph -
Never write more than five sentences per paragraph-ever!

Words per sentence -
Average 18 words per sentence for paper documents and 15 words per sentence for emails

Characters per word
The general rule here is use shorter, more familiar words rather than longer academic or consultant words.

Use "use," not "utilize."
Use "pattern," "model," or "example," not "paradigm."
Use "problem," "challenge," "issue," or "puzzle, not "conundrum."

Passive Sentences
This should never exceed 20%

Flesch Reading Ease
This should be at last 80%

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
This should range between 6.0 and 10.0.

If your Reading Ease is lower than 80% and your Grade Level is higher than 10.0, that means your paragraphs are too long, your sentences have too many words, and your words have too many characters and syllables.

That last sentence shows how easily you can blow away your Reading Ease and Grade Level. The sentence had a Reading Ease of 6.3 and Grade Level of 13.1.


The sentence contained 38 words. It contained four words with more than two syllables.

To make this sentence easier to read, you can change it to read:

If your Reading Ease is lower than 80% and your Grade Level is higher than 10.0, you should check the following:

Are your paragraphs are too long?
Do your sentences have too many words?
Do your words have too many characters and syllables?

Now, the Reading Ease is 80.1 and the Grade Level is 3.8.

Notice how the use of bullets drives the Grade Level down significantly.

So, use shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and smaller words and you will reap big benefits. Use your Grammar Checker to measure your business wWriting and you will receive measurable rewards.