What unprofessional behavior irritates you the most when, as a consumer, you are interacting with another company? At Telephone Doctor we hear a lot of what bothers the public.

It's important to know that customer service that is perceived as rude is not always intentional and often is the result of absent-mindedness or carelessness on behalf of an employee. Either way, bad customer service can translate into lower sales and lost business.

Based on Telephone Doctor surveys, we've compiled 15 customer service NO NO's. They are listed below along with Telephone Doctor's guidelines on how to do it better. Believe me, there are plenty more. These are at the top of the list.

If any of your folks are guilty of these, it's time for some action. Otherwise you may have an image problem that could sabotage your effort to produce and market great products.

15 TOP NO NO's

1. Employees are having a bad day and their foul mood carries over in conversations with customers. (Yes, everyone has bad days every once in a while, but employees need to keep theirs to themselves.)

2. Your employees hang up on angry customers. (Ironclad rule: We never hang up on anyone. When we hang up on someone, we label ourselves as rude.)

3. Phone calls or voice mail messages are not returned. (All calls are to be returned or have calls returned on your behalf.)

4. Employees put callers on hold without asking them first, if they are able to hold . . . as a courtesy. (Ask customers politely if you can put them on hold; very few will complain or say "No way!")

5. Employees put callers on a speakerphone without asking if it's OK first. (It's the nice thing to do, as a courtesy.)

6. Employees eat, drink or chew gum while talking with customers on the phone or face-to-face. (Chew away from the customer. And save that stick of gum for break time by yourself.)

7. Employees make personal calls (or text) on cell phones while working with customers. (RUDE, RUDE, RUDE!)

8. Employees forget to use the words "please," "thank you," or "you're welcome." (Your mother was right. Please use these words generously. Thank you.)

9. Employees hold side conversations with friends or each other while talking to customers. (A big customer frustration.)

10. Employees seem incapable of offering more than one-word answers. (One-word answers come across as rude and uncaring.)

11. Employees use a lot of words that are grounded in company or industry jargon that many customers don't understand. (If you sell tech products, for example, don't casually drop in abbreviations such as APIs, ISVs, SMTP or TCP/IP.)

12. Employees request that customers call them back when it's 'not so busy.' (Customers should never be told to call back. Request the customer's number instead and you call them back.)

13. Employees rush customers, forcing them off the phone or out the door at the earliest opportunity. (Rushing threatens customers - take your time.)

14. Employees obnoxiously bellow, "What's this in reference to?" effectively humbling customers and belittling their requests. (Screening techniques can be used with a little more warmth and finesse. If a caller/customer has mistakenly come your way, do your best to point them in the right direction. And yes, with a smile.)

15. Employees freely admit to customers that they hate their jobs. (This simply makes the entire company look bad. And don't think such a moment of candor or lapse in judgment won't get back to the boss.)

In defense of employees, customers can be rude too. And customer service jobs can often be thankless with little motivation or incentive to do the job right.  

Sadly, yes, customers can be rude and get away with it. Employees cannot if they want to help their companies succeed and keep their jobs as well. It is what it is.

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Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

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