I’m sorry to say that this blog has grown from my own experience making business-to-business calls every single day. I wish I didn’t have to write it but I do. And although you’d think that this is the stuff that any business would have to get right before it was allowed to get off its L-plates, the fact is, far too many professionals make awful mistakes every time they pick up the phone. I’m going to run through four basics in brief, so don’t hang up on me, okay?
Take a deep breath, and…
How many phone calls do you get each day? Some days I feel like I spend about eight hours on the phone, with one call coming in after (and often during…) another. Regardless of this, business courtesy decrees that we answer every call. Let more than a few slip by with the same client or even with various different clients and you’ll start to build a reputation as that person who doesn’t pick up. That’s handing your customer an excuse to call someone else. How’s that for a perspective?
So answer your phone. And if you are about to pick up your 23rd call and it’s not even morning teatime…stop. Take a deep breath. Go to whatever happy place you have and when you’re there…then answer the phone. Because perhaps the one phone sin greater than not picking up at all is answering a call sounding annoyed. Yes, this call could be hard work. Or it could be an unexpected new opportunity. Answer your calls and do everything you can to sound happy about it. If you really can’t do that, maybe it’s time you got a new happy place.
Business should be personal
We tend not to stand on formality here in Australia, in fact the best business relationships tend to be warm and friendly. So why is it that despite the fact our phone displays tell us who’s calling, we habitually answer a familiar customer by reciting the same bland business greeting every time? I can name a dozen businesses I call regularly that do this. And I promise you that if your people are doing this when your regular customers call, those customers are rolling their eyes every time they hear it. Drop the phony pretense and if you know the caller, warm up your intro with a “G’day!” or with whatever genuine, authentic greeting you might use for a friend. Straight away you’ve acknowledged the familiar value of your business relationship. Skip the formality – your client has earned better with their loyalty, haven’t they?
More of the same name game?
Unless they’ve just returned from a particularly well-lubricated lunch – or maybe made a pocket call – I’m betting most of your regular clients are quite aware of who they are calling when they get through to you. So while we’re warming up calls, let’s drop the “John Citizen speaking!” It’s simply not necessary and it only serves to make a valuable client feel like they are being greeted in a generic fashion.
Always call back
Sometimes during a particularly bad tsunami of phone calls, you’ll miss one. You’ll see the missed number, get the voice mail, probably mutter something faintly obscene to yourself and go get a coffee. And hey, by all means do get a coffee. But then call that customer back. Don’t let the rest of your day distract you to the point where you only remember that call when business hours are long over. Because you can never be sure when that latest missed call might be the last straw for a client who could be having a bad day themselves… and who might react by calling your competition. Don’t give them that excuse. It’s a good idea to set a standard in your business for the time you’ll allow to go by before a call is returned.
Call someone who cares…
…because your customers don’t. I don’t mean to be nasty about it, I’m just stating a fact – your customers probably don’t know you take 50 calls a day and they very likely wouldn’t care any more if they did. It’s not their problem, after all, they just want to talk to you and have the conversation that prompted the call – it might be resolving an issue, it might be tabling some new business. That’s should be all the incentive you need to do the right thing – consider each call a potential opportunity.
I hope by now you’re nodding and thinking “Well…duh!” Because that means you already know all of this and you’re doing the right thing by your callers. If you’re not, perhaps this little rant will prompt some change in how you handle the part of your business that happens on the phone. Because you’re always going to get a lot more loyalty out of a happy customer than one you’ve pissed off.
That’s all the tough love I have for now! Wishing you the best for your week in business,
Jason Smith l Director
Capital Plus Finance