Tips for best practice in telephone customer care.
Customer care is a cornerstone of every industry. If you’re selling a product or providing a service, the person or organisation who is buying should always be at the forefront of your mind. In this day and age, there’s a lot of ways that customers can make first contact – through social media, via a website – but the old-fashioned phone is still one of the most common, and telephone customer care gives a real opportunity to impress potential customers with your competence, approachability and professionalism. At Customer Perceptions we’ve spent the past 20 years researching every conceivable aspect of customer care, and based on this we’ve come up with some tips to make that initial phone call really work for your business. Here they are:
1) Prompt Response – your target should be that every phone call to your organisation is answered within 3 rings. Almost immediately. Don’t leave customers hanging on the other end of a line, wondering what’s happening on your end. If you’re in a meeting, or for any reason can’t reach the phone on time, have a voicemail service set up, make sure it’s personalised and always, but always, but always get back to the caller. And get back within 24 hours.
2) Use a professional greeting – include your name and your business name. Say it promptly, say it clearly. Give callers the essential information straight away, don’t make them have to ask.
3) Establish if the caller is an existing customer – depending on the size of your organisation this may be self-evidently obvious or may require a direct question. Whichever it is, make sure you establish this. Obviously how you handle a call with a new customer (be friendly, welcoming, approachable, informative, establish needs) is very different to how you handle a call with an existing customer (be familiar with their needs, ask relevant questions re: the product or service which you’ve provided, be open to feedback and ready to suggest next steps), so establish it early on.
4) Establish the customer needs – very much related to the last point, this one – find out what the customer is calling about. Find out which of your products or services are going meet their needs (this might not be the product/service they feel it is; you’re the expert, guide them if they’ve got it wrong). This is an initial phone call, obviously if there’s a great deal of detail or documentation required (as, depending on your business, there might be), you shouldn’t go into it all there and then, but get enough information to allow you to prepare effectively for any proper meetings or consultations that might be required, and to allow you set the customer’s expectations. Speaking of which:
5) Prepare your customer/set their expectations: very basic one, this. Make sure, by the time your customer puts down their phone, they understand the response times involved, any documentation or materials required for any follow-up face-to-face meetings, and basically (but importantly) where the office is. This is important – if the next meeting goes well, there’s the chance to close the deal there and then. If they’re not prepared that’s unlikely. Ensure as best you can they are prepared.
6) Follow up on the call! Don’t just leave moving forward entirely up to the customer. Always follow up if you don’t hear back. If there’s a subsequent meeting to be arranged, call or at the very least text with a reminder.
The initial phone contact with your company is a crucial component of any customer’s dealings with your business. Do it well, do it properly and don’t waste it.