What’s More Difficult; Dealing With a Customer Face-to-Face or Over the Phone?

Well I think it’s very easy to answer; face-to-face communication is definitely more difficult. When you’re dealing with somebody face to face you’re not just listening to the words they are saying, you are also judging them by the actions of their entire body.

Face-to-Face or Over the Phone

You’re looking at their eyes and their hand gestures. You’re looking at how they’re standing, their facial expressions and overall body language.

The situation may change their words but their body says more and it’s usually correct. Click To Tweet

If they show a “closed up” posture, shoulders slouched with a head down; they may just be shy or introverted. It’s more difficult for them to state their case. If their hands are in pockets or covered they may be deceptive and hiding something. If they’re standing tall, hands out in front with palms up and looking you right in the eye while smiling, they’re probably being honest.

When dealing with a customer over the phone body language is not a factor. You, or your customer, can be in the office in pajamas and fuzzy slippers. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing as long as the words that come over the phone line are pleasant and are appropriate for the situation.

In-person customer interactions may be more difficult in general but those over the phone have an added factor; the only things you are judged by are the words you use.

Your facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms are not seen. Your intent is less evident. This puts you at a disadvantage. You need to be careful how you speak.

Research has shown that smiling while speaking translates to a more positive tone. Click To Tweet Minimize all distractions and plan-out your call. What is the purpose, what are your options, do you have the authority to satisfy the customer with a “one-call resolution”?

During the call you should stand upright, take notes and don’t interrupt the customer. Remember; the interaction hangs on every word you speak, not on how attractive or “nice you seem”. You can’t rely on the blessings that may have helped you in the past.

A customer interaction over the phone is like being on an island.

There are few to help you, you must respond appropriately and there is little room for mistake. Getting your point across with words only is a skill we all must master.

For many people, that’s actually more difficult.


This post is adapted from a “Breaking the Ice” video where I was a guest. Thanks to Jenny Dempsey and Jeremy Watkin for inviting me to take part in it. Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

Copyright © 2017 Steve DiGioia

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4 thoughts on “What’s More Difficult; Dealing With a Customer Face-to-Face or Over the Phone?

  1. Bravo, Steve! I must tell you that I feel that there are problems with both in-person communications and telephone conversations. One must indeed take care in approaching either form – simply because no matter how one approaches it, communication is interpreted by the person on the other end. It is how they receive your communication to them that can make or break a situation. My advice would be that whenever you seek to communicate with others, relax, take a breath…and be the best you can be. Show respect in your movements or in your voice, keep calm, and remember that the person is a Guest, who is getting a taste of your company just by the way you are communicating with them.

    • Many people think that speaking with a customer over the phone allows them to relax and not “be on”. But as a customer service representative we are “always on” and must be at our best regardless of what medium is used.

      Thanks Lisa, couldn’t agree with you more.