You’re focused on running your company in the world that moves at the speed of an electron, where uncertainty is the only sure thing, and in which a warehouse with a PO box and a website is undercutting your price by 50 percent. With every day a fire that needs putting out, who has time to think about the telephone?
You do, that’s who.
Responsive and respectful telephone communication is still an important part of making your business run. Is there anything more annoying than not getting a return phone call or getting stuck in voice mail Hades looking for a real human being? Here are some tips that every company should follow to avoid letting one of its oldest pieces of technology get the best of it.
- Use humans to answer the phone. Automated telephone systems are simply annoying and put a cold, uncaring face on your business. The best companies use real human beings to provide a warm greeting to every caller.
- Train the phone answerers. Don’t confuse “warm greeting” with “a warm body.” The people that answer your company’s incoming calls should be well-trained in telephone etiquette. The rules are many, but check out a list that Lehigh University has compiled for its library.
- Return calls promptly. Everyone is busy, but all calls should be returned within 24 hours—and that’s the absolute latest. Depending on the situation, a few hours’ delay may cost you a sale or a customer. If you’re buried in work, it’s okay to let messages pile up briefly. But make time throughout your day to come up for air and return the morning or afternoon’s phone calls.
- Don’t pass the buck. If you receive a phone call that’s not meant for you, don’t say something like “Someone else handles that” or “I can’t help you.” If the information the caller needs is easily accessible, retrieve it for them and save them another phone call or a transfer.
- Remember, angry callers are gold. In an ideal world, your company would produce perfect products and services, and the only customer feedback would be glowing reviews and praise. However, the reality isn’t like this. Angry customers will call and should be pushed to the top of the queue. Remember, an upset customer is providing you with a free opportunity to do something invaluable: improve your business. Take the time to hear their problem, resolve it and make note of ways to avoid such problems in the future.
The telephone hasn’t changed much since the days of Alexander Graham Bell, but its function in modern business is still irreplaceable. The fax machine might be dusty and the typewriters are long since gone, but don’t ignore your company’s telephone system and the policies and procedures for using the phone.