Good customer service is not rocket science. Most of us know it when we experience it. However, as small business owners, many of us overlook these fundamental strategies in our own business, often to our detriment. Here are a few simple ways you can inspire confidence in your callers when they contact your small business.1) A live, professional greeting.For all the time, money and effort you spend getting prospective customers to call your business, it only makes sense to answer the phone when they call. The statistics on this are clear. Some 75% of first-time callers to a business will hang-up without leaving a message if greeted by a voicemail or automated attendant. If you are not personally available to answer your calls during business hours, hire a receptionist or outsource your telephone answering to a remote location.2) Have a structured set of questions.In an effort to guide callers quickly and efficiently to a resolution, have a standard set of questions you train your receptionist to ask. Simple questions like, May I ask what the call is regarding?, or, Are you an existing client of ours?, represent a good start. However, a few additional, specific questions relevant to your business will help a receptionist to quickly determine how to best handle the call. Depending on your business these might be things like, Have you already placed an order? In what city are you located? What product/service are you interested in? Allowing the caller to launch into an extended explanation of their particular situation prior to being connected with the appropriate person does not serve them well and is inefficient for your business. Qualifying questions will help guide the caller to provide the essential information up front so their call may be handled expeditiously. 3) Offer clear next steps.The person answering your phone should also be trained on the appropriate action step for various types of calls, and relay this information to the caller. For example, Jeff handles all the new estimates for our service. Let me attempt to get him on the line for you. This tells the caller you understand their need and are working to deliver a solution. If Jeff is available to talk, the call can be connected quickly and business can commence. If Jeff is unavailable at the moment, the receptionist should return to the caller to explain the situation and provide a reasonable time frame or alternative options for assisting the caller. For example, I apologize, but Jeff is unavailable at the moment. He is in a meeting until 3pm today and I would expect he will return your call shortly thereafter. This sets the expectation for the caller and makes them feel comfortable that their needs will be addresses in a timely fashion.Following these three key steps will go a long way to not only expedite your calls, but secure you more new business as well.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victor Mataraso, M.B.A. is the founder and president of Reliable Receptionist, a company that provides off-site telephone reception and appointment scheduling services for companies with 1 to 100 employees. Located in the East San Francisco Bay Area city of Walnut Creek, CA, Reliable Receptionist provides an alternative for businesses that need something more than a telephone answering service, but dont wish to hire an additional employee. He can be reached at (925) 627-4200 or www.ReliableReceptionist.com. His blog is available at www.ReliableReceptionist.info.
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