The phone is ringing – and it sounds like possibility! Are you and your staff answering the phone in a way that benefits the business? Or are you inadvertently turning people off to your message?
Jackson Calame, President of Operations of The Pivot Point, breaks down 6 simple steps for amazing phone calls.
1. A Strong Opening
Keep it short and atypical, says Jackson. A mumbled hello and “this is Mediocre Company” isn’t going to set you apart! Try something like, “Thank you for calling Mom and Pop Shop, how can I help you have a great day?” Your greeting should be pleasant and friendly.
Jackson also says you must pick up the phone with an actual smile on your face. “You can hear a smile,” he says. He has coached clients to have their staff put smiley face stickers on the phone base to remind them to smile while they talked. “Let it ring, pause, smile, and then pick up,” he advises.
2. Undivided Attention
Get your staff out of the habit of multitasking. Just as a client can hear a smile, they can hear someone not really paying attention. You miss important information and make people feel unimportant when you multitask during the call. Consider rearranging office duties or work flow to ensure that the person answering the phone is able to focus before tossing this advice out the window.
“If more businesses would improve the experience on their phones, they’d eliminate their revenue problems,” says Jackson.
3. Listen to Gather Information
Jackson recommends having a checklist of information to gather from cold calls. Your staff should be trained to go through the checklist, but not necessarily in order. This is where developing great listening skills is helpful.
“The conversation should flow in a natural manner,” he says. “But your staff should be trained to ask open-ended questions to gather as much information from potential clients as possible. Asking “yes or no” questions kills the conversation, where as open-ended questions warms up the relationship and brings life to the call.”
4. Match Their Tone
If the client is happy, be happy. If the client is worried, be sympathetic. If the client is mad, agree that they’re frustration is valid. “This process is called mirroring, not to be confused with empowering,” warns Jackson. “In the scenarios where someone is unhappy, you certainly want to make their feelings valid. However, that can be done without throwing the company under the bus.” It takes serious training to know how to help in escalated situations.
Jackson says that it’s important to give undivided attention and understand the situation from the other person’s point of view. “If you’re prone to emotional reactions when others are out of control, seek coaching on this immediately,” he advises.
5. Eliminate Confusion
A great phone call requires that you understand the real reason someone is calling. Reflective listening is a skill that you can train your staff on – “I hear that you feel X, Y, and Z, am I correct?” Handling client problems on the phone can be a challenge, as you cannot see facial expressions, so it’s very important that you’re sure everyone is on the same page and this often takes great patience.
“You cannot solve a problem for a client if you aren’t totally sure what the problem is,” says Jackson. “Take the time to understand them. Take notes. Provide clear instructions for what steps will be taken. Never drop the ball on doing your part. And always make sure the individual is placed in good hands before moving on. Is it possible to be perfect? No. But this should be the standard.”
6. Say Thanks
Before ending the call, train yourself and your staff to circle back and summarize the conversation quickly. If you have any action items as the result of the call, tell the caller what you’re going to do and when. Then ask if you’ve answered all their questions. Once it’s clear that the conversation was handled to their satisfaction, or at least that they are aware of what needs to happen next, thank them for their time.
Jackson remains confident and hopeful with the future of communication, “Manners are becoming more commonplace. While we have a more sensitive society that can feel polarized, this also means we have a society that’s more receptive to good will. Sometimes, we treat the phone like it’s a barrier to our own humanity. If we forget your manners, you can bet that others you encounter will forget theirs. However, if we practice first class manners and lead the way; if you remember to thank people and help them have a nicer day than before they spoke to you, most of the time, they’ll return the favor.”