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Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
"Nicht zuständig", "weiß von nix", "geht nicht": Platte Abwehrfloskeln am Telefon schaden dem Ruf des Unternehmens. Denn wütende Kunden erzählen die Geschichte brühwarm weiter. Ian McMaster verrät, wie man auf Englisch professionell mit Anrufern umgeht.
Recently, I experienced an appalling example of customer service on the phone - ironically, from a large telecommunications company. The company had sent me a letter saying I should return a piece of rental equipment within the next 14 days or be charged for it. As I wasn't renting anything from them, I called to find out what the letter meant

The customer service representative told me (in German): "Well, if you don't have this piece of equipment, clearly you don't have to send it back." I said that, as a customer, I found the letter confusing. The employee replied: "It's a standard letter we have to send out, and anyway, you know you are not renting anything from us.

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My answer should have been: "And you also know I am not renting anything from you, so why send me the letter?" Instead, after the call, I spent 15 minutes complaining to my partner about the incompetence of the company. I also told the story to many of my friends

Customer service on the phone is a vital part of modern business. And whatever your position - from switchboard operator to managing director - whenever talking to customers, your attitude and language will influence the way they (and their friends) feel about your company

The telecom employee broke a number of the golden rules of customer service:

1. He didn't empathize with my feelings. He could have said: "Yes, I can understand that you found the letter confusing" or "Yes, I can see the problem there"

2. He didn't apologize. Saying "I'm very sorry about this" or "I'm sorry for the confusion" can have a very positive effect on customers

3. He didn't take responsibility. Instead of saying that this was a standard letter - and so blaming a colleague - he could have taken responsibility by saying: "I'll deal with this problem myself" or "I'll make sure this matter is cleared up quickly"

4. He didn't use my name. When dealing with customers, it is important to be personal. If a customer doesn't give you their name at the beginning of the call, say "Could I have your name, please?" or "Who's calling?" Also, check that you are saying the name correctly and then use it in the conversation

5. He didn't thank me for my call. Customers like to feel that their comments are taken seriously and will be acted on. For example: "Thanks very much for bringing this to our attention" or "Thank you for letting us know about this problem"

6. He didn't check whether I needed anything else. Never end a call without finding out if you have answered all your customer's questions: "Is there anything else we can help you with?" or "Did you have any other questions?" Here are some more tips for good customer service on the phone:

Say your own name and your company's name clearly. "Good morning. Volkswagen. My name is Angela Rink. How can I help you?" It is very unsettling for a caller to have to ask "Am I through to Volkswagen?"

Look for a chance to make small talk. Some sentences of friendly small talk can make a big difference to the relationship. The best time is in the middle of a call, after you have made a professional impression by listening carefully and finding out what the caller wants

Be positive. Always tell your customers what you can do, and not what you can't do. Say "we can install your new system on any day after 9 February", and not "we can't install your system until 10 February at the earliest"

Say what you will do, using "I'll". "I'll put you through to Janet Evans in sales"; "I'll call you back this afternoon"; "I'll send you a refund immediately"

Summarize at the end of the call. Confirm what has been agreed: "So, the tables will be delivered to you on the morning of 29 February. Is that correct?

Learn to control the call. If you don't understand, say: "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that"; "I'm sorry, could you speak a bit more slowly"; "I'm sorry, do you mean that ...

Smile! It is a cliché, but a smile really can be heard on the phone. Do you smile when talking to your customers?
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 24.02.2004