Jackie Danielson, Century Interactive

For many businesses, the phone call is the most valuable conversion. Amazingly, though, most businesses don’t place high enough priority on what’s actually happening on their phones. Too many good leads are fumbled, resulting in lost business, and even more of those calls aren’t even answered at all.

The good news is that an improvement in phone skills can have a very positive impact on the bottom line without spending any more marketing dollars.

Here are a few tips to get your business improving on the phone and converting more leads:

Answer Quickly!

For many customers, a phone call is the first impression they have of your business. It could also be the only chance you have to make an impression. For this reason, make sure your calls are answered quickly. A customer will start to get annoyed after more than three rings, and you don’t want to keep them on hold for more than ten seconds. Train your staff to pick up the phone with a sense of urgency.

If a receptionist is very busy, a phone bridge can help. Instead of using receptionists to transfer lines, consider using a phone bridge to route callers to the appropriate department. Be careful with this one, though. Bridges with more than four options go from helpful to annoying.

Provide a Friendly Greeting

Smiles really can be heard through the phone. Unfortunately, so can frowns, bad days, and bad attitudes. Though it may be repetitive for your staff, it’s important that they answer the phone in a cheerful, upbeat way every time. Going back to first impressions, the caller doesn’t care if he or she is the 300th one your staff has spoken to today. It’s the first time he or she has spoken to anyone at the office.

Also train your staff to introduce themselves and the business. Introducing themselves makes callers more comfortable, and introducing the business reassures callers that they’ve reached the right place.

Gathering Information

Have your staff remember to ask for the caller’s name. Using the name throughout the call makes the call more personable and generally gets a better reaction from the caller. Also, if your staff is required to gather other customer information, try to do so in a non-threatening way. Instead of shooting out a list of commands asking for each piece of information, have your staff try “In case we get disconnected, may I have a good call back number?”

Establishing Caller Needs

Make sure your staff is asking callers how they can help. Picking up with an introduction and waiting for the caller to offer up their needs is awkward and unhelpful.  Instead, make sure your staff is asking how they can help off the bat. Also, the person the caller requests to speak with is often unavailable. Instead of refusing callers service, instruct any individual who answers to the phone to say “Is there something that I could help you with?” After the caller states their need, asking questions is acceptable and encouraged. Asking the caller questions establishes trust that someone is actually listening to them and trying to help, and it can also help get to the root of what the caller needs.

Booking an Appointment

If your company is in a service industry and needs to book appointments, make sure your staff is requesting the appointment instead of waiting for callers to offer it up. When asking for an appointment, provide two times of availability to increase the likelihood that a caller agrees to one.

Before Hanging Up

The most important piece to remember before hanging up the phone is to repeat important information. If a sale was made, repeat the order. If an appointment was booked, repeat the date and time, and also give directions to the office if necessary.

Start with these steps to get your business on the right track. The improvements are simple, can have a very big impact on callers’ impressions and experiences. Above all, the most important tip is to ANSWER THE PHONE!