SOFT! Do you have a very soft voice? Again you know who you are and you as well oftentimes admit it. When you talk on the telephone can the other person hear you? While you are talking they too are scrambling for the volume adjustment to make your voice louder just to hear you and in the meanwhile, they are forming opinions and not really listening to what you are saying.
JUST RIGHT! How do you know? Have you recorded a telephone conversation from the other end to hear what you sound like? This may be the worst position to have, thinking your voice level is “just right” and therefore you have no idea how you are truly being received. In such a case, no change in how you conduct your conversations is even considered; after all, it is just right, right?
TOO FAST! There is only one situation that would be worse than talking too fast on the telephone and that would be TALKING TOO FAST AND LOUD AT THE SAME TIME! Have you ever tried to write down a telephone number left on your voice mail by someone who talks too fast? I have and there have been times I have had to listen up to three times to the same voice mail message to hear a 10 digit telephone number (that is provided they also leave the area code).
T O O S L O W! Come on, my time is valuable and I don’t have time to listen to your slow or long-winded conversation. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible. Let the person called know you appreciate and put a value on their time. “I know your time is valuable so I will be brief.” If you are on the receiving end of a conversation from someone you know who is long-winded, tell them up front that your time is precious, “I have an appointment in a few minutes I can only give you a minute. What’s up?” You need to control your time and spending it on long-winded conversations is not a good use of your time.
WHINING! This may be the worst of the worst. Some people just can’t seem to help it, they sound like they are always whining even when they are trying to say something positive. Your voice inflection has everything to do with the message. Yell at the top of your lungs, “I love you!” to your dog and the dog will cower in fear. Your actual words mean little; it is the volume and inflection of your voice, not to mention your body language. The reverse is also true, chew out your dog with a loving and soft voice and the dog will wag its tail endlessly.
The Three Little Pigs Theory (again one of my own theories): If you are talking to someone who has a loud voice, then loud may be just right. If you are talking to someone who has a soft voice, then soft may be just right. Different strokes for different folks. However, when you first make the call, you have no idea what the other person’s voice OR hearing is like. Someone who may be hard of hearing may hear your loud voice as being just right. Believe it or not, some people have very sensitive hearing and loud noises bother them very much. And I know this because…
In any case, you simply cannot make assumptions. The first assumption that everyone makes is that their telephone instrument is perfect and that the sound it produces is of the highest quality – trust me Mon Frère, it ain’t! And like your voice, how do you know what your phone sounds like unless you record? Another common assumption is that the person you are calling has the time for you at that very moment; do not take it personal when they don’t. Just as your time is valuable to you, their time is valuable to them.
Recommendation: Call yourself and leave yourself a voice mail message. You will be able to determine quite a bit from this procedure provided you talk as you normally think you do. If you take the position that you know you are being recorded, quite possibly, you will talk a bit slower to be understood better and you will be more conscious of the volume of your voice. If you do not think this is true the next time you are in a restaurant and someone sitting near you answers a cell phone, listen to how they increase the volume of their voice. Everyone in the restaurant can hear their conversation. And if you listen closely you can also hear the other person’s voice because that person is also talking louder. “Can you hear me now?” That may have been the most disastrous television commercial of all time in regards to voice quality. Everyone has heard it and has probably said it. So whenever you pick up a phone the first subconscious thought is, can you hear me now and you talk louder. You know I am right on this. Hear is another teachable moment. When you call yourself to leave a voice message, for the first time, clear your mind and then listen to your recorded voice message as a customer would hear it for the first time. Is it inviting? Does it show excitement in what you do? Is it too soft? Is it too loud? Do you talk to fast? Do you talk to slow? Does your message give the caller to a reason to leave you a message? How do you know? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being outstanding, how would your best friend rate your voice mail message? Is your friendship strong enough for them to tell you the truth? Just asking.
Better Recommendation: Set it up with a friend that the friend will record your telephone call over the next two months but not tell you when. In time you will have forgotten you asked to be recorded and the eventual recording will be more of your real voice than a voice used knowing you are being recorded.
Best Recommendation: Remember the Golden Rule (a rule I made up of course) of telephone conversations – the person being called is ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING so no matter when you call them, they are busy doing whatever they are doing. It may be something that can be interrupted or not; you do not know when you place the call. Therefore acknowledge that the person called is a busy person and ask if they have just a minute or would they prefer to call you back or you call them back at another time. For example, “Joe, I know you are busy can you spare me a minute (or if longer say so) or should I call you back at a better time?” In most cases since you recognized that the person called is busy, that person WILL give you the minute or two you asked for. Never say you’re sorry that you called because everyone knows that is not true. If you were truly sorry you would not have placed the call. Example, “I’m sorry to bother you…” no your not, you need something and you need something from the person you called. And while we are talking about being interrupted, have you ever called someone between 12:00 and 1:00 pm or 5:00 and 6:30 pm; what were you thinking. Is this not the time most people are either at lunch or supper? Would they not be busy? Dah! On the other hand, if you do not want to engage in a conversation and you only want to leave a voice mail, those times might be the perfect time to call; when they don’t or shouldn’t answer their phone. Leave your brief message and be done with it.
Back At Ya Recommendation: If YOU don’t want to be bothered while YOU are eating lunch or supper or whatever it is your are doing, DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE! Let your phone or your phone service take a message. Discover the benefits of being in the present moment and focusing 100% of your attention on what you are doing and who you are with rather than letting your cell phone dictate your life!
Keep this thought in mind (if you can):
What I thought I sounded like was not what the customer thought I sounded like and what the customer thought I sounded like was not what I thought I sounded like and we both thought the other person sounded different than what they thought they sounded like. So who was right?
It’s never about YOU! It is always about the CUSTOMER! What the customer thinks is paramount to your success not visa versa. Stop reading and believing the press clippings of your mind; they mean nothing to a customer. The only person that truly matters to the customer is the person the customer thinks you are! Who should that be? Glad you asked – someone who puts the customer’s needs first! If you are not in the proper mindset to do that when the phone rings, don’t answer it.
ABSOLUTE BEST RECOMMENDATION: When your phone rings, immediately stop what you are doing provided you intend to answer it. Don’t try to type in one or two more words on your document or read one more paragraph, stop right now! Take a deep breath, count to 3 and then for just a second or two recognize that this call may be the most important call in the world and you need to give it the attention it will deserve. Who knows, it just may be the most important call in the world; you won’t know until you answer it. And when you do answer it, the caller must think they are the most important person in the world by the voice they hear on the other end of the call. For you-know-who, that would be you.