By Ben Henry

There is a positive correlation between the telephone and organizational success. In fact, there is a triple win in that customers benefit, employees benefit and the organization benefits.

The benefits to customers include better service, fulfillment of their needs, and realized expectations. Employees benefit via job security, opportunities for advancement, recognition, increased productivity, increased sales, and increased self-confidence. Organizations benefit through increased productivity, enhanced image, increased customer retention, increased employee retention, and increased sales.

The importance of telephone operators to the success of organizations cannot be over-emphasized. They are often the first point of contact for customers, a critical component in how customers judge an organization, and ultimately whether they'll want to do business with that organization. Organizations expect their telephone operators to provide the empathy, knowledge and problem-solving abilities that keep customers happy.

Any business which puts any service provider to answer its phones without carefully assessing their suitability for this important post is asking for trouble. You cannot let any and anybody answer your company's phones. There are two doors to an organization - the door that a customer physically walks through, and the telephone. In most organizations, the telephone is the most used door in that there are more incoming calls than the number of customers physically walking through your door. You therefore cannot afford to have a bad-attitude person manning the telephone lines.

In a face-to-face interaction, the message a service provider transmits to a customer is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone of voice, and 7 percent words. Customers don't trust words because words can lie. They trust body language because body language cannot lie. Why? Because body language is a manifestation of how you feel inside. If you are happy, it will show ... if you are mad, it will show. Body language (some people call it "body English') is communicating without words. There can be a disconnect between words and body language. You can say to a customer "I would be happy to assist you" but the body language is saying the complete opposite - "A wey dis man a come badda me fah". Tone of voice is also crucial. Customers know the difference between a sincere tone of voice and one that is insincere.

Now, over the phone there are no visual signals so the messages that a telephone operator transmits to a caller is an overwhelming 86 percent tone of voice and only 14 percent words. It is therefore absolutely crucial to have your best service provider manning your phones and make sure that he/she has all the training needed, and the tools for the job. The telephone operator is arguably the most important service provider in an organization.

Research out of America indicates that of every 100 callers who call organizations to do business with them but change their minds, 67 of them say it's the bad attitude of the telephone operator that makes them change their minds. The person manning your phone can make or break your company.

According to one writer, the following are six critical points to remember for good telephone manners. When a caller makes a call to your organization, it is like making a visit to your organization. Taking a call is like receiving a visitor at your organization. Putting a caller on hold is like asking a visitor to wait at the door. Transferring a call is like introducing two people. Leaving a message is like making a call or a visit. Taking a message is like receiving someone else's visitor.

The telephone operator is an employee who is critical to the success of your organization. Train them well, motivate and empower them, and reward them. Remember, the telephone operator gives your organization heart, soul, and feelings. When a customer or potential customer calls and speaks to your telephone operator, there is a "Moment of Truth" during which the caller evaluates the organization. It may be a subconscious rating, or, after a few encounters, a deliberate one. If you want to save your investment, please make sure that your best service provider is stationed at the telephone desk.