Even in the digital age, telephone communication is still the preferred method of contact for most consumers. In fact, it’s estimated that 52% of customers still prefer phone contact over any other type of communication with a business.
How you handle these phone conversations can be the difference between cultivating a long lasting business relationship with someone, and losing out on a potentially great client. So what can you do to ensure bad phone etiquette is never the reason you lose a client?
Pick up and perfect your greeting.
If you haven’t already, make sure either you or an answering service is always available to answer the phone. With the ease of internet searching, if you don’t answer, the customer will likely move on to the next name on the list.
But simply answering the phone won’t turn a caller into a client. Make sure you have perfected your greeting. Your greeting should be short, but accomplish three things; thank the caller for choosing your business, identify your business by name, and offer assistance. We know you answer dozens of calls a day, but a good rule of thumb is to treat each caller as if they are your first caller of the day and that you’re genuinely happy to hear from them.
When calling a business, callers usually have a specific question or need in mind. Avoid the temptation to interrupt and listen to what the caller is saying. You may miss out on vital information if you do not.
It may be tempting to quickly shut down callers who are seemingly seeking services you don’t provide, but you may be turning down valid business opportunities in the process. Callers are turning to you for your expertise in a specific industry. While they may have a general idea of what they need or want, their lack of knowledge may have them completely off base.
Ask questions about what they are trying to accomplish, and if you find they may not be on the right track with their proposed solution, it’s okay to steer them in the right direction and sell them on your service. Of course, you may not be able to offer a solution to every caller, but by honing your listening skills, you may find a few new clients you may have previously turned away.
Tone is everything.
While the words you choose are absolutely important, most researchers agree that only a small percentage of communication is based on the words you use while most is conveyed through body language and tone. Since your callers won’t get the benefit of interpreting your body language, it’s up to you to choose your tone wisely and make sure it is sending the right message.
Consider the phrase, “How can I help you today?” When said with a higher pitch and choosing to place the inflection on the word “today,” you’re conveying a general friendliness and willingness to help. Now imagine it said monotone. Your caller may think you’re bored. What about if you sighed before beginning? They may think you’re unwilling to assist.
Choosing the right words won’t mean anything if they’re delivered with the wrong tone, so being mindful of how you speak is critical.
Can anyone really detect a smile over the phone? A 2008 study from the University of Portsmouth found that the average person can tell if a person is smiling just by their tone of voice.
It may feel weird at first, but your callers can really hear the sincerity of a smile through the phone. Smiling is a simple way to improve your tone, naturally conveying happiness and friendliness. So before you pick up the phone, flash those pearly whites and let the caller hear your smile!
As it turns out, your mother was right; “Mind your manners.” A busy workday can leave us forgetting the most basic things and our manners usually top that list.
Being polite over the phone (and everywhere, for that matter) goes a long way in life and in business. Saying “please”, “thank you”, or “I’m sorry” if you’ve interrupted or spoken over someone shows that you value their time and what they have to say. Manners also convey a sense of respect and will likely garner some in return. Remember, each call is a current or potential client, so you want to always put your best foot forward.
Making a great first impression with potential clients is vital to developing a lasting business relationship. Since most first business introductions occur over the phone, making sure your phone etiquette is perfected will help ensure you convert your inbound leads. With a few quick tweaks to improve your phone etiquette, your current and potential clients will be singing your praises for years to come!
Have a great phone etiquette trick? Share in the comments below!