Why Phone Etiquette is So Important

How do you make a First Impression to your Customers?

I had the occasion to call my college bookstore.  I just wanted to know if they had the textbook in stock that I needed for class.  I really didn’t want to drive 40 minutes to get one textbook.    

After about 8 – 10 rings, I was abruptly disconnected.  There was no “hello, can you hold for a moment please?” Or, “Hi, Thank you for calling the bookstore, can I place you on a brief hold?”

As a small business owner, I was furious!  What happened to common sense and common courtesy?

In my earlier days, I was an Operations Manager for a local Commercial Real Estate Company.  As part of my duties, I oversaw the management of 3 storage facilities.  This also meant hiring, training, and unfortunately firing. 

My bosses were great.  They taught me many things and eventually sent me to seminars and conferences all over the country to learn everything I could from those who had done this before.  The wealth of knowledge I received has been and continues to be immeasurable.

So early on, I created an employee handbook.  Part of that handbook contained a Phone Script.

3 things every employee needs to understand

Before I even trained on the script, I taught my employees several main points, and remember, this is all before the internet was big; about 20+ years ago.

  • Every phone call is a potential customer. 
  • The customer can hear what kind of mood you’re in.  They can hear you smile, they can hear if you’re frustrated.
  • If you don’t handle that potential customer with care, he WILL call the competition.

Back to trying to see if my textbook was in stock. 

In today’s world, we do have the internet.  We can search far and wide for anything. 

I did go online.  I did research the textbook I needed, and yes, I could have ordered it online, paid for it and received it in a few days.  But I needed this book for the next day’s class.

So, I wanted to call the local campus bookstore and see if they had it.

I imagined that the local campus bookstore was quite busy seeing how the new semester had just started the day before.  Everybody needed to purchase their books, if they hadn’t done so already.

But to hang up on a potential customer, was just unacceptable.

Yes, I realize they are the only one in town, locally, to get my text book.

Yes, I am aware that they were quite busy.

BUT…What about the phone customer?

The people standing in front of them are not going anywhere.  They are already there.  They have their money out and are ready to purchase.

I taught my storage managers to answer the phone on the first or second ring.  Do NOT leave that potential customer waiting, for any reason. 

Customer Service

As with any business or industry, whether a service or product, that potential customer has a problem and they need to solve it and nine times out of ten, they need to solve it NOW.

Ask the customer in front of you, “Do you mind if I take this real quick, it’s probably just a quick question?” 

The customer in front of you will appreciate that you thought of them first.  You’re showing them that they are important.  You’re showing them respect.

I have never had a customer in front of me say, “No.”  It never happens.

And as for that customer on the phone, he or she has no idea what you may be doing.  All they know is that they have a problem, you’re a company that can solve that problem, and the sooner they can get their questions answered, the sooner their problem gets solved.

If you’ve done everything correctly, in that customer’s eyes, they will do business with you, the small business owner.

As for my textbook?  Well, I had to take several minutes to get things together, make sure my dog was walked before I left, get in my car, hope they had the book in stock so that I didn’t need to drive an additional 30 minutes, make the drive, find a place to park, hope I didn’t have to wait too long, and purchase my textbook.

Doing business today takes a lot of planning and trial and error.

Questions that need answering

  • Is your website easy yet informational? 
  • Can your potential customer get his or her questions answered within one or two “rings”? 
  • Does your website load fast? 
  • If they search for you in Google or another search engine, are you close enough to the top?  Do you rank in the top 3?
  • Do you have pertinent information displayed quickly and easily? 
  • Is your phone number and address clear and concise? 
  • Is your brick and mortar store easy to find and locate and if not, are directions clear? 
  • Do you need to use landmarks or local points of interest for customers to find you?
  • If your customer calls your place of business, are your employees trained to answer the phone properly or do they sound like they are chewing bubble gum?
  • Have you provided new employees proper procedures for answering the phone?

When I was an Operations Manager, these storage facilities only had one employee per facility.  The biggest facility had over 500 storage units.  It was a big one.  And even though they were small in comparison to some of the bigger corporations out there, I still trained my employees.  I wrote an Employee Handbook for all of them. I told them to read it, understand it, and ask me anything.  My employees jokingly called it “The Storage Bible”.  But it conveyed the “meat and potatoes” of the business.  It told them the expectations that were required, and it showed them the reward$ for their hard work.

As a freelance consultant, I can write a handbook for your business. 

Every business is different.  It’s a living, breathing entity of your heart and soul.  Handbooks can be tailored to your specific needs, goals, and visions of and for your business. 

A little money now, or a lot later…

Quite honestly, should you have one of “those” employees, a handbook will save your business and reputation in a courtroom.  The cost to write a handbook is minimal compared to the amount a judge could fine your business for not having one.

If you’d like more information, you can email or call me.  I promise, I will answer the phone with a smile and answer all of your questions.

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