One of my employees recently pointed out one of her pet peeves-people who create a lousy impression over the phone. It got me to thinking about how important good phone etiquette is to a business.
I also started thinking about how much money agents lose with less than stellar phone communications. Let's talk about some of my own pet peeves about doing business over the phone.
A greeting that doesn't communicate professionalism.
First, a pop quiz. What's the best way to answer the phone?
b) "Good morning."
c) "Good morning. This is Denise. How may I help you?"
While we're all answering "c", you would be shocked, stunned, and surprised to hear how some people answer the phone-with none of the above.
How do YOU answer your telephone? Is your greeting welcoming? Does it let the caller immediately know they are dealing with a true professional?
For example, in our office, we answer the phone, "Good morning, The Lones Group. Denise speaking. How may I help you?"
This allows the caller to know that they've reached the right company and the name of a helpful person who works there.
Poorly communicated outgoing calls.
What about when you make outgoing calls? When you call somebody and they answer the phone, how do you begin your request for what you want?
I am constantly stunned at just how bad people's outgoing phone etiquette is. I hear people all the time call our office and say, "Hi, oh, uh, is this The Lones Group?"
This caller is not listening. We've already identified ourselves as The Lones Group in the greeting. This caller is not focusing on their telephone call. When you make a call, listen!
Constant fumbling when you're on a telephone drives me absolutely crazy. When you make a call, identify yourself!
When I call someone, I say something like, "Hi, this is Denise Lones. I'm calling for Mary Smith."
Note I do NOT just call and say, "Hi, is Mary Smith in?" The reason I don't do this is because 99% of people are going to come right back and ask, "Who's calling please?" You may as well answer the question before it's asked and save time.
Not slowing down.
Have you ever asked somebody for a telephone number and they rattle it off so fast that you have to ask them a second time? Then, they do it again. You may even have to ask a third time.
Please, please slow down when you're on the phone. Not everyone can listen at the speed at which you speak.
Bad phone messages.
This is another huge pet peeve of mine. I cannot tell you the number of messages I get that say this:
"Hi Denise, it's John speaking. Give me a call back. Bye."
First of all, always leave a number. I may be on the road when I get the message and don't have your telephone number.
Second, be clear as to how important this call is. When I place a call to someone and it's not time-sensitive, I will say:
"Hi, this is Denise calling. John, I'm calling to find out _____. Don't worry about calling me back today. The deadline isn't until Friday. My number is 360-527-8904. Thanks!"
If it is time-sensitive, I will say:
"Hi, this is Denise calling. John, I'm calling to find out _____. The deadline is later today, so I'd appreciate a call back as soon as you can. My number is 360-527-8904. Thanks!"
Bad greeting messages.
Have you listened to yourself lately? Pick up the phone right now and dial your voicemail. What do you hear?
Believe it or not, I hear greeting messages like this all the time:
"Hi, obviously I'm not here. Leave a message. Bye."
Is that professional? No. Is that the right image you want to create for your business? No.
A message should be complete. You're running a professional business, so your greeting should reflect that.
It should tell them when you're going to get back to them. If you're off and can't return their call until you're back, they need to know that as well.
Your greeting may sound like this:
"You have reached Denise Lones' phone. Thanks for your call. It is Monday afternoon. I will not be returning calls until Tuesday morning. Please leave a message and I will get back to you first thing Tuesday."
That's a complete message. It tells you that the message has been recently recorded. This communicates loud and clear that my business-and your call-is important to me.
Cryptic messages don't work.
Lack of tone and energy.
There's nothing worse on the phone than a voice that subtly communicates boredom or annoyance. On the flipside, I can tell a lot about people from their voicemails-their energy, their confidence, their professionalism.
I've literally hired people from the sound of their voicemail. If you have a blah voicemail, then you're not going to impress me. Put some pep and energy in your voice. Smile when you speak.
About six months ago, I walked into a real estate office and the office manager said to me, "Denise, I've always remembered you because of what you say when you call my office."
What she was referring to is the way I would always say, "Good morning Mary. This is Denise Lones." I always said this with pep and energy in my voice, and I ALWAYS use their name before mine.
And finally the NUMBER 1 mistake agents make with the phone. They DO NOT return phone calls in a timely manner. I could write a book on this one!!!!! Return your calls promptly.
That's how to be remembered.
Starting today, pay closer attention to how you answer the phone, how you leave a message, the tone of your voice, and how you ask for people. Phone etiquette communicates who you are.
It is the first impression people will get from you. Make it a good one.