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Telephone Best Practices for Small Business

consulting phone small businessKnowing how to effectively use the telephone as part of your sales process and/or customer service can be a key to your success. The telephone is a make or break element in many business models – fortunes rise and fall on making the phone ring! But what do you do when it does? Here are some best practices.
I recommend having set standards of service with regard customer service in general and for the phone in particular.

Here are some important ones:
  • Answer the phone by the 3rd ring.
  • Make sure the phone is covered during business hours. Assign someone else to cover any gaps when the phone is unmanned, or forward calls.
  • Have an on-hold policy. Statistically most customers will hang up if on hold for 1 min (I would recommend 30 sec to play it safe. If it is likely that they will need to hold more than 30 seconds have someone return their call.
  • Capture contact information systematically so you can return calls or in case you are disconnected. I recommend using a paper or virtual phone memo system. Many CRMs have this feature.
Voicemail Greetings or Out-Going-Messages (OGMs)
  • In general keep your OGM bright (cheerful), quick (long OGMs are tedious), and to the point (it’s not a podcast or inspirational moment).
  • Using your own voice is fine unless it isn’t. If you feel like you need to use a friend or pro who has a pleasant voice.
  • I like to avoid beginning with Hi or Hello – it can spoof people into thinking you are actually answering in person.
  • Let them know they have reached the right mailbox by identifying yourself.
  • As obvious as it seems, people get voicemail stage-fright, so tell them what you need. Three items essentially: name, phone number and reason for calling. Some people say “leave a detailed message.” I personally don’t like long voice-mailbox clogging messages , I would rather them leave a headline, but it’s your judgement call.
  • Saying I’m busy or on another line, etc. is ok but assumed. However, if you like this use the following… “I [or we] can’t take your call right now, so…
  • A couple of formats I like are:
[OGM Example 1] You’ve reached [your name; e.g. John Smith’s] voicemail at [company name] . I value you call and will get back with you as soon as possible. Please leave name, number and the reason for your call.

[OGM Example 2] This is [your name; e.g. John Smith’s] voicemail at [company name]. I can’t answer the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number and the reason for your call, I will get back with you as soon as possible.

Phone Services

Run you company from your cell phone? Have a team of virtual nomads working out of different places? Consider the power of Using a phone service. There are several of these like Phone.com or Google voice. They often the same features that large corporate PBX systems do but affordable and they can scale with you.

Receptionist Script

It seems like this should be general knowledge, but my encounters with receptionists proves this wrong. The following will help.

In general BIG SMILE [It makes a difference trust me] NICE BRIGHT CLEAR VOICE, use FORMS of POLITENESS i.e. PLEASE and THANK YOUS! Answer their thank you’s with I’TS MY PLEASURE.
Good [afternoon, morning] you have reached [business name/branch] this is [receptionist first name] how may I help you?
[listen to their need, and jot down their name Mr. or Mrs…]
[Use their name] It will be my pleasure [or I would be delighted] to help you with that…[problem solve as necessary].
Thank you so much for your call today, may I ask how you heard about us? [listen and jot down, clarify as necessary].
[Make appropriate notes/memos entries into CRMs etc.]
[if there is a problem – empathize “i’m sorry your experiencing a problem with…] I’m sure thats frustrating. I will be happy to help you with that.
Have a nice day [use their name]

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