“Our most successful clients exude confidence. They do not treat a lead as a possible business opportunity. They get the call and are determined to help the client within the means they have available to them. They have a call center or receptionist that is friendly and helpful. Most importantly, they always answer the phone.”
-Brittany Naylor, VP of Customer Support, Service Direct
It’s no secret that having exceptional phone etiquette skills can significantly impact the success of your business. In fact, we’ve even shared our best tips and tricks in an earlier blog post we published. But, let’s face it; it’s one thing for us to tell you that investing time in improving your phone etiquette is important and quite another to see what happens when real companies actually make that change.
We caught up with our good friend Scott from FenceMaxx, an Austin based fence installation company, to get his insight on how improved phone etiquette helped to create lasting relationships with his customers and increase productivity at his business.
Like many in the home services industry, when FenceMaxx began, it was up to Scott and his team to answer phone calls from potential clients while they were out in the field. Splitting focus between completing a quality, safe fencing installation and providing a meaningful customer interaction over the phone became a juggling act that left some room for improvement.
“It just didn’t sound right,” Scott told us. “We weren’t getting the right vibe across. And more so because we’re sitting outside on an active construction site answering the phone. There’s nothing professional or friendly about that.”
A 2011 study by Avaya asked what customers wanted when they call a business. Overwhelmingly, those surveyed demanded quick, personal interactions with knowledgeable representatives. Knowing that answering calls in the field didn’t always live up to these expectations, once FenceMaxx experienced some growth, they knew hiring a full time receptionist was integral to their continued success.
What did Scott and his team find after filling that role? Most notably, an increase in productivity both in the field and at the office. Because his fencing crew didn’t have to stop each time the phone rang, on site productivity increased. Back at the office, with a new receptionist dedicated to answering the phone, she was able to focus on providing a great first impression to potential clients when they called. And as the old adage says, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
As it turns out, that adage is more than simple sage advice — it’s science. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology discovered that our first impression of an individual reigns supreme even when presented with evidence to the contrary. In their example, say you meet a new colleague who leaves a negative impression. Even weeks later when you attend a party with that colleague and discover they are really quite nice, your brain “binds” that second opinion only to situations similar to that party. So in all non-party situations, even if you are logically aware that your first impression may be incorrect, your instinct will lean towards your initial negative response.
This concept is not lost on Scott and he stresses the importance of that first interaction with his team to ensure they’re making a positive, lasting impression on calls with potential new clients. “That impression is definitely huge. It’s the difference between them caring, getting excited for us to be coming over to give them a bid on their project or just Joe Schmo coming over there and giving them a bid on their project. Definitely getting them excited and having a good conversation makes you stand out from the crowd.”
Exchanging names is an important part to the beginning of any good relationship, which is why Scott believes it is so important to be part of his company’s phone etiquette. “Definitely breaking the ice with a friendly salutation, getting their name and getting on a first name friendly basis right away helps ease the tension and let the person know you’re there to help.”
Research on the power of hearing ones name found that when you hear your name, the parts of the brain associated with making judgement about oneself as well as others are most active. The conclusion is people generally form favorable opinions of others when they are identified by name.
So what can you learn from Scott and the team at FenceMaxx? They say that to really make sure your customers consistently receive quality interactions over the phone, you should make sure you’re doing two things: focus solely on the call by stopping your current task completely before answering the phone and by getting the customer’s first name. After that, you’ve put them at ease and likely gained a favorable opinion on which to jumpstart a new business relationship.