Don’t Forget The Telephone

We spend a lot of time talking about quality and cleanliness. We are always looking for new technology and a better faster computer. Social media- Face book and e-mails, texting. Upscale modern counters, delivery vans that knock your socks off. I find, however, that most of us ignore one of the most important tools in our business: The telephone! It is certainly a necessity in today’s world but I think because it is not a new invention, we take it for granted.

At Henderson Insurance Agency, we call many dry cleaners in the course of a day. I have been appalled at the way the phone is answered. Quite often, I can’t even understand the name of the cleaners, if in fact, they use the name of the cleaners. Sometimes, I get “hello” or “cleaners.” If I ask for the owner, “Is Mr. Smith in” an employee will respond “Who?”

I called one cleaner and the owner was not in. I wanted to confirm the address of the cleaners. I asked the employee who answered what the address was. She DID NOT know. To make matters worse, she had me wait almost five minutes while she found out what it was. And no, she was not waiting on a customer because I could hear her asking other employees. I think she finally went outside and looked at the building.

The best was when I asked for Mr. Smith and the employee said “Just a moment.” He put the phone down and proceeded to finish a call on his cell phone planning his lunch. Then he went to get the owner. Unbelievable! Maybe it is time to review telephone etiquette. I have outlined some guidelines below:

Establish How You Want The Phone Answered – Experts have opinions on how the phone should be answered. Some suggest the business name, the name of the person answering “XYZ Cleaners. This is Jackie. How can I help you?” Whatever you decide to use, make it a standard. The phone should be answered promptly. Speak clearly. No gum chewing or eating. The one who answers should not sound anxious, aggressive or pushy. The tone, however, should convey authority and confidence.

Designate Who Should Answer The Phone – Whoever answers the phone must answer clearly and concisely. Call in and listen as the person answers. Is this how you want your business portrayed? It is important for whoever answers to SMILE. It shows through the phone.

Have A Business Card At The Phone – If the caller needs the address of your business, make it easy for your employees. Tape the card to the counter/wall. This way it will not disappear.

Have A Message Pad At The Phone – If you want your employees to take a message, make it easy for them. You can pick up message pads at an office supply store for a very low cost. You might consider the pad with duplicates. That way it is more difficult to lose messages.

Buy A Phone With A Hold Button – Phones are cheap today. When the phone is answered, put the caller on hold. And while the caller is waiting, record a message and remind the caller of the services you offer.

And For Heavens Sake, Invest In An Answer Phone – I know most small businesses don’t have the luxury of having someone stand around and answer the phone. An answer phone is priceless. In today’s economy, we have had to cut back on labor so it is not unusual for the phone to ring when someone is involved in another chore. An answer phone is priceless. When waiting on a customer, it is not necessary to have the customer wait while you answer the phone. And if you don’t answer the phone, the person calling does not know if they have the wrong number. Are you closed or out of business, etc? The answer phone message will indicate you are waiting on a customer and please leave a message. Be sure to include your business hours. Your customers at the counter will appreciate it as will your callers.

Telephone etiquette can be summarized in one word: Courtesy. I the caller is a potential customer and you are courteous, you have an excellent chance of gaining a new customer.

These are some simple low/no cost ways to make your business more professional. You need to make your business stand apart from your competitors. This is one way to show you are indeed different.