Elevate Your Customer Service: Focused and Successful Inbound Phone Conversations

composing music

Picture it. A darkened movie theatre in 1973. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are mesmerizing in The Sting. What captures my attention? The music.

Scott Joplin‘s ragtime, combined with an existing fascination with Nat King Cole, sparked my life-long romance with jazz.

I’ve listened to a wide variety of jazz artists during this pandemic. I’ve spent time enjoying many of the recordings of jazz pianist Chick Corea, who died earlier this year from a rare form of cancer. And it finally dawned on me –  there’s a deep connection between jazz and conversation.

What’s the connection between jazz and conversation? And how can it improve our communication?

Great jazz, and great conversations, involve improvisation.

The word “improvise” comes to us from the 1808 Latin word improviso, meaning “unforeseen, not studied or prepared beforehand”. This is the cause of much of the phone fear and anxiety shared with me in workshops and presentations. The unknown is frightening, especially when it is waiting at the end of a ringing phone!

The ability to work with the unknown requires, at the very least, some basic skills. And then practicing these skills until they no longer require thought. Once this happens, we are able to confidently improvise with whatever may happen in any conversation.

Skills necessary to create focused and successful inbound phone conversations:

  1. Answer the phone with your name. Great conversations demand that we introduce ourselves, that we create a personal experience.
  2. Get the name of the person calling … and get it right. This can be a challenge when the name is completely unfamiliar. Know that, for each of us, our names are important. Take the time and ask them to spell their name. Once you have it written down, try to say it, i.e. “And is this how I say your name correctly …?
  3. Start this inbound conversation with an open-ended question such as “How can I help you today?” or “What has inspired you to call us today?
  4. Listen carefully to what the caller shares with you. If possible, make messy notes for yourself. Writing makes us better listeners and having notes makes us less nervous.
  5. Use what you’ve heard to create a structure or agenda for your conversation. For example, “I can help you with that, Linda. I’m going to ask you two quick questions, set up a file for you, and then book your appointment.” Or, “I’ll gladly make that happen for you, Linda. There are three questions I need to ask you. Then I’ll send you the forms you need.

Practicing and owning these steps will build confidence. Confidence will result in the ability to improvise – ask additional questions, share a story or joke, build deeper relationships with customers.

For more information on this topic, watch my recorded webinar on YouTube.


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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.