It seems simple enough. The phone rings. The phone is answered. Story over. Except… your employees’ telephone skills may say more about your operation than your menu (or, at least, that’s the perspective of the customer on the phone). Too often, when we’re flying around serving customers who are already there, we neglect those who might be coming. When the phone is answered briskly (or even rudely), you’ve just wasted all the marketing dollars you spent to get a prospective customer to call.

With so much information available to consumers online, your restaurant probably receives fewer calls than it did a decade, or even a few years, ago. People do still call in, though, and when they do they expect an attentive and knowledgeable person on the other end of the line. Consider this: some members of your staff may not even know how to answer a traditional phone call, let alone have a conversation on it. With a younger staff whose main forms of communication are through texts and social media, training your team on phone etiquette is more important now than it ever has been before.

Basic Telephone Skills for Restaurant Employees

In addition to making sure your employees know how to answer the phone and place callers on hold if necessary, teach these basic telephone skills:

  • Smile. It sounds silly, but callers can “hear” a smile… and it sets the tone for the call.
  • Identify yourself. Instruct employees to greet (“Good evening”), confirm (“This is Joe’s Steakhouse”), introduce (“I’m Pat Reilly”) and assist (“How can I help you?”).
  • Pay attention. The biggest mistake in phone etiquette is not giving the caller your full attention.
  • Don’t interrupt. When you’re busy, it’s easy to rush or interrupt the caller. Instead imagine that person standing in front of you and act accordingly.
  • Hold, please. Never put a person on hold unless you ask for permission – and wait to receive it – first.
  • Eliminate dead air. If you must put a customer on hold, make sure there is some audio. Dead air makes the time on hold seem longer and eventually customers wonder, “Have I been disconnected?”
  • Keep calm. If you’re frazzled, fake it. Customers won’t come to an operation that can’t handle their business.

Customer service begins before your customers even walk in the door. Click here to learn more about the Service That Sells! Cycle of Service.