Gathering information

A telephone call is a purposeful activity. Your caller will have some objective in mind and you will need to elicit this objective as quickly and as clearly as possible. In a simple information-seeking call, all you need to do is ask for the caller's name, address, telephone and fax numbers. However, in more complex situations, you need to develop your questioning techniques so that you obtain the salient facts. Let's assume your caller has a complaint about a product your company has sold them. You need to:

· ascertain the nature of the problem

· verify that the product is one of yours and that warranty cover still applies

· discover how the caller has been using the product and what steps they have taken to rectify the problem.

Listening skills

Another skill in receiving telephone calls is the ability to listen properly. Passive listening is simply allowing the caller to talk and not taking any action to ensure we have the right message. By actively listening we mean first indicating to the caller that we are listening by interrupting in an encouraging manner—interruptions could be 'yes', 'I see', 'Okay', ‘right,’ ‘I know what you mean’, or they could be prompts to encourage the caller to say more: 'is that true?', 'are you sure?', etc. And secondly we mean asking questions or using prompts to ensure that the caller gives precise information so that the message we receive is accurate. This can be done by the use of wh- questions: What color?/how many?/when will you arrive?/where shall we meet? and by techniques such as echoing and reformulating.