by Skip Cohen
It might not seem like a topic for Marketing Monday, but how you handle yourself over the phone is at the top of the list of important marketing tools. And, at a time where the world is driven by email and texting communications, a live call is back on top of relationship building techniques in business!
There was a time when "Ma Bell" used to do classes for business clients on phone etiquette. I remember being sent to a workshop in my Customer Service days at Polaroid and thinking how stupid it was to suggest I didn't have the skill set to answer the phone. But it wasn't about answering the phone; it was how to use the phone as a customer service tool.
A while back I had one of the worst calls trying to reach a friend at a manufacturer I've known for years. His operator disconnected me twice. Then when I got a little irritable and sarcastic, she attacked me for calling at lunchtime, when they're "short on staff." Honestly, does any customer care about what's going on in your life when they call? Do any of us care about how busy a company might be when we're trying to contact somebody?
Well, that set me off on a quest through Cyberspace. I found an interesting site with a series of solid tips to help you strengthen your phone skills, www.telephonedoctor.com. I found so many excellent tips. And, if you're looking for great reminders on Customer Service overall, check out Shep Hyken's blog. He's always sharing ideas on how to exceed client expectations!
A few years ago I wrote a post about this same subject, and shared the quote below from PhonePro.org, now doing business as Bonfire Training:
"If you could hear the sounds customers make when attempting to navigate through your company’s IVR, (Interactive Voice Response) would it sound like a haunted house filled with agonizing, blood curdling screeches, moans and groans? …that could be scaring away both your new and loyal customers."
Last week I tried to call Amazon's customer service. It took me four transfers before I got the right department and an expert capable of answering my question. By that time I was so tired of being handed off, I simply hung up the phone. I gave up!
So, here's my point. It's the "slow season" and the perfect time to take on a few projects to strengthen your business. Here are two issues to think about:
First, how's your overall system of communicating with your clients? Don't rely on just a contact form for them to fill out on your website and then click "Send." If a client is excited about your work, they want to talk to you, NOT fill out a form. When they do call, make sure your system is working right, so you get the call or at least the message quickly. Make sure you call them back promptly because if you don't, one of your competitors will.
Second, no matter what bizarre things are going on in your day, smile when you're talking to people on the phone. This is all about being cheerful and having a great attitude. Believe it or not, you can tell when somebody is smiling on the other end of the line. Getting a phone call from a client is an opportunity for you to show your personality.
Good old personal customer service is going to win out every time, and sadly in today's market, so many people forget about it. The good news is that it gives you a chance to shine!
Got to run, the phone's been ringing for ten minutes - wonder why my voicemail isn't picking up? LOL
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