Remember the days when your telephone was plugged into the wall and if you weren't in the office or at home - the phone didn't get answered?
Those days are loooooooooooong gone!
As business owners, we are rarely more than a metre away from our mobile phone and it seems there are very few no-go zones when it comes to where we're prepared to take a call.
When it comes to business, most of us are highly dependent on our telephone but I believe it's an area a lot of businesses take for granted BUT an area that if used properly could lead to making more money.
One of the disadvantages of dealing with our clients or customers over the telephone rather than face to face is that we don't have the benefit of facial expressions and physical gestures.
So we need to employ our people skills even more over the phone than when we meet with someone.
A personal example
Last year my wonderful nail technician was going away on holiday and I needed to find someone else to do my nails for me. So I telephoned a salon that was local and provided the service I was after.
The lady who answered the phone did so in a very cold and unfriendly tone, perhaps she may have been trying to be professional, but remember without facial expressions I could only go by the sound of her voice.
When I gave her the date I wanted to come in, she audibly huffed down the phone and said "the only time I can give you is 3.15pm". First, 3.15pm was perfectly fine with me but the way she spoke made it sound like a problem. And there were so many better ways she could have addressed the issue, she could have even turned it into a positive with a quick "you're lucky we have one spot available...."
It wasn't as if I was asking her to do it for free. Anyway I told her 3.15pm was fine.
Her next question was "So who am I talking to?" and then in the middle of taking down my details, she interrupted and said in a clipped tone "now you do realise that we only use biosculpture gel?" And waited for me to answer.
I didn't know what to say because I honestly didn't know the purpose of the comment so eventually I said to her "No, but it's what I'm used to, is that a problem?" To which she replied "No just want to make sure you understood." I was starting to feel like a naughty school girl...
She asked where I heard of them and I explained the internet to which she sniggered. When I asked what was funny she said "well it's just we don't have a website so it's interesting you found us on the internet."
Again, I didn't know what to say. Clearly she didn't understand that you can find a business on the internet even if they don't have a website, yet somehow I ended up being made to feel the fool. So I just confirmed the date and the time of 3.15pm and she huffed again and said "No you better make it 3pm." As it turns out, I was available at 3pm but there was no consideration for what I wanted at all.
By the time I got off the phone I felt very flat and it probably comes as no surprise to learn that I cancelled the appointment. Instead of taking the opportunity to make a potential new client feel welcome and appreciated, she made me feel like I was putting her out and frankly I don't need to pay someone to make me feel that way.
The real value of information
The phone shouldn't be a selling tool or an information tool - it's a help tool. It's a way for you to help your clients or customers determine whether they can benefit from your services.
Actually, it can be an information tool BUT it's an information getting tool, not an information giving tool. The more information that you can get from the caller, the better you can help them, the more likely they are to buy your product or engage your services.
As much as we might hate to admit it, people rarely ring us to find out how smart we are, they ring because they have a problem they need solved. It's like when I have a client come in to see me about retirement projections, they don't want to see all my calculations, they want the end figure and what it means for them and their lifestyle.
I believe there are a lot of missed money making opportunities when it comes to the phone. There are the obvious extreme examples like the one I mentioned, but by far the biggest is from people who use the telephone to impart information not realising that their time would be so much better spent getting information from the caller and then once you feel confident you know exactly what they need, provide them with a specific solution. Then they're much more likely to buy your product or engage your service.
Research that's been updated regularly since World War II shows that only about 15% of the market genuinely shop on price. Yet, when a potential new customer or client calls it's almost always the first question they ask. Why is this? Simply that most people don't know the right questions to ask so they start with the easy one - price.
I often joke to my clients that no one wakes up in the morning and randomly decides to telephone businesses in their industry to find out their charges. They call because they have a problem they need solved - they need your service or product. However, the only question they know to distinguish one business from another, or simply to get the ball rolling, is your price.
So here are my tips for improving your telephone technique.
Terrific Telephone Tips
- Physically smile before you answer the phone. This may sound trite but it's amazingly powerful. People can hear the smile in your voice and trust me they can hear when you're not smiling!
- Answer on the 2nd ring. If you answer on the first ring it often hasn't rung on the other end and you can startle the caller, which starts the conversation off on the wrong foot.
- Treat every caller as a visitor, imagine they are in front of you rather than on the other end of the call.
- Become "information getters" (but NOT interrogators). Don't fall into the trap of giving out information, step outside your comfort zone and find out exactly what the client or customer is looking for - gives them confidence and also sets the tone for the rest of their experience with you. They WANT a solution otherwise they wouldn't have called.
- Set service standards that everyone on your team knows and adheres to.
- Listen - even if you know the answer, let the caller finish talking.
- Communicate positive feedback to the caller - let them know they are in good hands and set them at ease. This might be as simple as a "yes I understand where you're coming from" or "that makes sense" or "of course you should expect that type of service". Feedback reassures people you're listening and that you understand them in the absence of body language. Of course if you're not sure you completely understand, then say something like "Let me just check I understand you properly so I can give you the right advice".
- Hang up last so you don't "clunk" in a customer's ear!
Some very simple tips but extremely powerful if implemented. Even if you implement just one of them where you're not already doing it or not doing it particularly well, then start today. Hopefully it will help you increase profitability of your business.
I run some great phone training sessions if you want to make it really easy - either one on one or with a team, so just let me know if I can help. And if you'd like to hear more of what I have to say on the matter, click here for a recording of my most recent "You & Your Business" radio segment on 98.1FM Radio Eastern.
PS. Please don't keep me a secret. If you know someone who’d enjoy this or find it useful, pass it on!