This is a guest post from Emma Siemasko. She is a Boston-based writer and small business owner. She’s the content marketing specialist at Grasshopper and the founder of Frog2Prince, an online dating consultancy. Connect with Emma at @emmafayes.
“Provide great customer service” and “customers are the key to success”-- How many times have you heard these phrases?
If you’re like most small business owners, you hear them all the time. The phrases are followed by stats:
89% of customers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service. [RightNow Technologies]
It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience. [Parature]
70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. [McKinsey]
Yeah, yeah, you’ve seen these numbers before. You already know it’s important to provide great customer service, but how do you actually do it? Well, you can start by learning how to pick up the phone. CEOs, sales teams, and customer service reps are constantly messing up when they get calls (just look at those numbers!), so get an edge on the competition by giving excellent service each and every time the phone rings.
Simply avoid these 5 common mistakes:
Mistake #1: You don’t have a plan
Do you have a simple, go-to plan your employees can always use when answering the phone? Having a plan allows you to answer calls consistently with the same greeting (“Hi! You’ve reached Hershey’s, How can I help you?”) and provide the same support, no matter the customer. Draw out plans for what happens when you have an unhappy customer, come up with a list of “never say” phrases, and prepare whoever will be answering the phone with a short handbook. Here are a few “never say” phrases that’ll enrage the customer rather than calm them down:
I’m sorry you feel that way.
You’re the first person to complain about this.
You don’t seem to understand.
I’m not the person person for this, so I’ll send you to….
You’re confusing me.
Think having such a concrete plan will suck the human-ness out of the conversation? Well, don’t use a script. Create guidelines, not steadfast, never-breakable rules.
Mistake #2: You lack warmth
Small talk isn’t for everyone (I’m not a huge fan myself), but if a customer or potential partner calls and you’re stiff, awkward, and not very warm on the phone, it becomes hard to imagine doing business with you.
Don’t dominate your business discussions with chats about the weather, but allow for 1-2 minutes per call for non-business talk. Just make sure you’re paying attention to the person on the other end-- if they’re not into chit-chatting, don’t force it.
Also, make sure you smile while you’re on the phone (it sounds ridiculous, but it really helps!) so the warmth can gush out.
Tips: If you’re awkward on the phone and don’t think you’re great with people, consider taking an Improv or public speaking class. If you have an available employee, ask them to answer instead of you. Get a phone system with an auto-attendant so you’re not always the first line of defense.
Mistake #3: You don’t take initiative
If you someone calls who’s interested in learning more about you and your company, be ready to take initiative. Recently, I was super interested in using a new product and scheduled a call with the company’s CEO to talk about how we could work together. But instead of getting information about what the company could offer me, I had to lead the conversation.
I had been willing to become a customer, but the CEO’s lack of initiative left me bewildered, and ultimately I chose another service. When you’re on the phone, you have to show you’re excited about what you do, otherwise how are others supposed to get amped? Careful planning, initiative, and confidence goes along way.
Mistake #4: Your technology isn’t up to snuff
Did you know that 42% of customer service agents can’t help customers because of crappy technology-- disconnected systems, archaic user interfaces, and multiple applications?
Fix it by taking business off your cell phone, getting a real phone number, and making sure you have a manageable contact system and ticketing platform that can actually do the job. If it helps to install some sort of live chat system, do it! Experiment to find what works for you, but make sure all your customer platforms are in sync so that your technology helps, not hurts.
Mistake #5: You forgot to put the dog out…
“Hello, this is...Woof, woof!”
Ever hear that when you make a phone call? I have. With so much to do, many small business owners answer the phone no matter where they are. That means the dog could bark or the kids could start yelling, just as you’re diving in deep with a professional contact.
Avoid this issue by only answering the phone when you’re guaranteed privacy, quiet, and the ability to have a lengthy conversation. If that means letting a call go to voicemail, that’s ok. You’re better off answering a call when you can really talk rather than have Max interrupt-- arf!
Stop Making Phone Mistakes
You’re going to make mistakes as you’re building your business, but don’t let something as basic as answering the phone get in the way of growth.
Avoid these 5 mistakes and let me know which other ones you’ve seen. Any strategies for coping? We’re all ears.
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