In business, a ringing telephone means a potential for business opportunity. How we answer an incoming customer call sets the stage for how the rest of the call might proceed. One of the biggest mistakes we make in business is failing to answer our phone in a timely manner. A bigger mistake is not answering at all.
While we all need to sleep, today’s technology offers many options for handling phone calls outside of business hours. At the very least, an answering machine should capture your calls and calls should be returned in a timely manner. If you run a boarding facility, it is important that people have some way of contacting you outside of business hours for emergencies. You know what happens when you don’t answer your phone? If someone is looking for your services, they will call someone else while they are in the buying frame of mind. If the next business service forwards their after-hours calls to an on-call employee who answers, you will be knocked out of the game completely.
How you answer your business phone is equally important to answering. A call answered in a seemingly rushed or hurried voice can easily put off a potential client. Throw in a, “please hold” while answering the phone and you are likely to lose a customer forever. At least have the courtesy to ask a caller if you can place them on hold. If they indicate they are not willing to hold, offer to take their name and number and return the call promptly.
If you absolutely must place an inbound call on hold, make it as brief of a hold as possible. Find another person to handle the call or, if you realize the call is holding longer than a minute or two, jump back on the line and ask the caller if you might be able to return the call in a few minutes. Attempt to get details about what the caller needs so you are better prepared to serve the caller when you return the call.
While fancy phone systems that ask you to push #1 for this or #2 for that might seem professional, don’t make it too cumbersome for incoming calls to get to the right person quickly. We are all familiar with a humorous television commercial depicting a person shouting into the phone, “representative”, “operator” and “help” over what seems like a period of hours. Set your automated phone system to get callers in touch with a live person as quickly as possible. If they are calling, they obviously want to speak to someone or they would be on your website getting information.
Remember to always have a smile on your face during the call. While they can’t see you, a frown on your face and the sense of feeling rushed will be transmitted to your caller by the inflection of your voice. No one wants to feel like they are being a bother to someone they are trying to spend their money with.