Have you ever called a business only to hang up with more questions than you had before you even called? (Including questions like, “Why did I bother calling?”) If so, you understand how frustrating it can be when a business doesn’t practice basic phone handling techniques and is therefore unprepared to take calls from consumers who want to get information about products and services, schedule an appointment, or ask basic questions about the business. This frustration that comes with not being able to get the information they’re looking for is the last thing you want consumers to experience when they call your business.
So, here are five things you should never say or do when a prospect calls your business and what to do to ensure they get the best experience.
“We’re open until 7.” Hangs up the phone.
When a prospect calls your business, it’s probably not just to find out your business hours – your website, social profiles, and online listings should be optimized with this type of information to begin with. Instead, make sure anyone who answers your phone knows how to also ask qualifying questions in order to better understand the caller’s needs in addition to providing the information being asked for. For example, when a consumer calls you make sure to ask questions about the problem they are trying to fix, find out their needs or wants, and ask how soon they plan on purchasing. This information will not only provide you with a clear picture of what additional products or services to recommend but also helps you identify the quality of the lead so that you can follow up with them appropriately.
“I don’t know.” Doesn’t attempt to direct the call to someone who does.
If a prospect calls your business and senses inexperience or lack of knowledge from the person who answers the phone, it could make them question whether your business is capable of meeting their needs and expectations. It’s understandable that you may have a receptionist who may not know the exact ins and outs of your business, but he or she should still know how to represent your business with a certain level of expertise, confidence, and professionalism.
Make sure your staff is trained to answer basic questions about your products and services, look up staff schedules, schedule appointments, and provide them with a directory so they can transfer the calls they really can’t handle on their own. If there’s truly no one available to provide all answers the caller is looking for, train your staff to capture the caller’s contact information and specific questions in a central repository, and have someone knowledgeable call them back within the hour.
“We’ll have someone call you back.” Nobody ever does.
If you or your staff promises to call a lead back, make sure you do. Consumers have many options today on where to spend their money, and they are likely to contact several of your direct competitors while making a purchasing decision. By promising to call back a new prospect and not doing so, you could lose the contact as an important lead and leave them with a negative impression of your business all in one step. For new contacts, it’s important to call them back within an hour if possible, and within one business day at the latest. For existing leads, make sure you have a way to keep track of leads that require follow up and stay in contact with them regularly so they know you still care about earning their business.
“You can visit our website.” They are on the phone now!
When a prospect calls your business, they are moving one step forward in the consumer buying journey by contacting you for more information. When you tell them to visit your website, you’re essentially sending them two steps back. Chances are, consumers who call you have already been to your website, saw your number, and called you. Since your website is built with a phone call as a primary goal, you need to making the most of your online marketing efforts by providing the caller with the information they expect while they are on the phone in order to move them toward a purchase. This is another great reason to make sure that your staff is well-trained and has access to resources about your products and services in order to help convert more calls into customers.
“It’s not our fault.” Don’t go there – just don’t.
Never. Say. This. Sure, in some situations your business may not be at fault when it comes to customer complaints, but responding defensively or rudely will only upset your customer even more. Instead of taking an aggressive or argumentative tone, make sure that your staff listens completely to customer complaints and responds with professionalism and empathy. Accept the complaint, apologize for any mistakes, and try to solve the issue while you have the customer on the phone. If you can’t immediately solve the caller’s problem, ensure that someone follows up with them promptly before they decide to voice their complaint elsewhere, like an online review site, about their dissatisfaction with your business.
How does your business stack up when it comes to call handling? What other best practices should businesses make sure they use when they have a prospect or customer on the phone? Let us know with a comment!