Technology has taken the world by storm, especially in the areas of communication. Today, we have a multitude of ways in which to connect with our customers, from email to text to instant message to FaceTime and more. Yet, the number one form of customer contact is still the telephone. Although 82% of our communication is done telephonically, it is also the single largest means of communication that lacks staff training.
Professional telephone etiquette can impact a positive first impression, influencing a customer’s behavior and actions toward a business. As my father always said, “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression!” If the first interaction most customers have with your firm is over the phone, should you dedicate ample time to train your team to make that impression the best one possible.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the reason customers still want to talk to a human being is because communicating by voice is faster, easier, and more effective. People generally type 38-40 words per minute; speak at a rate of 125-175 words per minute; and listen at a rate of 450 words per minute. Texting may be preferred when making plans with friends, or ordering food online, but when making a significant decision, or an unfamiliar purchase – such as a funeral – most consumers want to “talk” to a qualified expert.
A recent Google study revealed that 61% of mobile users call a business when they are in the purchase phase of the buying cycle. In fact, 59% were looking for a quick answer and 57% wanted to speak to a “real” person. The study also found that consumers are more likely to call a business when making a high-value purchase, such as auto, finance, or travel. In fact, the study also revealed that 74% of consumers who experience bad phone support will choose another provider next time they shop for a product or service. Are you willing to lose three-quarters of your customers?
I had the pleasure of hearing Nancy Friedman, aka The Telephone Doctor, speak at a conference years ago and I implemented her suggestions upon my return. One of the main concepts that she shared is that there is a “magic number” when it comes to telephone calls. The magic number is three (3) and it relates to the number of rings, the greeting, the conversation, and the goodbye.
Did you know how quickly you answer your phone influences customer behavior? Faster is not always better, but neither is too slow. It is like the story of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, it has to be “just right”. Answering on the first ring makes customers think you are not busy enough and may not be able to meet their needs. Answering beyond the third ring leads them to believe you are too busy and they will be overlooked. It’s important you get it “just right”.
Did you know your greeting should consist of three parts? A proper greeting contains a Buffer Statement, the Company Name, and Your Name. Think of your greeting as your telephone handshake – not too firm and not too soft, but just right! And, here’s an important reminder, just like when shaking hands in person, be sure to SMILE!
A buffer statement consists of words that welcome the caller, such as “thank you for calling.” However, it also serves another very important purpose. It engages the customer into the conversation. While the phone is ringing, most customers are thinking about what they want to ask and if you simply blurt out the name of the company, their minds have yet to engage.
The company name is important because customers want to ensure they have called the right place of business. You don’t want them having to ask, “Is this XYZ Funeral Home?”
Finally, your name is very important. Did you know if you provide your name at the end of the call, over 80% of the time, the caller will provide you theirs? This is important because proper phone skills are all about building a relationship with the caller, one that is based on trust.
If you want to elevate your game by improving your customer experience, give me a call. We have a training program that will help your entire team make every call count. With proper phone skills that include handling the price shopper, not only will your phones go ring, ring, but your cash register will go ka-ching!