A phone call is not like an email that you can read at your convenience, proofread and spell check before responding. It’s not as personal as a face-to-face conversation, where body language and eye contact can mean as much as the words spoken. Fight the urge to hesitate – every phone call is an opportunity, so make it a positive one.
The first step to making every phone call a good experience is to answer with confidence. Have your introduction memorized and nailed down, so that you speak it clearly and concisely. “Thanks for calling ‘My Business’, this is ‘My Name’, what can I do for you today?” Try to avoid long, drawn out scripts that come off as corny, make your customers wait, and can become inconvenient tongue twisters.
Another good idea that works surprisingly well is to smile when you answer the phone. This not only serves as a subconscious reminder to make the call a positive one, but it comes across in the tone of your voice and establishes a friendly rapport with the caller.
Next is to pause and listen to the customer identify themselves and the purpose of their call. It really helps to keep a notepad handy to note these details, especially if the call ends up lasting longer than a minute or two. Remembering the customer’s name and addressing them by it during the call makes the experience more personal and shows that you’re paying attention and care about their needs. Furthermore, by keeping track of the types of calls you receive, you can identify ways to make your business more efficient. For example, if you notice that you’re getting a lot of calls about your hours or location, having a solution like a mobile app for your business that answers these simple questions can save both you and your customers a lot of time.
You also need to be prepared for times when a call will be less than pleasant. Managing a difficult call above all else requires two things: patience and empathy. Think about a time when you’ve made a phone call while upset – perhaps an unknown charge appeared on a credit card statement or your cable went out right before a big game. The person on the other end of the line wasn’t directly responsible for these events, but the urge to take it out on them is still there. In this case, that person is now you.
Stay calm and let the customer speak. It might be something as simple as a misunderstanding, or it might be a legitimate problem that will need to be worked out. When speaking, talk calmly and slowly – we have an unconscious tendency to raise the pitch of our voice and speak faster when we get upset, and that comes across even more over the phone. Remember to take notes, and if it’s a larger issue that can’t be handled in a minute or two, reassure the customer that you will deal with it after the call is over and get a call back number for where they can be reached. Last but not least, follow up afterwards, even if you are not the last person to deal with their situation. Their feelings towards you and your business will be based on the last contact they have with you, so end on a high note and they’ll remember that more than whatever upset them in the first place.
Another useful tip is to end each call by asking if there’s anything else you can do for them. It shows that you’re not rushing them off the phone, and can save a customer the inconvenience of making a second call because they might have forgotten to ask a follow-up question. Before hanging up, you might even want to remind the customer about any upcoming programs or events they might be interested in.
So don’t be afraid when the phone rings – get excited! If you’re prepared, maintain a positive attitude, and treat your customers with sincerity and respect, you can make every phone call an opportunity.