There is an old story of two managers discussing staff training. The first manager objects to training saying, “What if we train them and they leave?” The second manager replies, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”
My friends, knowing I write this blog, send me examples of experiences they have all the time. This one that happened last night …
My friend walked into a restaurant. The hostess eyed her from the moment she walked through the door all the way to the hostess stand. The hostess didn’t say a word. Not. A. Word. My friend had to initiate the conversation. Talk about awkward.
One of the first skills all of my new employees learned was how to use the phone. We learned how to answer it, exactly what to say (yes, the greeting was scripted), and how to respond to questions. We even talked about the importance of smiling while on the phone because people can actually hear a smile. (Try it with your friends. Grin broadly while talking on the phone until the person on the other end of the line asks whats so funny.)
I taught the phone skills first for a number of reasons.
- It made them feel helpful right off the bat.
- It set the tone for the attitude I expected from them in front of customers.
- It helped me gauge their communication skills.
Answering the phone was easy because there were pretty much only four questions that got asked …
- Can I speak to (a person or the manager)?
- Can I speak to (a department)?
- Do you have (a product)?
- How late are you open?
For the first three questions, no matter who answered the phone, you would typically put them on hold. The last one even the newbies on the staff could answer.
The cool thing was watching them practice their phone answering skills. The outwardly friendly staff members had no problem smiling and speaking joyfully. The rest, I knew I would have to work with them on their communication skills a little more.
This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Communication skills are important. You can no longer take for granted that people know what to say and how to say it. You have to teach it and practice it. By starting early with a communication skill, I set the tone for how important proper communication would be and what I expected.
If you aren’t teaching proper communication skills you just might end up with a hostess who doesn’t know that it is her job to say, “Hello!”
PS The script for answering the phone was simple. “Thank you for calling the Toy House. How may I help you?” I’ll break that statement down completely in a following post.