Using the telephone
Ever telephoned your own business as a mystery caller? Were you pleased with what you heard? If your answer is ‘no,’ don’t fret — the situation can easily be improved.
It’s 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and the office at Danny’s Detail is in chaos. Your best dealer account brought in three cars at 2 p.m. and wants the cars back “TODAY”. You have two retail cars to complete by 5 p.m. and an employee went home sick. When the phone rings for the fifth time in the past half hour, you pick it up, smile, and in a calm, friendly voice say, “Hello, thank you for calling Danny’s Detail. My name is Danny Detail. How may I be of service?”
Most detail business owners need a reminder — if not a knock on the head — that it is imperative that callers are always greeted in a professional manner and made to feel welcome. Otherwise, you risk making a negative first impression, and the caller will likely take their business elsewhere.
Every detail business owner in today’s highly competitive market knows this. But the reality is different. At DETAIL PLUS, we call many detail businesses daily and we more than once have been greeted with a hurried “Hello, Danny’s Detail”. Like, don’t bother me, I’m busy. Or, we just get a “Hello”.
At best, the person answering the phone says, “Thank you for calling Danny’s Detail. How can I help you?”
This last example is ok, but should not be good enough. Ultimately, telephone etiquette comes down to customer service and sales so your standards must be set high.
How do you get there?
You can begin by learning yourself and teaching your employees the value of customer service and proper telephone etiquette. Ultimately — here is the real goal — how that can be translated into sales.
Right now, teach your employees that providing great customer service is imperative to succeed in this business. And make them understand the concept and philosophy behind customer service rather than just tell them what it is.
All employees can answer a phone, but only those who truly value the importance of customer service can make the person on the other end of the phone line feel like they are truly being listened to and taken care of.
If your employees believe that providing excellent customer service is the No. 1 goal at all times, answering the phones in a sought after fashion — and, hence, making that sale — will not seem forced but natural, even under stressful conditions.
Calls = Sales = Revenues
Remember, the underlying reason for providing great customer service and using proper telephone techniques is to sell your service to callers.
And with most businesses in the detail industry it comes from incoming calls, doing it well more than validates the time and effort you should spend on telephone selling techniques.
There is no secret to selling or a magic formula for selling over the phone. But, using suggestive selling and staying persistent and enthusiastic at all times are just two of the things you can do to improve your chances of making a sale, he says.
The best way to sell is to make a decision and ask the client to agree with it. Instead of asking a person, “Do you want a polish and wax?” say, “We have several options but we should see your car first to know what you need. When would you like to come in?”
The more enthusiastic you are about what you are doing and the better job you do of presenting that, the greater are your chances of making a sale. You should always sound really friendly, bright, and bubbly.
And make sure you ask for the business. If you do not ask, they are probably not going to give it to you and will call another detail business.
But the No. 1 thing operators should do to improve their chances of closing a sale, is to have a written telephone script they can follow during each and every call.
Script the Path to Success
Some people call them presentations, some people call them scripts, but the idea is to have something written out (in) bullet points so that when you are trying to lead the customer to a buying decision, you are doing it pretty much the same way each time. Mention the things you want (the callers) to hear, then lead the conversation into some kind of closing question.
A script will prove especially handy when in a stressful situation, since even the best operators or employees can sometimes lose track of goals if under the gun. Keeping a script at hand at all times can help bring you or your employees back on track.
The script should outline what you want the person answering the phone — whether that be you or someone else — to say and do while speaking with a potential customer. It should guide you from the first ring to the time you hang up. It can be as detailed or specific as you wish.
After talking with some detail operators, and checking with some highly customer service oriented companies, I have come up with the following points that a telephone script should include to be the most effective:
- Answer with a smile: Always smile before picking up the phone. Whoever is on the line will be able to hear that in your voice and a positive atmosphere is created up front.
Smiling when answering the phone also eliminates any disinterest you may have or the temptation to take out any aggression on the caller.
- Answer within three rings: Letting the phone ring for any longer signals to potential clients that nobody is available or perhaps even interested in their business.
Always view every single phone call as your only call — and every single customer as your only customer — because you do not know who might be on the other end or what business they might bring you.
- Greet with “good morning, good afternoon, or good evening”. These salutations offer a warmer, more sincere touch than simply saying “hello”.
- Say, “Thank you for calling (company name). My name is (first and last name). How may I be of service?” Thanking callers lets them know you realize they have other options and that you appreciate their interest in your company.Providing the name of the business also lets them know they have called the right place.
Using your first and last name puts you on a personal, yet professional basis with callers, helping to establish a rapport and making it easier to close the sale. It also makes for a more effective process if clients call back; they can ask for the person they spoke to the first time.
In addition, according to the Ritz Carlton hotel chain’s philosophy on customer service, it is more professional to say, “how may I be of service? Than to say, “how may I help you?” it also lets the callers know that they have called a business that values customer service — something they are likely to appreciate.
- Use the client’s name: Try to use a client’s name as often as possible for the same reasons you provide your own name; to add a personal touch and establish rapport.
But remember to stay professional: “Mr. Jones” is acceptable, but “Bob” is not (unless of course you know the customer well).
- Listen to callers true needs (do not interrupt) and do not just offer price: You will never be able to answer their requests in satisfactory ways if you do not take the time to figure out what they are calling about.
The most important thing is to read the personality of the person you are dealing with, as well as to identify their needs.
By listening carefully to the callers, you might be able to direct them in another direction should the services they are asking about not be the best for their vehicle. And, you just might be able to make a better sale that way.
- Sound like an expert, never say, “I don’t know”: Stay informed on your business. And include in the training of telephone personnel general information about the company so they are as well.
Have information about the company at hand, or even better, the company website active at all times so that you quickly can look up the answers to whatever the callers might throw your way without having to place them on hold.
However, should you be completely stuck on a question, it is better to place the callers on hold and say, “please let me find out,” than to say “I don’t know” (or to make up an answer).
- Ask first before placing anyone on hold, and only if you absolutely must: “Try very hard to not place (callers) on hold, unless (they) have requested someone in particular.
Do not put someone on hold to grab another line; it is better to complete the call you currently have on hand and let an answering system or someone else take care of the other call. That way, at least you have one satisfied customer instead of two who feel halfway ignored by your switching back and forth between them.
- Check back if callers are on hold for more than one minute: Do not keep anyone on hold for more than one minute; they will feel ignored.
We have a ring back on our phone set at 15 seconds so it rings back. Make sure they would like to continue to hold or ask if (someone) could call them back.
Also, make sure callers have something of value to listen to while on hold. No one likes to stay on hold and music or announcements about what the company has to offer makes the time pass.
In addition, you might as well take advantage of the situation if you do have to put them on hold. It gives you another opportunity to sell your services. Talk about the extra services that you provide, and the additional things you can do.
Customers are already speaking with you so you do not need to advertise. Music will probably pass the time more casually and comfortably.
- Ask for the sale: One of the best techniques to book the sale is simply say, “can I make that appointment for you now?”
If you are very nice and very persistent and give them a few more reasons why they should pick you over the competition, and then ask for the business again, very often they will either tell you what’s really holding then back (from your company) so you can work on that. Or, they say yes.
- Explain whey the lowest price isn’t necessarily the best deal: If you ask for the sale and the callers tell you no because they received a lower quote from another company, don’t just let it pass as a failed sale — explain what they may be giving up for that lower price.
Always point out that you may not be the low price provider in your area, but that you certainly are value driven; (that) you supply more value for their dollar. Tell them you have liability insurance, and that all of your technicians are certified detailers.
Try to make sure that they are comparing an apple to an apple. Point out that (they) need to call back (your competitor) and find out if they have insurance, what process they use to clean carpet, and if they use a 3-step process on the paint. Usually you find out that they are comparing an apple to an orange, and that is a good sale.
- Repeat the appointment information back to the caller: Time, day, date, contact name, phone number, email, and any special requests must be verified. The effort you put into making the sale is wasted if you miss something specific that the customer would like done.
- Give a confirmation number: Even small operations should make a habit of assigning a confirmation number to each appointment because it makes it appear you are a pro. Also, providing a confirmation number might help disguise that your company is small.
- Close with “thank you for calling (business name). We appreciate your business. Don’t hesitate to call us with any further needs.” Again, let callers know that you realize they have other options and appreciate that they have called your company. This should be practiced even if they don’t book with you; you never know if they might call you again or perhaps tell someone about your company.
Answering Machine: Friend or Foe?
Callers are immediate buyers; they want an immediate response in order to make a decision. There is no dollar value you could put on having a live voice being there to answer their call.
Most people do want to talk to a person, not a recording, because there are questions and needs that can only be answered and met by a conversation.
Yet, small operators might lack the resources to have a person available to answer their business phone 24/7 and might need to use voice mail or answering machines. Such options are; without doubt, better than having a one-car operator answer a call on his cell phone while with another customer.
When recording a message, remember that you don’t have to let the callers know your company is small. Have someone with a good phone voice record a message that gives an illusion of a large company.
Begin by stating the name of your company. Then say that all operators are busy. Even if you are not a 24/7 operation, you don’t want to let the callers think their messages will sit in the machine’s inbox for a long time.
Next, ask the callers for relevant information, such as their name, phone number, time of call, and a brief message. And thank them for calling.
To help create the illusion of a large company, small operators might give the callers options like, “for customer service, touch 1; for sales, touch 2, etc. and leave a message at the beep. The callers might never know the same person returns the calls for all message boxes.
Equally as important as recording a quality message — and make sure it is on a quality machine — is making sure the messages are being returned in a timely manner. Create a system in which employees continuously check the machine.
A good alternative to an answering machine is an answering service. There are several companies that can answer your phones at various costs when no one is available. They offer trained telephone personnel who can be as specific as you wish and all you need to do it call in and check your messages with them.
There are several varieties of services available, from 24/7 live answering, to back up receptionists that pick up the calls you cannot handle.
Check your local phone book or the Internet for answering service companies.
The Customer is Always Right
At one point or another, every detail business, however successful, will have to deal with an angry caller. It’s therefore a good idea to have a “how to deal with angry callers” policy for when and if it happens since how you handle irate phone calls has the potential to make your company stand our in a positive way.
One detailer says, “An angry caller is immediately referred to a supervisor or manager”, which can be you. Make it sound professional. But if the person wants to speak with the owner, let them know you have contacted the owner, who is out, and will immediately have him call. Find out the nature of their problem to be prepared for the call back.
Never fight back when disgruntled customers call. Instead, maintain a calm tone and politely ask what the problem is and what solution the callers expect. If you cannot accommodate their request, let the callers know what the company can do to help.
If callers continue to be rude even after you have tried to cooperate, kindly let them know you don’t think your company can be of service, and thank them for calling. This gesture shows that you appreciate their interest and the opportunity to serve them.
Transferring a Call to another Extension
When callers ask to speak with a specific person, always take down the callers’ name and ask what the call is about before transferring them to the right extension. If that person is unavailable, ask if there is something you can help the callers with or if they would like to be connected with the person’s voice mailbox. If taking down a message, note the callers’ name, phone number, reasons for and time of calling, and whether they want the person to call back.