The first few seconds of contact over the phone between a caller and a customer service representative are crucially important. In fact, it isn’t a stretch to say that those first few seconds of the call are the all-important foundation upon which the building blocks of the relationship between customer and business will be laid.
There are a number of sayings used to denote the importance of initial contacts and first impressions – ‘First impressions last’, ‘You only get one chance to make a great first impression’, etc., and there’s a lot to be said for taking these sayings to heart.
In business, as is often the case in life, you really do only get the one chance to make a favourable impression on someone else, so prioritising that initial point of contact, and maximising it with the intention of converting a caller into a loyal customer, is an opportunity that you simply can’t afford not to grasp with both hands.
First impressions over the phone
Unlike first impressions in person which involve the physical appearance of an individual, and for instance, the way they are attired, the way they hold themselves, and their level of personal hygiene, first impressions over the phone are made by a) the person’s voice, which includes the volume and pace at which they speak, their intonation, accent, etc., and b) the content of the message that they deliver.
This means that making an excellent first impression on the caller is easier in many regards because there are less influencing factors involved. However, despite being a relatively simple step in the development of the customer-business relationship, the importance of the initial telephone greeting is all too frequently overlooked.
This is a serious faux pas, one that many customer service representatives make, but it’s one that you simply can’t allow to happen. Consider for a moment what it takes for your business to drive callers to your phone lines – the allocation of time, money, and energy, all of which could have been put to better use if you, or your employees, are unable to convert callers into loyal customers.
Consequently, if you’re not converting callers into loyal customers it’s time to ask yourself the question – Is your answering technique killing your business?
Seize the opportunity to make a positive impact on a potential customer
The difference between an excellent initial point of contact over the telephone and one that fails to convert callers into customers may seem slight, perhaps bordering on non-existent, but it exists and it’s an important difference – if you are to set call handling best practice standards, you need to understand the differences between poor call handling techniques and those that set the bar suitably high, train your staff, and monitor them to ensure they’re consistently delivering the correct message.
Here’s an example.
Employee: ‘Doncaster Skip Hire, how can I help you?’
Caller: ‘Hi, I need to hire a skip for the weekend.’
Employee: ‘What size skip would you like to hire, sir?’
And here’s another.
Employee: ‘Doncaster Skip Hire, this is Louise.’
Caller: ‘Hi, I need to hire a skip for the weekend.’
Employee: ‘Certainly sir, we can help you with that. May I take your name please?’
So, which of the two conversations was the better way to answer the phone? That’s right, the second – why? Firstly, the employee immediately introduced the business and herself to let the caller know they’ve called the right number, secondly, she didn’t bother with ‘How can I help you?’, which is unnecessary since it’s assumed that they are there to help, and thirdly, they immediately asked the caller for their name so that they could refer to him or her by name.
The last point might not seem significant, but it’s actually a crucially important step in the process of converting callers into loyal customers because it immediately places the caller at the centre of the conversation. They may be calling to enquire about your products and/or services, but the call isn’t really about you or your business, it’s all about the caller, what they need, and what your business can deliver.
What’s more, using someone’s name in conversation makes them feel important, it adds a personal touch that can cement a relationship, and it can make your business stand out above the competition, thus helping your business to gain a leading edge.
Here’s a few tips.
- Consider your current telephone greetings from the perspective of a potential customer calling your phone lines for the first time.
- Develop a telephone greeting that all your employees will use when answering the phone so as to ensure message consistency.
- Monitor your employees to ensure that they are delivering the message correctly each and every time.
No one needs a great voice to deliver an outstanding telephone greeting. They simply need to speak clearly, deliver the greeting with the correct wording, take a genuine interest in the caller’s needs, and serve them to the best of their abilities.
‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it’
The content of the greeting is important and can make a significant difference to the outcome of the call, that all important initial point of contact, but are you aware that just 14 percent of the impact of the phone call is in the message and the remaining 86 percent is in your tone of voice?
This means that you have to use your tone of voice to convey the impression of engagement, concern, and sincere willingness to serve the caller, and make them the focus of your attention at that moment in time.
And it also means that when you’re bored, rushed, stressed or tired, that your emotions make themselves apparent over the phone. As your tone of voice communicates and conveys so much information to the caller, you can’t afford to leave anything to chance.
Don’t let telephone answering techniques kill your business – convert callers into loyal customers, and drive enquiries to your phone lines with confidence.