In today's high-tech world, the one communication tool that remains a constant is the telephone.  Using the telephone competently and courteously is essential to customer and client satisfaction.  Poor telephone etiquette can have a disastrous effect on your telephone customer service - and bottom line.

Here are some tips for providing excellent customer service:

Preparation:  Have a fair idea of what you are going to say in advance of your telephone call.  Have a mental script you can fall back on if the conversation wanders.
Introduction:  When we meet people face to face we often introduce ourselves with a handshake.  On the phone we must do this verbally by greeting the customer with genuine warmth.

Build Rapport:  Most callers want to speak with a human being not a machine.  Be yourself and keep it friendly.
Speak Clearly: Making yourself understood is a key principle of effective telephone customer service.  If you have an accent, slow down your speech in order for your caller to click into your speech rythm.   Ensure you don't gabble your name.  Just because you are familiar with who you are doesn't mean your caller is.
Tone of Voice:  A friendly but authoritative manner works well.  Develop your own phone personality and vary your vocal pitch to avoid sending the caller to sleep.
Keep it Positive:  Make a list of words that sound upbeat and use them.  Avoid using negative words and phrases on the telephone such as:  that's not possible, forget it, why didn't you, I don't know, never heard of it, it's again policy and no can do.  Keep bureaucratic phrases and jargon out of the customer service conversation.
Listen:  In some ways, listening to your customer is more important than speaking.  Find out exactly what your customer wants when you are attending to their needs.
Putting Callers on Hold:  If you have to leave the customer at any time, make sure you explain what, why and for how long.  Offering to call the customer back demonstrates courtesy and a willingness to help.
Returning to a Caller on Hold:  Don't say "Sorry to have kept you waiting".   Instead, say "Thank you for waiting".  It depressurises the waiting time and works favourably in your favour.
Transferring Calls: On thing that kills a customer relationship is being passed around from pillar to post - or worse still, getting lost inside a virtual switchboard.  Ensure you know how your telephone customer service system works and always get the callers' details before you transfer them, so you can call them back if need be.
Use Voicemaill Effectively:   Properly compose your voicemail before delivering it.  Rehearse announcements before recording them on your phone.
Dealing with Difficult Calls:  Try to think why the caller is acting the way they are and do not take what people say to you as a personal insult.  Don't lose your temper and keep your attention on the facts.  Try to get your customer's agreement as a way forward to resolving the call.
Closing the Call:  Make sure you give assurance that any promises you have made will be fulfilled.  Thank the caller and let them know their business is appreciated.  Your ultimate aim should be that the caller remembers their telephone customer service experience in a positive way.

By following these telephone customer service tips only only will you communicate effectively with your customers - you will positively impact your company's bottom line.