How you answer the telephone can make – or break – your business.
The telephone is a powerful sales medium for your business. It is a great tool to generate more sales and keep existing customers. The telephone can be your first contact with a potential customer, and how you answer the phone can shape the customer’s impression of your business. It can serve as the gateway for prospects to make a purchase or use your service.
Given the telephone’s importance in communicating with customers, it is a MUST that the people in-charge of answering the phone should be able to communicate well and convey a good first impression for your business. They must be able to convert these callers to come to the business or get them to make a decision and buy. Remember, they are in the front door of your business.
Smaller companies that may not be able to afford well-trained telephone operators are at a big disadvantage. In big companies, telephone receptionists are trained rigorously to make sure that they can bring in more customers or get more people to use the services that the company offers. For small businesses, lucky are those who manage to find individuals who are especially adept in conversing with customers over the telephone. Unfortunately, some small businesses hire inexperienced individuals, further exacerbated by the fact that they have little or no resources to train them. As a result, instead of getting these frontliners to win more business for the company, they end up driving away potential customers.
My new dentist’s office is an example of how a small business can win over new customers because the person who answers the phone knows how to talk to a prospective customer.
I needed some procedure done and was on a lookout for a dental clinic nearer my new home. I found a dental clinic in a local advertising magazine, and their ad copy intrigued me. So I called up their office.
The telephone operator who answered my call was so courteous and immediately made me feel that they can really give me the quality of dental service that I want. She sounded professional, very convivial, knowledgeable about the services they offer, and obviously trained to convert inquiry callers into bookings.
Her approach was not to ask what services I need; instead, she enumerated the services they provide, while stressing that it is best I take advantage of their free consultation so the dentist can advice me of the services that I need. I normally avoid “free consultations” like plaque, but there was something so convincing with the way the telephone operator talked to me that I found myself agreeing to set up an appointment for a free consultation. They’re not the cheapest dental clinic in town, but they always make me happy – and now I count myself as one of their satisfied customers.
On the other end of the spectrum are small businesses that do not know how to handle telephone inquiries, and instead end up driving prospective customers away.
I recently called a tree cutting service company to help remove the dead trees in my backyard. It took four rings before an automated answering machine opened the line:
“This is the Tree Cutting Company. If you know your party’s extension, please dial it now…
“If you are calling for service, Press (1)….
“If you have a billing question, Press (2) and so on…
Listening to the options took several minutes before the machine said,
” If you want to talk to a representative please hold and we will answer your call in the order it was received….
Then, ” All our representatives are busy attending other customers, please hold and a representative will be with you shortly… and the music starts to play again… and the waiting starts again.
It took about ten minutes listening and waiting before an actual person answered the phone. I took the time to wait because I really needed their help.
After the person who answered the phone mumbled her name, I asked if I could get a free quote from their company to cut down my dead tree. Like other tree cutting services I’ve used in the past, I expected that she would get my address and send someone to see my property, which could have ended right there and they should have gotten the business.
However, the young lady sounded like I owed their company something for calling for their advertised service. Her voice was cold, very disinterested bordering on rudeness. I thought that maybe she had a quarrel with her boyfriend the night before. She was arrogant and sarcastic. She even sounded like she was chewing gum. Disgusted, I told her to just forget the call. I am no longer interested in giving them my business.
The owner of the business was apparently tracking calls, and called up later to apologize and begged for my business. He never got it. That company is now off my list of tree cutting service.
The above examples show that small businesses need to take the time to train their telephone receptionists to project an image of professionalism for the company and win potential customers. Those who are able to communicate well with callers can end up with more sales, leading to a healthier bottom line.
As a small business owner, try calling your office from the outside and pretend to be a customer. Listen how your telephone receptionist answers the phone to help you bring in more business. If you feel that they are more of a liability to your business, fire them. Hire another one or answer the phone yourself.
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