The phrase “smile and dial” has existed in the sales and customer service profession since the advent of the telephone. Yet despite this longevity, what ought to be common practice isn’t! Surprisingly, there are many sales and customer service professionals who either haven’t heard of this foundational approach to telephone etiquette or, worse, there are many who have but fail to recognize the importance of smiling while talking on the phone. Furthermore, many professionals fail to recognize the importance of tone and how it can affect the meaning of words and the mood of a conversation.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Portsmouth, smiling affects how we speak—to the point that listeners can identify the type of smile based on sound alone! So what are some things you can do to ensure that others hear and feel a smile on your call?
For starters, before you pick up the phone, throw your shoulders back and smile. By straightening your posture and putting a smile on your face prior to calling, your mind and body will be at ease, helping you create and deliver a smiling tone from “hello.”
In addition to posture and smile, consider standing instead of sitting. Personally, I find that my energy level and attentiveness are much greater when I stand.
Now, while smiling is paramount, the tone of your voice is also important. In fact, the message you project to a customer or prospect over the phone is largely communicated through the tone of your voice. For instance, a monotone voice with no changes in inflection tells the customer that you are not interested in what they’re talking about and would rather be doing something else—anything else!—than talking with them. When you’re smiling, it’s difficult to slip into this kind of monotone voice. Conversely, an energized and emphatic voice communicates that you’re excited to have this conversation, and there’s no place you’d rather be than right here.
Another way to improve inflection is to put emphasis on specific words to change the way the person feels about what you’re saying. Consider this simple question: “What would you like me to do about it?” Where you put the emphasis changes the meaning.
- What would YOU like me to do? Putting emphasis on the word “you” likely evokes feelings of defensiveness, and takes an accusatory tone. It’s not exactly the kind of feeling you want to convey in a sales or service conversation!
- What would you like ME to do? By emphasizing the word “me,” this question evokes feelings of curiosity, and, with a friendly tone, expresses ownership and a willingness to help.
So remember to smile and use the tone of your voice to project specific meanings you want your listener to feel.
If well all know how to smile, and we’ve been told to do so when speaking on the phone, why do so many of us fail to do so with any regularity? Like most things, it boils down to establishing routines. In order to make smiling a part of every call your team engages in, there are some creative solutions you can try.
For example, Michael Coburn, the Director of Customer Service at Nestle USA, instructed his customer service team to place Nestle-branded mirrors at each phone representative’s workstation so that they can see if they’re smiling when talking on the phone. An even simpler method is to put up sticky notes or labels with “Smile Reminders” on phones and computer monitors.
So remember: throw your shoulders back, start smiling before picking up the phone, use tone and inflection to evoke appropriate feelings, and have smile reminders nearby to ensure every phone conversation is accompanied by a happy smile.