Customer service via technology

Customer service via technology



Customer service via technology


Chapter 9 focuses on trends and techniques involving the use of technology to provide customer service. The chapter contains information about technology used to provide service, some of the positives and negatives related to using technology, and the skills required to effectively use technology to identify and address customer needs.

Chapter Outline

  • From the Frontline
  • Learning Objectives

Ÿ          Quick ü Preview

  • The Increasing Role of Technology in Customer Service
  • The Call Center/Help Desk

-          Types of Technology

  • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) System
  • Automatic Number Identification (ANI)
  • Electronic mail (E-mail)
  • Facsimile machine
  • Internet call back
  • Internet telephony
  • Interactive Voice Response(IVR)/Voice Response Unit (VRU)
  • Media Blending
  • On-line information fulfillment system
  • Predictive dialing system
  • Screen “pop-ups”
  • Teletype systems (TTY)
  • Video
  • Voice recognition

-          Advantages/Disadvantages of Technology

  • Organizational issues
  • Employee issues
  • Customer issues
  • Additional issues
  • Technology Etiquette
  • E-mail usage
  • Use abbreviations and initials
  • Proofread and spell check
  • Think before writing
  • Use short, concise sentences
  • Use both upper- and lowercase letters
  • Be careful of punctuation
  • Use only for informal correspondence
  • Use organizational e-mail for business only
  • Use care with the type of information you send
  • Use Blind Courtesy Copies (BCC) sparingly
  • Copy only necessary people
  • Get permission to send advertisements
  • Be cautious in using emoticons
  • Fill in address line last
  • Facsimile Etiquette
  • Be considerate of receivers
  • Limit graphics
  • Limit correspondence recipients
  • Telephone Customer Service
  • Advantages of Telephone Customer Service
  • Convenience
  • Ease of communication
  • Economy
  • Efficiency

-          Communication Skills for Success

  • Speak clearly
  • Avoid jargon, slang, and colloquial sayings
  • Adjust your volume
  • Speak at a rate that allows comprehension
  • Use voice inflection
  • Use correct grammar
  • Pause occasionally
  • Smile as you speak
  • Project a positive image and attitude
  • Wait to speak
  • Listen actively

-          Tips for Creating a Positive Telephone Image

  • Continually evaluate yourself
  • Use proper body posture
  • Be prepared
  • Speak naturally
  • Be time-conscious
  • Be proactive with service
  • Conclude calls professionally

-          Effective Telephone Usage

  • Eliminate distractions
  • Answer promptly
  • Use titles with name
  • Ask questions
  • Use equipment properly
  • Use speakerphones with caution

-          Transfer Calls Effectively

  • Always request permission before transferring a caller
  • Announce callers
  • If a call taker is not available; reconnect with customer
  • Avoid blind transfers

-          Check back with customers on hold
-          Use call waiting

  • Voice Mail and Answering Machine
  • Managing incoming calls
  • Placing calls to voice mail
  • Avoiding phone tag
  • Taking Messages Professionally
  • Name
  • Company name
  • Phone number
  • Brief message
  • When call should be returned
  • Time/date of call

-          General Advice

  • Chapter Summary
  • Service in Action
  • Key Terms and Concepts
  • Chapter Review Questions
  • Search It Out
  • Collaborative Learning Activity

Ÿ          Planning to Serve

Instructional Suggestions

Since this chapter deals with technology in customer service, you may want to plan a visit to a call center as part of this class session. Field trips in which students hear from frontline people who use the technology each day can be powerful learning mechanisms.

Other options to enhance the material in the chapter include:

  • Have a technology expert come in to speak to the class about trends, challenges, and opportunities.
  • Bring in articles and information that you find (e.g. in magazines, on the Internet, or from other textbooks) to supplement the text content.

þ        Assign an out-of-class activity for learners to gather additional articles or information about chapter-related topics. Have them write a brief (no more than one typed page) summary of the article.

Lesson Notes


Instructor Note 9-1:  Show PowerPoint 9.1 – Customer Service Through Technology

The following are suggested instructional approaches related to Chapter 9 – Customer Service via Technology that you could use to facilitate the class.

You may want to draw attention to the quote and ask for reactions to it.
Instructor Note 9-1: Show the chapter objectives with PowerPoint 9-1 – Learning Objectives and briefly discuss how you will address each objective throughout the chapter (e.g. strategies, support materials, activities). Also, discuss any other chapter content-related information necessary.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this chapter, and when applying the information within, you will be able to:

  • Understand the extent to which customer service is facilitated by the effective use of technology.
  • Use technology to enhance service delivery capabilities.
  • Communicate positively via e-mail, the Internet, and facsimile.
  • Deliver quality service through effective telephone techniques.
  • Recognize the impact of verbal cues during telephone conversations.
  • Send and receive messages via voice mail.


Quick ü Preview
Instructor Note 9-2: Have students complete the Quick ü Preview quiz, then go over their answers and tie into the chapter content. Tie them into chapter content and any other items related to what you will cover in the class.
Quick Preview Answers:
1.         True
2.         False
3.         True
4.         False
5.         True
6.         True
7.         True
8.         True
9.         False
10.       True
11.       False
12.       True
13.       True
14.       True

The Increasing Role of Technology in Customer Service
Instructor Note 9-3: Refer also to Figure 9-1 - Wireless Subscribership: June 1985-June 2003 and show PowerPoint 9.3 –Estimated Wireless Subscribers. June 1985 to June 2003 and highlight the statistics shown. Point out the number of people who have access to cellular telephone technology. Prior to class, you may want to gather some additional data from the Internet or other sources and add to the material in the text.
Stress how pervasive the use of technology has become in customer service. Refer students to some of the statistics listed in . Add personal examples and solicit others from students.
To say that technology has permeated virtually every aspect of life in most developed countries would likely be an understatement. And with component parts of computers and other equipment continually becoming smaller, more complex and powerful, we have only started to see the potential impact that technology will play on shaping the future. Most businesses in the United States are technologically dependent in some form. Calculators, cash registers, maintenance equipment, telephones, radios, cellular phones, pagers, computer systems, and handheld personal planners are typical examples of how reliant organizations and individuals are. We have become a 24 by 7 (accessing technology and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week)society. We can have personal communication literally anytime and anywhere. One recent estimate is that over 76 million Americans (roughly 28 per cent of the population) own a cellular phone. By the year 2010, it is projected that the number of people using wireless devices will reach 70 percent of the population. Additionally, over 94 percent of U.S. households have telephones. One result of these numbers is that more people are accessing telephone- related customer service. As such, there are an estimated 100,000 call centers in the United States alone, with over 3 million agents to answer those calls and serve all the people who have access to technology.
All of this means that those not prepared to meet the future today, will suffer the consequences of lost business as customers migrate to providers that are better prepared. With the availability of access to products and services at virtually anytime through telephones, e-mail, facsimile machines and the Internet customers are in a power position as never before. Adding to the likelihood that they will use such alternate resources is the fact that since the later part of the 1990s, the United States has enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate in almost two decades. Thus, there are fewer service providers available to fill jobs. That translates to longer wait times and increased frustration that many customers will simply not deal with.


The Call Center/Help Desk
The growing trend to reduce staff and costs, while maintaining or increasing servicve effectiveness, necessitates employing technology in addition to people. In the past, such operations were seen as labor intensive (due to such things as the maintenance and operation of equipment) and more of a behind-the-scenes or “back-office” function. They typically supplemented the frontline service providers and were not seen as a strategic initiative related to the overall operation of the organization. With advances in technology, lowered costs, the availability of more technically literate and trained employees, and a shift in expectations of customers who are also capable of accessing through technology, customer support through call centers is now an intricate part of business. Corporate and organizational officers now recognize the potential of such operations and are pumping billions of dollars into the development, maintenance, and improvement of call center operations throughout the world. Today’s call centers are more powerful and complicated than ever before. They also provide more functions than their anemic predecessors did.
The influence is so significant in terms of dollars that the way that organizations do business using technology has been coined with the term electronic commerce (e-commerce).
Even with all the advances toward technology, one thing remains clear, customers still appreciate old-fashioned personalized customer service. No matter whether service is delivered face-to-face or via technology, there is no substitute for a dedicated, knowledgeable, and well-trained employee. You and your peers are the lifeline of your organization.

Instructor Note 9-5:  Use PowerPoint 9.4  -Call Center or Help Desk to lead a discussion on the extent and use of call centers or help desks. Ask students for examples of these functions with which they are familiar and share your own (e.g. credit card or bank information, software support, order takers, customer service lines, and so on).

Types of Technology
In many instances, technology is advancing faster than the typical organization and its employees can deal with. This is especially true of call center technology that in  years past consisted of a telephone system (often an 800 number network) integrated with propriety customer databases (customer databases developed by or for an organization to
service that companies customer base). When a customer had a question, needed assistance, he or she would call an 800 number to request service, ask a question, complain, or otherwise have needs met. When the call arrived at the call center, a customer service representative would answer, and after requesting a member, product or other number and basic information handle the customer’s issue.
In many cases, the similar systems are used today, with a twist. Depending on the organization size, function, and efficiency, today’s agents (e.g. customer service representative [CSR], associate, sales representative, consumer affairs counselor, consultant, technical service representative, operator, account executive, attendant, or engineer) have a vast amount of technology at their disposal.
The following is a listing of some of the typical systems found in a call center:

Instructor Note 9-5:  Use PowerPoint 9.5  - Types of Technology(1) and PowerPoint 9.6  - Types of Technology(2) to lead a brief discussion on the use of different types of hardware and software available and the impact they are having on customer service. Try to locate a local experienced call center manager to come in as a guest speaker. He or she can address trends in the industry, how the call center views service, or the qualifications of call center employees.
Ask for other examples of which students are aware.

  • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) System

            This system routes incoming calls to the next available agent when lines are busy. 
This is the type of system you typically encounter before you talk to an agent when you  telephone most larger organizations. You may get an automated voice
cueing you to select a specific numbered keypad to get to certain people or

  • Automatic Number Identification (ANI)

            The ANI (pronounced “Annie”) is a form of “caller ID” such as that found on
home telephones. The system allows customers to be identified and handled more
effectively before an agent talks to them on the phone. For example, a customer
could be routed to an agent for specialized service (e.g. an agent with multi-
lingual capabilities, or advanced product or service knowledge). This saves time
for the agent since the customer’s telephone number does not have to be keyed in
and the agent can identify the customer’s geographic area before speaking with
him or her. Based on the information about the customer that the agent sees on
computer screen, he or she could also potentially access information about the
customer’s history with the organization). Incoming calls can also be routed to
the same agent that last handled a specific caller. Additionally, with ANI, calls
can be routed to the service center closest to the customer’s home.

  • Electronic mail (E-mail)

This form of technology provides an inexpensive, rapid way of communicating with    customers in writing worldwide. For instance, e-mail allows customers to
access information via telephone, then through prompting (using the telephone
key pad) have the information delivered to them via e-mail. A big advantage of
e-mail is that you can write a single message and have it delivered to hundreds of
people worldwide in a matter of minutes with relatively no cost.

  • Facsimile machine

The facsimile machine has been termed the “Fax” for decades. This device allows
graphic and text messages to be transported as electronic signals via telephone
lines or from a personal computer equipped with a modem (short for
Modulator/Demodulator – a device that converts electronic signals to binary
mathematical codes and back to allow transmission via telephone lines). Through
such equipment, graphical and text information can be sent anywhere in the world
in minutes or a customer can dial in, punch an identified code number and have
information delivered to his or her fax machine without ever speaking to a person
(fax on demand system). One of the most common customer care environment


usage is “fax-on-demand” which allows customers to telephone in, punch in
codes, and have a document delivered to their fax or computer.

  • Internet call back

The Internet Call Back system allows someone browsing the Internet to click on a
button (e.g. “call me”), enter his or her number, and continue browsing. This
triggers the predictive dialing system and assigns an agent to handle the call when
it rings back to the customer.

  • Internet telephony

Internet telephony allows users to have voice communications over the Internet.
Although widely discussed in the industry, call center Internet telephony is in it’s
infancy, lacks standards, is not currently embraced by consumers, and may never
“take off” as a viable technology.


  • Interactive Voice Response(IVR)/Voice Response Unit (VRU)

This type of system allows customers to call in twenty-four hours a day, seven
days a week, even when customer service representatives are not available to assist. Through punching of telephone keypad numbers, customers can get

information or answers to questions. Such systems also ensure consistency of

information since all callers using prompts get exactly the same information (e.g.

directions to a store or business location). Banks and credit card companies use

such systems to allow customers to access account information.

  • Media Blending

            Media blending allows agents to communicate with a customer over a telephone
line at the same time information is displayed over the Internet to the customer.
As with Internet telephony, this technology has not been taken to It’s fullest potential and may never live up to expectations unless consumers become comfortable with it.

  • On-line information fulfillment system

            This technology allows customers to access information via the World Wide Web
by accessing an organization Web page and clicking on desired information. This
is one of the fastest growing customer service technologies and every competitive
business will eventually have it to provide information and service to customers.


  • Predictive dialing system

            A predictive dialing system automatically places outbound calls and delivers
answered calls to the next available agent. This system is often used in Outbound
(telemarketing) operations, but also used in conjunction with other functions.
Because of numerous abuses, the government is continually upgrading
restrictions on its use.

  • Screen “pop-ups”

            Screen pop-ups are used in conjunction with ANI and IVR systems to identify
callers. As a call is received and dispatched to an agent, the system provides
information about the caller that “pops” onto the agent’s screen before he or she
answers the telephone (e.g. order information, membership data, service/contact

  • Teletype (TTY)

Due in part to the passage of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act that
required telecommunications services to be available to people with disabilities,
organizations now have technology to assist those customers with hearing
impairments. By using a TTY (a typewriter-type device for typing messages back
and forth over telephone lines), someone with a hearing or speech impairment can
contact someone who is using a standard (voice) telephone. To do this, she or he
can either go through an operator-assisted relay service (TTY) provided by local
and long distance telephone companies (e.g. 1-800-855-1155 [AT&T]) and 1-
800-855-4000 [SPRINT]) to reach companies and individuals not equipped with
TTY receiving technology, or directly to companies that do have TTYs. The
service is free of charge and operators can help first-time hearing users understand
the “rules” in using the TTY. Additionally, local speech and hearing centers can
often provide training on the use of TTY in a call center environment. There are
important cultural issues that will assist call center representatives in working
with customers who are hearing-impaired.
The federal government also has a similar service (Federal Information Relay Service –FIRS) for use by individuals wishing to conduct business with any branch of the federal government nationwide.
By using a TTY, someone can make calls from a standard (voice) phone to a TTY
number or vice versa. She or he can use the device to type in a message that is
received and returned in similar fashion. 

  • Video

            For customers and call centers equipped with video camera           computer hookups,
this evolving technology that offers a chance for customers and agents to interact
via the computer. Just as in the interactive video kiosks discussed earlier in the book, this technology allows customers to dial in and see the agent as they are served. Because of privacy concerns or preference, some software allows customers to block their image, yet they still see the agent to whom they are speaking.

  • Voice recognition

A relative newcomer to the market is advancing rapidly. The technology is
incorporated into a call center’s Voice Response System. It is typically used by
individuals to dictate data directly into a computer which then converts the sounds into text, there are potential applications for call centers. Some companies are starting to record customer voices speaking passwords and phrases as an
identification system to allow access to account information. Other applications
include having agents speak into a computer, rather than typing data and to allow
persons with disabilities to access data from their accounts with their voice.

Instructor Note 9-6: Refer the chart from Figure 9-2 – Percent of U.S. Households with a Computer and Internet Access: 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, and PowerPoint 9-4 and discuss the impact that the Internet has had on society and how it has changed customer service. Ask for examples that students have seen of this.

Advantages/Disadvantages of Technology

Like anything else related to customer service and dealing with the public, there are some distinct advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of technology. The following is a brief overview of some of the issues resulting from use of technology.


Instructor Note 9-7: Spend a few minutes talking about the advantages and disadvantages of using technology in serving customers. Elicit examples of service events that students have experienced that were either aided or adversely impacted by technology.
As you review this section, you may want to and ask students to discuss the types of services that they have received via technology. Ask if the services were effective or ineffective and why or why not.
Show PowerPoint 9-7 - Advantages/Disadvantages of Technology, and discuss each issue briefly. As part of the discussion of “Customer issues,” refer back to and the number of households with computers (Figure 9.2 – Percent of U.S. Households with a Computer and Internet Access...) and comment on these numbers. Once you have covered the text information, lead a brainstorming session to solicit and flip chart additional advantages and disadvantages for each issue listed in this section. Discuss each briefly as you list them on a flip chart.

Organizational issues

            Distinct advantages accrue to organizations that use technology. Through the use
of computers, software, and various telecommunication devices a company can
extend its presence without physically establishing a business site with
Simply by establishing an effective e-commerce Website, organizations can
become known and establish a customer base worldwide. Information and           services can be provided on demand to customers. In many cases, multiple customers can be served simultaneously through the telephone, fax on demand, or
any number of systems.
The challenge for organizations is to have well-maintained state-of-the-art
equipment and qualified, competent people to operate it. In a low unemployment
era, this can be a challenge and can result in disgruntled customers who have to
wait on hold for service until an agent is available to help them.   
Staying on top of competition with technology is an expensive venture. New and
upgraded software (internal operating systems) and hardware (equipment) are
developed every day. If a company is using systems that are six months old, they            are on their way to becoming obsolete. Additionally, each new generation of
technology typically brings with it a need to train or retrain staff. The end result
being that employees have to be taken off the telephone or away from their jobs
for training.


Employee issues

            Technology brings many benefits to employees. The biggest being           that it frees
them from mundane tasks such as taking information and mailing out forms,
information, or other materials. This can be done by use of such systems as fax-on-demand, IVR, or on-line information fulfillment systems. Technology also
allows employees to better serve more people in a shorter period of time. The
down side of technology for employees is that many organizations see the
investment in technology as a way to reduce staff costs and overhead related to   employees and therefore eliminate positions. Additionally, as mentioned before,
new technology requires new training and skills. Some people have difficulty with the use of technology and are not able to master its potential. This
in turn can lead to reassignment or dismissal.
To avoid such negative possibilities, you and your peers should continually work
to stay abreast of technology trends by checking out the Internet and taking
refresher courses through your organizational training department or local
community resources.
Another problem created by the introduction of technology into the workplace is that employee and customer stress levels can escalate, in part to being able to serve
more customers quicker and the operation of the technology itself. This accounts
for some of the high turnover rate in call center staff and customer defection. But,
it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.


Customer issues

            From a customer standpoint, technology can be a blessing. From the comfort and
convenience of a home, office, car, or anywhere A customer may have a
telephone and laptop computer, he or she can access products and services. More            people than ever have access to computers and the Internet.
Through all the technologies you read about earlier a customer can get information, order products, have questions answered, contact an organization   about billing or other issues, and access virtually anything she or he wants on the World Wide Web. However, this convenience comes with a cost, just as it does for organizations. To have the latest gadgets costs in terms of time and money.           For example, when calling an 800 or 888 support number, or possibly having to pay for a call to a support center, it is not unusual to have to wait on hold “for the next available agent.”
Additionally, technology does not always function as it is designed to. An
example of this would be a Website that does not provide clear instructions or information regarding entering an account number or how to gain a password. Even though a customer follows the instructions exactly, he or she might
continually get a frustrating error message instructing him or her to reenter the
data. At some point, the customer will simply give up and go to another
Website. Another example would be to get caught in “voice mail jail.” In this
situation the customer follows the instructions, punching the appropriate phone
keys to get to a representative only to find that person has forwarded their phone
to another voice box. Ultimately the instructions lead the customer back to the
first message they received upon calling the organization.


Additional issues

            Just as with any system, there are people who will take advantage of it.
Technology, especially the Internet, has spawned a new era of fraud and
manipulation. This is a major concern for consumers and can create many
challenges for you and your peers working in a call center. One of the biggest
factors that you must overcome is the fear of fraud and violation of privacy.
According to the National Fraud Information Center, a division of The National
Consumers League in Washington, D.C., the number of Internet fraud complaints
has risen over 600 percent since 1997. Informed customers go to great lengths to
protect credit card, merchant account and social security numbers, addresses,
personal data (e.g. arrest records, medical history, and family data). Many
news stories have aired warning of criminal activity using technology. The result s that customers, especially those who are technically naive, have a certain level of distrust and paranoia related to giving information via technology. This is why
many Websites that are involved in e-commerce give an option to call an
800 number instead of entering credit card and other personal information onto an
order form.  As a customer service provider, if you encounter a lot of this
reluctance, notify your supervisor. Some systemic issues may be adding to your
customer’s fear. Helping identify issues and resolve them can make life easier for you and your customers while helping the organization improve the quality of
service delivered.
One thing to remember is that reluctance on a customer’s part to provide you with
information is not necessarily directed at you or your service providing peers; it is
more focused on a distrust in the system.

Instructor Note 9-8: Lead a discussion on fraud and scams in customer service. Solicit examples that students have heard of or experienced. Point out some ways that customer service providers can reduce customer fears. Solicit a list of additional strategies for reducing customer anxiety related to providing information.
Refer to Figure 9-3 - Reducing Customer Fears About Technology and review some techniques for helping make customers feel more comfortable.

Technology Etiquette
Just like any other interaction with people, you should be aware of some basic do’s and don’ts related to using technology to interact with and serve your customers. Failure to observe some common sense rules can land you and your organization on the customers bad side.



E-mail usage
The e-mail system was designed as an inexpensive, quick way of contacting others on the World Wide Net. E-mail was not designed to replace formal written correspondence. Additionally, e-mail has its own set of guidelines for effective usage to ensure that you do not offend or otherwise create problems when dealing with customers via e-mail. Here are some e-mail tips to remember, as well as some etiquette for effective usage.

Instructor Note 9-9: Use the PowerPoint 9.8- E-mail Etiquette and Strategies(1) and PowerPoint 9.9 - E-mail Etiquette and Strategies(2) to lead a discussion on technology etiquette.
Talk about some common strategies for making use of e-mail more effective using the points outlined in the text. Add any others that you can think of and solicit additional ones from students. Ask for examples of situations in which students have seen the guidelines ignored and the results.

  • Use abbreviations and initials

            Since e-mail is an informal means of communicating, using           acronyms (e.g. USA
versus United States of America) and initials works fine in some cases.. Just be
sure that your receiver knows what the letters stand for, otherwise
miscommunication could occur. Figure 9.4 – Common Abbreviations lists some
common abbreviations employed by e-mail users who typically know one
another and e-mail one another frequently (e.g. internal customers). When
communicating with external customers, you may want to use them sparingly or
eliminate them totally in order to prevent confusion, communication breakdown,
and the perception that you are unprofessional.

  • Proofread and spell check

            Checking your message before hitting the “send” button may help prevent
damage to your professional image. This is especially true when writing
customers since you represent your organization. Poor grammar, syntax, spelling,
and other basic writing skills can paint a poor picture of your professionalism.

  • Think before writing

            This is especially true if you are responding when you are upset or emotional.
Take time to “cool off” before responding to a negative message (flaming) or
when you are angry. Remember that once you hit send, you cannot take back your
words and your relationship with your receiver is at stake

  • Use short, concise sentences

            The average person will not read extensive pieces of information sent over the e-
mail system. For that reason, put your question or key idea in the first sentence or
paragraph. Scrolling up and down pages of text is time consuming and frustrating.
Keep your sentences short, use punctuation, and separate lines of text for easier
reading. A good rule of thumb is that if the entire message does not fit on a single
viewing screen, consider whether another means of communication is more
appropriate. An option would be to attach lengthy word-processed documents that
can be printed and read off the system.

  • Use both upper- and lowercase letters

            Writing a sentence or message in all capital letters is like shouting at the person in
writing and could offend or cause relationship problems.

  • Be careful of punctuation

            As with all capital letters, you should use caution with punctuation           marks,
especially exclamation points. The latter can lead to anger since, like all capital
letters, they indicate strong emotion.

  • Use only for informal correspondence

            Do not use e-mail when a more formal format is appropriate. For example, it
would be inappropriate to send a cancellation notice via e-mail. Using an e-mail
message to do this may appear to the receiver that the issue is not significant
enough to warrant your organization buying a stamp to mail a letter. This caution
should not be interpreted to mean that you cannot attach letters or other                           documents and forward them to a someone. Another important thing to remember
about e-mail is that it is often unreliable. If your message is critical and delivery is
time-sensitive, look for another option (e.g. a telephone call or express
mail). Many people do not check their e-mail regularly, computer
systems fail, and individuals often change service providers without notifying
you. E-mail that is not delivered is not returned so you will never know the reason
that the customer did not respond.

  • Use organizational e-mail for business only

            Many companies have policies against sending personal e-mail via the
organizational system. Some have started to monitor outgoing messages and
violation of policy could cause problems for you. Additionally, while you are
sending personal messages, you are losing productive time and your customers
are potentially waiting.

  • Use care with the type of information you send

            Avoid sending personal information (e.g. account numbers, personal data, and so
on) or proprietary information via e-mail. Unless you have security software to
decode and mask the information, it is accessible by hackers or others who do not
have a right or need to know such information. A good rule of thumb is to
never send anything you would not want to see in tomorrow’s newspaper.

  • Use Blind Courtesy Copies (BCC) sparingly

            Most e-mail systems allow you to send a copy to someone without           the original
recipient being aware of it. This could be viewed as suspicious and your motives
brought into question. Depending on message content, it could lead to relationship
breakdowns if the original recipient finds out or if the BCC misuses the

  • Copy only necessary people

            Most people are overloaded with work in today’s workplace and do not have time
to read every e-mail someone sends them. If someone does not need to see
something you have written, do not send them a copy.

  • Get permission to send advertisements

            As mentioned earlier, people have little time or patience to read excessive e-mail,
especially from someone trying to promote or sell them something. This is viewed
the same way as you likely view unsolicited junk mail or telemarketing calls at

  • Be cautious in using emoticons

            Emoticons are the little smiley face type characters created though use of
computer keyboard characters. Many people believe that use of these in business
correspondence is inappropriate and too informal. Also, since humor is a matter of
personal perspective and perception, these symbols might be misinterpreted and
confusing. This is especially true when corresponding with someone from a
different culture. Figure 9.5  Some Emoticons shows samples of emoticons.

  • Fill in address line last

            This is a safety mechanism to ensure that you have time to read and think about
your message before hitting the send button.  The message cannot be transported
until you address it. You will have one last chance to thing about who should
receive the message and it’s content.

Facsimile Etiquette

Instructor Note 9-10: Show PowerPoint 9.10 –Facsimile to discuss the proper use of the fax machine.

As with any other form of communication, there are certain do’s and don’ts to abide by when using the facsimile to transport messages. Failing to adhere to these simple guidelines can cause frustration, anger and a breakdown in relationships between you and your customers or others to whom you send messages.

  • Be considerate of receivers

            If you have a multi-page document to send to your customer, telephone in
advance to ensure it is okay to send it. This is especially true to a business number
during  the workday or if they have only a single line for telephone and fax machine. Tying up someone’s fax machine to send large documents is very
frustrating and irritating to customers. If you must send a large document, try
to do so after working hours (typically 9:00 AM-5:00 PM). Also, keep in mind
geographic time differences. Following this tip can help maintain relationships with coworkers who may also depend on the fax machine to conduct business
with their customers.

  • Limit graphics

            Excessive graphic images that are not necessary to clarify written text waste the
receiver’s printer cartridge ink, tie up the machine excessively, and can irritate
your receiver. Therefore, ensure that you delete any unnecessary graphics. This
includes your corporate logo on a cover sheet if it is heavily colored and required
a lot of link to print. If the latter case exists, create a special outline image of your
logo for your fax cover sheets. Refer to Figure 9.6 – Sample Fax Cover Sheet as
an example of how graphics can be made simple and not require a lot of ink usage.

  • Limit correspondence recipients

            As with e-mail and memorandums, limit the recipients of your messages. If they
do not have a need to know, do not send them messages. Check your broadcast
mailing list (a predetermined listing of people who will receive messages, often
programmed into a computer) to ensure that unnecessary people are removed.
This is also important from an information sensitivity standpoint. If the information you are sending is proprietary or sensitive in any way, rethink who is
getting it. Also, do not forget that unless it is going directly to someone’s
computer fax modem, it may be laying in a stack of other received messages that
are accessible by people other than your intended recipient.



Telephone Customer Service
Not all service via technology, and specifically the telephone, is delivered from a call center. While many small- and medium-sized organizations have dedicated customer service professions to staff their telephones, others do not. In these latter cases, the responsibility for answering the telephone and providing service falls on anyone who is available and hears the telephone ring (e.g. administrative assistant, salesperson, driver, partner, owner, CEO). Remember that in order to provide quality customer service, everyone in the organization has to take ownership for customer satisfaction.
Modern businesses rely heavily on the use of telephones to conduct day-to-day operations and communicate with internal as well as external customers.  Effective use of the telephone saves employee time and effort.  Effective telephone usage also increases organizational effectiveness and saves money.  These results are possible because by using the telephone employees can compress distance and time.  They no longer have to take time to physically travel to another location to interact with customers and vendors.  By simply lifting the telephone receiver or punching in a number to dial, your presence is almost instantaneously transported virtually anywhere in the world.  And with the introduction of the facsimile (FAX) machine and computer modem, documents and information can also be sent in minutes to someone thousands of miles away--even during non-business hours.
With the potential for such success, more businesses are setting up inbound (e.g. order taking, customer service, information sources) and outbound (e.g. telemarketing sales, customer service, customer surveys) telephone staffs.  Through these groups of trained specialists, companies can expand their customer contact and more likely be able to accomplish total customer satisfaction.


Instructor Note 9-11: Use PowerPoint 9.11 - Advantages of Telephone Service to lead a discussion on the advantages of using the telephone to deliver quality customer service.
Stress the fact that while many other types of technology exist to deliver customer service that the telephone is still a primary means of service delivery for organizations. Provide appropriate examples and elicit other ones from students.

Advantages of Telephone Customer Service
Go over each advantage, offering comments and personal experiences and soliciting questions, comments and examples from students.

  • Convenience

            Sales, information exchange, money collection, customer satisfaction surveys, and
complaint handling are only a few of the many tasks that can be effectively
handled using the telephone and associated equipment. If a quick answer is
needed, the telephone can provide that without the person involved having to get
into a vehicle and go to meet with someone face-to-face, or endure the long
delays caused by letters being mailed.

  • Ease of communication

            While some countries have more advanced telephone systems and capabilities
than others, you can call someone in nearly any country in the world. And, with
advances in cellular phone technology, even mobile phones have international
communication capability.

  • Economy

Face-to-face visits or sales calls are expensive and can be reduced or eliminated by making contacts over the telephone versus traveling to a customer’s location. With competitive rates offered by so many telephone companies since the deregulation of the telecommunications industry years ago, companies and customers have many options for calling plans. For example, customers can even purchase a calling card from most stores and use it from any telephone. All of this makes accessing customer services a simple and less expensive task, especially when combined with the other technology discussed in this chapter.

  • Efficiency

            You and your customer can interact without            the delay of writing or
responding. Telephone usage is so simple, it is taught to kindergarten and grade
school children.

Instructor Note 9-12: Elicit examples of poor customer service that students 
have received over the telephone because of the low communication skill levels of the
service providers they have dealt with. After they provide examples, lead a discussion on
effective telephone communication skills, based on text content and your personal

Communication Skills for Success

Instructor Note 9-13: Use PowerPoint 9.12 – Communication Skills for Success (1) and PowerPoint 9.13 – Communication Skills for Success (2) to provide an overview of communication strategies for success when using the telephone. Elicit experiences that students have had (good and bad) as a customer with service providers along the way.

Just as with face-to-face customer service, the skills you read about in Chapters 3-5 apply, especially the effective use of vocal quality and listening skills. Your customer cannot communicate with or understand you if she or he doesn't accurately receive your message. To reduce the chances of message failure, think about the following communication techniques.


  • Speak clearly

            By pronouncing words clearly and correctly, you increase the possibility that your customer will accurately receive your intended message.  Failure to use good diction could decrease customer comprehension of your message and be interpreted as a sign that you are lazy, unprofessional or lack intelligence and/or education.

  • Avoid jargon, slang, and colloquial sayings

            Technical jargon (terms related to technology, an industry, specific organization, or job), slang (informal words used to make a message more colorful (e.g. whoopee, blooper, groovy) and colloquialisms (regional phrases or words such as, “fair to midland,” “if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise,” or
“faster than a New York minute.”) can distort your message and detract from your
ability to communicate effectively. This is especially true when your recipient
speaks English as a second language (see Chapter 10 for more information on this topic). By using words or phrases unfamiliar to the customer, you distract them
from listening to your message.  This is because when encountering a word or
phrase that is unfamiliar, the tendency is often to stop and reflect on that word or phrase.  When this occurs, the following portion of the message is missed while
the mind tries to focus on and decipher the unfamiliar element it encountered. 
You then have to repeat the missed portion or have a resulting miscommunication.

Instructor Note 9-14:
ASK: What acronyms or jargon have you seen used in e-mail messages that was confusing?

Spend a few minutes eliciting examples to the question in this activity.

  • Adjust your volume

            As you speak, it may become apparent that you need to speak louder or softer to
your customer.  Obvious cues are statements from the customer, such as, "You
don't have to yell" or "Could you speak up."  Other signals might be if your customer is speaking really loudly, he or she may be hard of hearing.  To test this
possibility, you could say, "I'm sorry Mr./Mrs. ______, are you able to hear me clearly, I'm having trouble with loud volume on my end."

  • Speak at a rate that allows comprehension

            Depending on the person to whom you are speaking, you may find yourself having to adjust your rate of speech (covered in Chapter 3) by either speeding up or slowing down.  A good rule of thumb is to mirror or match the other person's rate of speech to some extent, since he or she is probably comfortable with it.  Otherwise you risk boring the customer by speaking too slowly, or losing him or
her by speaking too rapidly.  Be careful not to be too obvious or unnatural when
doing this; otherwise the customer may think you're making fun of them.


  • Use voice inflection

            By using inflection and avoiding a tendency to speak at the same voice level, you can help communicate your message in an interesting manner that may hold your customer’s attention. The result might be saved time since your message the was
received the first time and you do not have to repeat it.

  • Use correct grammar

            Just as important as enunciation, good grammar helps project a positive, competent image.  When you fail to apply good grammar in your communication, you may be perceived as lazy or uneducated.  Keep in mind that your customer forms an image of you and the company you represent, simply by listening to you and the way you speak. The supplementary Writer’s Workshop on http://www.mhhe.com/lucas05  explores grammar in more detail if you need additional information.

  • Pause occasionally

            This simple yet dramatic technique can sometimes affect the course of a conversation.  By pausing after you make a statement or ask a question, you give yourself time to breathe and think.  You also provide an opportunity for your customer to reflect on what you have said or to ask questions.  The practice can greatly aid in reducing tension when you are speaking with an upset customer or
one who does not speak your language fluently.

  • Smile as you speak

            By smiling, you project an upbeat, warm, and sincere air through the phone.  The positive attitude that is projected can often cheer the customer, diffuse irritation, and help build instant rapport. A technique some telephone professionals use to remind themselves to smile when placing or answering a call is to put a small mirror or picture of a “smile face” character in front of them or next to their telephone. Seeing this reminds them to smile as they talk.

  • Project a positive image and attitude

            All of the tips related to using your voice presented in earlier chapters contribute to how people envision you.  Customers generally do not want to hear what you cannot do for them or about the bad day you're having.  They want a timely, affirmative solution to their questions, problems, or concerns.  Giving anything
less is likely to be a turnoff and result in a service breakdown.

  • Wait to speak

            A common tendency for many people is to interrupt the customer to add information or ask a question.  This is not only rude but it can cause a breakdown in the conversation and possibly anger the customer.  If you ask a question or if the customer is speaking, allow him or her to finish before interjecting your thoughts or comments.


  • Listen actively

            Just as with face-to-face communication, effective listening is a crucial customer service skill on the telephone.  The need to focus is even more important on the phone since you do not have the non-verbal cues or visual contact to help in message delivery or interpretation.
To help prevent breakdowns in communication, avoid distractions while on the phone.  To be able to listen effectively is difficult when you are reading something, writing notes to yourself, using a cash register, typing, polishing fingernails, or involved in similar activities.

Instructor Note 9-15: Use PowerPoint 9.14 - Creating a Positive Phone Imageto lead a discussion on projecting a more positive telephone image. Stress the importance of recognizing the impact of first impressions.

Tips for Creating a Positive Telephone Image
People form an opinion of you and your organization quickly.  The message received
often determines how they interact with you during the conversation and in your future
relationship. Keep in mind that when you answer your organization's telephone, or call
someone else as part of your job, you represent yourself and the organization.  And, since
many telephone calls are short, you have very little opportunity to make a positive
impression. When you feel good about yourself, you normally project a naturally
confident and pleasant image.  On days when things aren't going so well for you, your
self-image may tend to slip.

  • Continually evaluate yourself

            You are your own best critic.  Occasionally, think about your conversation--what went well; what could have been improved.  If possible, occasionally tape record your conversations and continually evaluate your voice qualities and message delivery. 

Instructor Note 9-16: Pass out copies of Worksheet 9-1 - Personal Telephone Effectiveness (http://www.mhhe.com/lucas05) and encourage students to make copies for use in randomly monitoring their own telephone behavior.


  • Use proper body posture

            The following can affect the sound and quality of your voice: 
Slouching in your chair.
Sitting with your feet on a desk and arms behind your head as you            rock back in your chair.
Looking down to read or search through drawers with your chin on your chest.
Resting the telephone hand set between your cheek and shoulder as you perform
other functions (e.g. typing data into a computer, looking for something, writing
or doodling).
Strive to sit or stand upright and speak clearly into the mouthpiece whether using
a headset or handheld receiver. If using the latter, make sure the earpiece is
placed firmly against your ear and the mouthpiece is directly in front of your

  • Be prepared

Answer a ringing phone promptly and use a standard greeting.

Instructor Note 9-17: Lead a discussion on the impressions first minutes on the
phone make to customers. Develop a list of suggestions from students on things they do,
or have seen done or heard, to ensure a positive impression is made?

  • Speak naturally

            Whether you are calling someone, or providing information to a caller, speak in a conversational voice.  Don't try to assume a "canned" or mechanical presentation and don't read from a prepared script, unless required by your company.  If the latter is necessary—practice, practice, practice.  Before you connect with a
customer, become very comfortable with your presentation so that you can deliver it in a fluid, warm, and sincere manner. Nothing sends a more negative message than someone who calls and mispronounces a customer’s name, stumbles through        
opening comments and seems disorganized.

  • Be time-conscious

            Customers appreciate prompt, courteous service.  Be aware that time is money--yours, your organization's, and the customer's.  Have your thoughts organized when calling a customer.  Using a list of questions or key points is suggested. If a customer calls you and you don't have an answer or information readily available, offer to research and call back rather than put them on hold. Respect your customer’s time. Chances are that they will prefer to hold if it will be a short time frame, but give them the option. In addition to helping better Organize our calls, a written call-planning sheet will provide a good Reference after the call.

  • Be proactive with service

            If you must say "no" to a customer, do so in a positive manner without quoting policy.  Tell them what you can do.  For example, if your policy prohibits refunds on one of a kind or closeout items, you might provide the following offer depending on your level of authority or empowerment. 

  • Conclude calls professionally

            Ending a call on an upbeat note, using the caller's name and summarizing key actions to be taken by both parties is recommended. (For example, "All right Mr./Ms._______, let me Confirm what we've discussed. I'll get _____by the 23rd, and call you back to confirm _____. You'll take care of _____. Is that correct?). Once agreement has been reached, thank the Customer for calling, ask what other questions he or she has or what else you can assist with, then let him or her hang up first. By following a format similar to this you can reduce misunderstandings and encourage any last minute questions or comments the customer might have. If you fail to bring the conversation to some formal closure and abruptly hang up, the customer may feel you are in too much of a hurry to service him or her (regardless of the fact that you have just spent fifteen minutes talking with him or her!). Think of this final piece as wrapping a present that looks fine, but by adding a nice ribbon or bow to accentuate, it looks even better. The thank you and polite
disconnect are your ribbon and bow.

Effective Telephone Usage
One basic strategy for successfully providing effective customer service over the telephone is to thoroughly understand all phone features and use them effectively. 
While this may seem logical and simple, think about times when you called a company and someone attempted to transfer you, put you on hold, or did not communicate clearly.  If the transfer was successful, you were lucky. If not, you probably couldn't understand what happened, got disconnected, were connected to the wrong party, or had the original person come back on the telephone to apologize for a lack of understanding and possibly say "The call didn't go through, let me try again."  Sound familiar?  If so, use the following strategies to ensure that you never deliver similar poor service.

Instructor Note 9-18: Use PowerPoint 9.15 - Effective Phone Usage(1) and PowerPoint 9.16 - Effective Phone Usage(2)  to discuss strategies for effectively using the telephone to deliver customer service effectively.

Emphasize the need for service providers to understand and use the features of all their equipment to more effectively serve customers.


  • Eliminate distractions

            Don't eat food, chew gum, drink, talk to others, read (unless for the purpose of providing the customer with information), or handle other office tasks (filing, stapling, stamping, sealing envelopes, etc.) while on the phone. Your voice quality will alert the customer that you are otherwise occupied and could irritate him or her.

Instructor Note 9-19: Have students think of a time when they were talking to someone
on the telephone and they could tell from the sound and quality of the person’s voice and
background noises that he or she was not sitting still and was doing something else while
speaking. How did it make them feel? How can they use those feelings to ensure that
their customers never have to have a similar experience?

  • Answer promptly

            A lot is communicated by the way a phone call is handled.  One tip for success is to always answer by the second or third ring.  This sends a nonverbal message to your customer of your availability to serve them.  Doing so also reduces the irritating ringing that you, co-workers, or customers have to hear.

  • Use titles with name

            It has been said that there is nothing sweeter than one's own name.  However, until they tell you otherwise, use the person’s title (e.g. Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr) and last name. Do not assume you can use first names. Some people will regard such an action as insolent or rude. This may especially be true of many older customers and those from other cultures where respect and use of titles are valued.
In speaking with customers, it is also a good idea to use their name frequently (don't overdo it or you'll sound mechanical).  By repeating the name initially (for example, "Yes, _____, how may I help you?"), during the conversation (for example, "One idea I   have, ______, is to . . .") and at the end of the call (for example, "Thanks for calling, ______.  I'll get that information right out to

  • Ask questions

            Use questions on the telephone to get information needed or clarify points made
by the customer. Ask open-ended questions; then listen to the response carefully. To clarify or verify information, use closed-ended questions. One way to ensure that you get all the information needed is to plan your call in advance by creating a list of pertinent questions.

Instructor Note 9-20:  Pass out copies of Worksheet 9.2 – Call Planning Sheet
(http://www.mhhe.com/lucas05) and encourage students to use it when placing calls to


  • Use equipment properly

            Your success or failure in receiving and delivering messages often           hinges on simply holding the receiver or wearing a headset properly.  Ensure that the earpiece and mouthpiece rest squarely against your ear and in front of your mouth respectively.  This allows you to accurately hear what is said and transmit your words to the customer clearly.

  • Use speakerphones with caution

Speakers on phones make sense for people with certain disabilities and in some
environments (where you need free hands or are doing something else while you
are on hold or are waiting for a phone to be answered). From a customer service
standpoint, they can send a message of being cold or impersonal and their use
should be minimal. Many callers do not like them and even           consider users rude.
Additionally, depending on the equipment used and how far you are from the
telephone, the resulting message received by your customer could be distorted or
sound like you are in an empty room with echoes. Before using a speakerphone,
ask yourself, “Is there a valid reason for me not using the head or handset? Some
additional considerations when using a speakerphone is to ensure that no one else
is around to overhear your conversation if you are discussing personal, proprietary
or confidential information. Also, if someone is listening in on the customer’s
conversation, make sure you inform the customer of that fact and explain who
they are and why they are listening. As you read earlier, some people are very
protective of their privacy and you do not want to offend them.
Instructor Note 9-21: Solicit opinions that students have regarding the use of speaker
phones. Tie in their remarks to the chapter content. You can also bring in additional
issues that could impact the perception certain people might have. For example, someone
with a high “D” personality style preference may be more inclined to use a speakerphone
(because of the ease and efficiency of speakerphones). This also allows them to have
their hands free so they can work on other projects.  High “E” styles may prefer them in
some cases because more people can be involved in the conversation. High “R” styles
may not like them as much because they are less traditional than the old handset. High
“I” style people may want to avoid external distraction caused by background noise that
could interfere with the accuracy of the communication. Keep in mind that these
possibilities would not be true in every case of behavior preference. A lot depends on
secondary style preference and the individual (age, culture, background, etc).

  • Transfer Calls Effectively

            Be sure you understand how the transfer (sometimes called link) and hold functions work on your phone.  Nothing is more frustrating or irritating for many callers than to be senselessly shuffled from one person to the next or to be placed on what seems to be an endless hold.  Here some suggestions that can help to increase your effectiveness in these areas. Always request permission before transferring a caller. Getting permission before transferring a caller shows respect for them and psychologically gives them a feeling of control of the conversation.
You also give them options for decision-making (e.g. to allow a transfer or let you take a message) This is especially helpful when the customer calling is already irritated or has a problem. Before transferring, tell them why you need to do so. For example, "The person who handles billing questions is Shashandra Philips at
            extension 4739.  May I transfer you or would you rather I take a message and pass it along to her?”  By taking this approach, you are also informing the caller
of the proper person and her extension so that if you accidentally disconnect the caller, the customer can call that person directly, thereby taking you out of the
communication loop.  This saves you and the caller time and effort. Additionally, you provide professional, courteous service. If the caller says "Yes, please transfer me," follow by responding something like, "I'd be happy to connect you. Again, should you get accidentally disconnected, I'll be calling Rashandra Philips at extension 4739."
Once you have successfully reached the intended person on the phone, announce
the call by saying, "Shashandra, this is (your name), from (your department).  I
            have (customer) on the phone.  She has a (question, problem, concern).  Are you
            the right person to handle that?"
If Shashandra responds, "Yes," connect the caller and announce, "(Customer's
            name), I have Shashandra Philips on the line.   She            will be happy to assist you. 
Thanks for calling (or some similar upbeat disconnect phrase)."  You can then
hang up knowing you did your part in delivering quality customer service.
Should Shashandra (other intended recipient) not be available or not be the
appropriate person, you should reconnect with the customer and explain this fact. 
Then offer to take a message rather than keep trying to transfer to different people
while keeping the customer on hold.  Two exceptions would be, if the original
ntended call taker informed you of the proper person to whom you           should
transfer, or if the customer insists on staying on the line while you get the right
One practice related to transfers that you should avoid is making a blind transfer
This practice is ineffective, rude, and not customer focused.  The way this often
ccurs is that a service provider will ask a caller, "May I transfer you to ______" or
may even without permission say "Let me transfer you to ______."  Once the
intended transfer party answers, the person transferring the call hangs up, thus
connecting the caller with that person.  You should always announce your caller
by waiting for the phone to be picked up and saying, "This is (your name) in
            (your department), I have (customer's name) on the line, can you take the call?"
or words to that effect. Failure to do so could result in an abrupt confrontation
between two unknown people.  If the calling customer is already upset, you have
just set up a confrontation that could lead to a lost customer and/or angry peer.
If you do place someone on hold, it is a good idea to come back on the line every
20-30 seconds to let them know that you have not forgotten them.  This action
becomes more critical if the phone system you are using does not have play music
or offer information that the customer hears during the hold.        
A general rule of good customer service is to inform callers of the approximate
anticipated wait time before putting them on hold, if possible.  Also, it is a good
idea not to leave people on hold for more than 60 to120 seconds.  Doing so ties up
phone lines and potentially irritates customers.  Should a lengthy delay become
obvious, come back on the line and offer to take a message for a return call.  One
final word about holds--once you return to the phone to take the call, thank the
caller for waiting.

  • Use call waiting

            A useful feature offered by many phone systems is an audible beep that you hear while talking to another person.  The beep indicates that there is an incoming call.  Upon hearing the beep you have a couple of options: (1) Excuse yourself from your current call, by getting permission to place the person on hold, or (2) Ignore the second caller.  If you have a voice mail system, the system makes the choice
for you by transferring incoming calls to your message system.

Instructor Note 9-22: Discuss the role of voicemail and answering machines in

customer service. Elicit positive and negative customer service experiences caused by
this technology.

Voice Mail and Answering Machine

Instructor Note 9-23: Use PowerPoint 9.17 – Voice Mail & Answering Machines to guide discussion on the effective use of voicemail technology.

Although voice mail is hailed by many as a time saver and vehicle for delivering
messages when an intended recipient is unavailable, many other people have difficulty
dealing with voice mail (including answering machines).

  • Managing incoming calls

            To effectively use voice mail you must first understand the            functions of your system.  Check the manuals delivered with your system or speak with your supervisor and/or the technical expert responsible for its maintenance.
One key to getting the greatest advantage from such a system for incoming calls is to keep your outgoing message current, indicating your availability, the type of information the caller should leave, and when they can expect a return call.  If your system allows the option of the caller accessing an operator or alternate person, this should be indicated early in your outgoing message to save them having to listen to unnecessary information.
A second key to effective voice mail usage is to retrieve your calls and return them as soon as possible.  Usually twenty-four hours or by the next working day is a good guideline for returning calls. Doing so sends a positive customer service message.

Instructor Note 9-24: As an out-of-class assignment, have students complete the Work It Out 9-1 - Evaluating Voice Mail, activity to evaluate voice mail messages that they encounter before the next scheduled meeting.  Have them bring the completed sheets to class and be prepared to discussed whether the messages they heard were effective or ineffective and why or why not. Tell them to think about their perceptions of the person or organization when they heard the message.

  • Placing calls to voice mail

            For some reason, many normally articulate people simply cannot speak coherently when they encounter an answering machine or voice mail. One technique for success is to plan your call before ever picking up the phone.  Have a 30 second or less "sales" presentation in mind which you can deliver whether you get a person or machine.  For example, if you get a person, try:  "This is (your first and last name) from (company) calling (returning a call) for ______.  Are they available?"  Also, have key points you want to discuss written down so you don't forget as you talk. If you get a machine, try, "This is (first and last name) from  (company) calling (returning a call) for ______.  My number is ______.  I will be available from ______ to ______."  If you are calling to get or give information, you may want to add, "The reason I am calling is to ______ . . . "  Doing so allows callers


            leaving subsequent return messages on your voice mail or with someone else to include answers to your questions or provide information.  This potentially prevents a game of "phone tag."

  • Avoiding phone tag

If you have ever used a telephone, you have probably played phone tag.  The game starts when the intended call receiver is not available and a message is left. The game continues when that call is returned, the original caller is not available, and a return message is left, and so on.
Phone tag is frustrating and a waste of valuable time. This practice results in a loss in efficiency, money, and in some cases customers. To reduce potential loss, plan your calls and make them effective by giving your name, company name, phone number, time and date of your call, a succinct message, and when you can be reached. If appropriate, emphasize that is all right to leave information you have requested on your voice mail or with someone else. Additionally, you may suggest that they leave a time when you can call or meet with them face-to-face. By doing this, you end the game and get what you need.

Instructor Note 9-25:  Use PowerPoint 9.18 - Taking Messages Professionally to
discuss techniques for effective message taking. You may want to get samples of
message pads sold at office supply stores to pass around as sample formats.  Stress the
need for getting complete information, verifying spelling of names and accuracy of any
number taken (e.g. telephone with area code, address, time [am/pm] social security, or
account/membership numbers).

Taking Messages Professionally
Stress the importance of taking effectively taking messages for others.

  • Name
  • Company
  • Phone number
  • Message
  • When to call
  • Time/date of call
  • Your name


General Advice
Don't communicate personal information (someone is at the doctor's, on sick leave, etc.), belittle yourself (i.e., I don't know,   I'm only...") or the company (i.e., "Nobody knows");  or use weak or negative language (e.g. "I think," "I can't," "should").  Instead, simply state "______ is unavailable, may I take a message" or if appropriate, "I'd be happy to assist you." After you have taken the message, thank the caller before
hanging up, then deliver the message to the intended receiver in a timely manner.  If you find the person will not be available within a twenty-four hour period, you may want to call the customer back to inform them of that fact. In the latter case, again offer to assist or some other alternative, if available.
Instructor Note 9-26: Refer to Figure 9.8 – Communicating Messages and discuss the techniques shown there briefly.


Instructor Note 9-27: Spend a few minutes to review the key aspects of the chapter. Review the objectives in doing so and use as a question and answer format to determine what students learned.
Delivering customer service via technology can be an effective and efficient alternative or compliment to achieving total customer satisfaction. To make this a reality, you must continually upgrade your personal technology knowledge and skills, practice application, and consciously evaluate the service approach and techniques you use to provide service.
In quality-oriented cultures now developing in the United States and many other countries, it is service that will make the difference in survival or failure for individuals and organizations. You are the front line of that service and often the first and only contact a customer will have with your company. Strive to use technology to its fullest potential, but do not forget it is you and your peers who will ultimately determine whether expectations were met in the eyes of your customer.

Instructor Note 9-28:
Discuss Dell’s phenomenal growth and philosophy of commitment to colleagues, customers, direct relationships, global citizenship and winning with integrity. You may want to gather additional information about the company from the Internet to bring to class.

Instructor Note 9-29
Use the key terms and concepts at the end of the chapter as a review vehicle, if desired. This might be in the form of a verbal quiz in which you ask students randomly to define the terms or describe the concepts.

Instructor Note 9-30: Have students individually answer the Chapter Review questions, then review their answers as a group.
Possible Answers for Chapter Review questions:
1.         In what ways can technology play a role in the delivery of effective customer service? Explain.

            Technology can assist customer service providers in delivering information and

            service to customers in many different formats. It can also reduce delivery times and make information accessible to people with disabilities. Technology also allows customers to take ownership and control of their own service. Through such technology as fax-on-demand and on-line information fulfillment systems,
customers can choose the time, format, and type of information they want for
service delivery.

What are some advantages of using technology for service delivery?

Organizations can extend their presence without physically establishing a business site, information can be provided on demand, employees are freed from mundane tasks, customers can be better served in shorted time frames and they can access information from virtually anywhere with technology.
3.         What are some disadvantages of using technology for service delivery?
To use technology effectively requires a large financial investment and continual
upgrades. It also requires on-going training of employees. Employees are often
apprehensive when technology is introduced because of fear of downsizing, this can affect morale. Some people also have difficulty mastering technology.
4.         What are some of the communication skills for success?

            Speak clearly, avoid jargon, slang and colloquialisms, don’t interrupt, adjust

            volume, adjust rate of speech, listen actively, pause occasionally, use correct
grammar, smile, use voice inflection, and project a positive attitude.       
5.         How can you project a more positive image over the telephone?
Smile, use a pleasant, professional sounding tone, use proper body posture, answer questions positively, telling customers what you can do for them, be prepared, and work to resolve problems in a timely fashion. Professionally conclude the call.
6.         What information should you always get when taking telephone messages?

            Name, company, phone number, message, when to call the person back, and time

            and date of call.


7.         When transferring calls, what should you avoid and why?

            Ask permission to transfer the caller, transfer them, wait on the line until another

            person answers, introduce the caller, thank the caller, and disconnect.
8.         When placing a call to voicemail, what information should you leave?
Name, company name, why you are calling, phone number, and your availability to receive a return call.

9.         What is "phone tag" and how can it be avoided or reduced?

            Phone tag is the sending and receiving of messages back and forth because you are unable to connect with your desired person. To avoid phone tag, leave effective messages that include: your name, company name, phone number, time and date of call, a succinct message, and when you can be reached.

Search It Out
Instructor Note 9-31: Have students complete the Search It Out activity as an out-of-class assignment and be ready to present their findings at the next scheduled class meeting.

Collaborative Learning Activity
Instructor Note 9-32: Divide students into triads (three people) with two role players and one observer in each group. Have each student take turns in each of the roles (role player, listener, and observer) as they go through three separate practice scenarios. Have each person select one of the following scenarios (do not allow people in the same group to duplicate in order to have them view and experience different skills discussed in the chapter) and play the customer service provider for it. One of his/her peers will play their customer and the other will observe and provide feedback at the end. Depending on the scenario chosen, they can use copies of Worksheet 9-4 to plan their call. Each scenario will likely take less than 10 minutes to complete followed by approximately 5 minutes of feedback and discussion.
After all students have practiced their scenario and received feedback, lead a discussion on what they experienced. Ask the following questions: (Students’ answers will vary)
What worked well for you as a “customer service provider?”
What challenges did you encounter and how did or could you have overcome them to improve your message delivery?
What did you learn?
Based on what you learned, what will you do differently when dealing with actual customers on the telephone?

Face to Face
Instructor Note 9-33: Have students read the case study, then individually answer the questions at the end. Once they have finished (approximately 8-15 minutes) form equal-sized groups and have them discuss their answers. After 20 minutes, bring the class together and have them share their responses.

Possible Responses to Face to Face Questions


1.         How well did this customer call get handled? Explain.

Based on extenuating circumstances, your efforts were understandable. People sometimes have emergencies, however, this is not the customer’s problem. You should accept responsibility, remain calm, apologize, and seek resolution of the problem or satisfy the customer’s need(s).
2.         Based on information in the chapter, what should you have done differently?
Project a positive image and attitude, apologize, answer promptly, and listen actively. Possibly speak to the supervisor/team leader about ensuring that in a crisis or time-sensitive situation, someone should take responsibility to handle customer situations in order to prevent customers having to wait.
3.         Do you feel Aretha was justified in the manner in which she treated you? Explain.
Yes, if you promised to return the call but did not. Depending on what Aretha was told by the receptionist, there could be a feeling that the relationship is not valued.
4.         How do personal issues or priorities sometimes impact customer service?
People are people, no matter what job they have. There should be a backup plan
in place to keep customers from becoming involved or inconvenienced when a crisis arises.

Instructor Note 9-34:
Have students work individually or in groups to complete the Planning to Serve activity.

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Customer service via technology


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Customer service via technology