Answering the telephone may sound simple, but did you know that one rude or inexperienced telephone person could turn away thousands of dollars in business?

Just because phone contact is not face to face, it does not mean that delivering unsurpassed guest service is a lesser priority. A well-trained crew that answers the phone professionally will make callers feel welcome and result in repeat business. Here are some tips you can share with your staff to help them become phone experts.

Phone Answering Guidelines

Be polite and courteous to every caller-even if they are not ordering a pizza. You never know the networking ability that person possesses. Because of your professionalism, maybe one day their neighbor or friend will order a pizza from you.

Answer the phone immediately. If you wait for more than three rings, you may risk losing a caller to a competitor.

Avoid placing callers on hold unless you must. When placing them on hold, be courteous and ask: "May I place you on hold?" Do not place callers on hold for longer than 30 seconds. If you cannot service them within the 30-second period, let them know you will be right with them.

Win over callers by communicating effectively with your voice. Since only 7 percent of messages are communicated through the words we use and 93 percent through verbal and body language, be aware of how you come across on the telephone. Since you do not see callers face to face, it can be challenging to rely only on your words and your voice. To show confidence, project your voice and use an energetic, upbeat tone. Try smiling when you are talking-a smile on your face will stimulate a positive attitude and make for a welcoming call.

Speak clearly and articulate your words. Do not use slang works like yah, nope, uh-huh, etc. Use polite words such as: please, thank you, excuse me, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, would you prefer, may I offer, certainly, and please let me verify. Scott Dearing, franchise owner of Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs in St. Petersburg, FL, a 19-year veteran in the industry, says, "Training order takers to be polite, and to speak clearly and not too quickly, is a top priority on our company and prevents communication breakdowns."

Be an effective listener. Ask the right questions to help expedite the call and get the order correct.

Be patient-even if you find that you have answered the same questions with other callers. Remember: you are answering it for the first time for them. If you do not know the answer to their question, always find out and follow up.

Use the caller's name whenever possible. A person's name is the single most important action you can take to make someone feel valued. You may be able to get their name from computer records taken from past orders or by asking them in your initial greeting. Always address the guest by the name they introduce themselves to you. For example, "Mr. Brown" or "Sally." If you absolutely cannot get their name, use "Sir" or "Miss."

When taking phone orders, do not ignore walk-in guests. Use head nods or hand gestures to signal recognition. If necessary, politely place the caller on hold and acknowledge the walk-in promptly. Let the caller know you will be right with them. On the other hand, if you are talking with a walk-in guest and the telephone rings, excuse yourself and let the walk-in know you will be right with them.

Refer non-typical requests or unfamiliar situations to your manager. For example, very large orders, pizza party arrangements, orders placed and held for a prearranged specific date/time, and upset or dissatisfied guests should be brought to your manager's attention.

Use the phone for business purposes and emergencies only. Tying up the phone talking with friends can mean thousands of dollars in lost business.

Phone Answering Guidelines

1. When talking with guests on the telephone, each employee should use his/her unique style and follow the steps listed below: (Since operations differ, you may not choose to follow the steps in the exact order shown.)
Greet the Guest-Delivering an enthusiastic greeting is key in establishing a positive first impression with your guest. An energetic greeting with an upbeat voice will set the tone for the entire call and streamline the ordering-taking process. At a minimum, the greeting should include: Thanking the caller, stating your company name, introducing yourself, and offering your assistance. The greeting is a good time to offer your specials and make suggestions.

For Example: "Thank you for calling Pizano's. This is Frank, may I ask who I am speaking with? Lisa, may I take your order?" or "Thank you for calling Pizano's. This is Susan, what delicious pizza would you like this evening? Our special today is the Double Cheese Delight."

2. Record the delivery address- Ask for key contact information including name, address, apt. number, and telephone number. If the guest lives in an unfamiliar or a new location, get very specific directions. For pick-up orders, give clear and accurate directions to your restaurant. Always ask callers what direction they will be coming from. If you are unsure about the directions, refer the caller to the manager. Be alert to a false order made by children or pranksters-confirm the order by phoning back and/or alert your manager. Scott says, "We always confirm orders over $25.00. We tell our guests that since they placed a larger than normal order, we would like to double check the order so we can make it right for them."

3. Suggestive sell and take the order- When taking the order, always be specific and ask questions to clarify. Offer specials and suggestive sell additional items such as sodas, breadsticks, chicken tenders, extra toppings, and large sizes for value.

4. Confirm the order- Repeat the order to the guest to confirm it is accurate. Verify such items as:
• Toppings
• Quantities
• Pizza sizes
• Pizza type/style (thick, thin, deep-dish, etc.)

For Example: "That will be two large pizzas-the first one, our vegetarian special, without cheese and a second one, our pepperoni special with extra cheese and light sauce." Be sure to always write down the details to prevent costly mistakes and the remaking of food items. You may lose a guest if they don't receive exactly what they ordered.

5. Confirm the final price and directions- Scott says, "Since pizza delivery businesses advertise numerous special offers and coupons, always make sure you confirm which coupon/special offer the guest would like to apply to their order. One way to quickly turn off a guest is by overcharging them."

For Example: "The total order is $16.50 with your $1.00 coupon." If you charge extra for delivery service or tolls, always tell your guest. For Example: "And, we are delivering to: 705 Haines Avenue, Apt. 66, on the bottom floor."

6. Quote an estimated time- Give the guest a range for their estimated delivery time. For Example: "The estimated time of delivery will be within 30-45 minutes."

7. Thank the caller for their order- Always show appreciation for the guest's business and use their name when thanking them. For example: "Mr. Johnson, thank you for your order."

8. Bid Farewell – For an extra-special touch, after thanking the guest, close the conversation with a pleasant farewell. For example: "Have a great day and call us again soon."

Pizza News