Giving good phone, or a new way to use old technology
You can tell a lot about a business from the way it answers the phone—or doesn't. The telephone is one of many elements that you can easily understand by remembering that you are on both ends of the exchange. You experience "good phone" and bad when you call businesses as a customer. How do you like to be treated when you call a business? How do you give good phone? Here are my ideas.
- Have a person answer it on the first or second ring. Technology can do lots of things, but the first thing I want my customers and prospects to hear is an actual voice, and quickly.
- Don't try to be bigger than you are. This is a corollary to the first point. Sometimes small businesses try to be bigger than they are. You've heard the message: "For sales, press 1; for technical support, press 2, for accounts receivable, press 3, for accounts payable ... " I've heard this kind of message at least a dozen times this year from companies I knew were only 1 or 2 people.
- If possible, solve the problem on the first call. It's in your own interest. First, it's more efficient to have one transaction instead of two or more. Secondly, it creates a good experience for the customer. In the technical professions like ours, support is often handled with "trouble tickets." Ugh. When I need help, the last thing I want to do is figure out someone's system. I want to talk with a live person who will at least be sympathetic and promise to get back with me if they can't solve it right then.
- Return all calls, and return them quickly. Morning calls should be returned before you go to lunch. Return afternoon calls before you go home. If you're not interested in what someone is selling, return the call and say no with a smile. Remember, they're also potential customers someday.
- If you're a business owner or manager, consider answering your own phone. Although this runs counter to conventional wisdom, you'd be surprised how refreshing it is to your callers, and how connected it will make you feel. I learned this years ago from an audiobook by the owner of a large public relations firm, whose name I've since forgotten. He felt that he could give answers more efficiently than his secretary, who had better things to do. Here's a lawyer who feels the same way: http://alturl.com/kyq44 .
And here's the best reason to answer your own phone: almost no one else does. It will set you apart.