Be the Owner You Need to Be
Hello? Please hold…
When a business owner contacts me, the first question I am often asked is “How do I get more phone calls?” As a call center excellence coach, I think that question puts the proverbial cart before the horse. Instead I ask those owners a question of my own, which is, “Do you know how your company sounds?”
This seems like a basic question and most owners quickly answer “Yes.” However, after a slight pause, I typically then hear, “What do you mean?” More specifically I mean, “Do you know how your company sounds during every telephonic interaction with your customers?” Many owners I’ve worked with in the plumbing, heating, air and electrical fields think if they walk around the office during the day and everyone seems pleasant they basically know what customers are hearing when they call. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Answering my second question truthfully takes some effort by you as the owner. Walking around is a great start, but think about how you can be more actionable in this area.
Let’s start with consistency. Customers won’t hear what you want them to hear if your customer service representatives don’t know for sure what you want them to say. Invest the time to make sure everything your company needs to say to or ask from each customer is completed on that call. Write it as a good, simple script your customer service representatives can use, and set a consistent expectation and way to measure the results of each customer call.
But, don’t stop there, make sure you take that next step and actually call your shop. A written script does not help your customer service reps develop the tone or attitude you want AND expect when they talk to your customers. Call at different times of the day, from different phone numbers, and with different questions. If you are a 24 hour operation and use an answering service, make sure you call during their coverage hours as well. You need to know what your customer hears when she calls any time of the week, especially during those emergency hours calls.
Once you have done those two basics steps, writing the script and checking how the phones are answered, I challenge you to go one step further. Take a minute and think about what other company interactions that happen in your shop your customers might hear.
How do your dispatch service representatives sound when they contact a customer? Do they have a script to follow and know what is expected of them for their specific calls?
How do your call center representatives interact with each other? Sometimes the tone between co-workers spills over into customer communication.
How does your customer service team interact with the technicians and installers? Any of our staff on the front line need to be aligned as one when it comes to our customers. There should be no “the office must have made a mistake” or “that technician should have done this” conversations happening with the customers.
As business owners it is your responsibility to make certain your customers are getting the best possible service both in the home and on the phone. Unifying your teams around the importance of customer service is essential.
Here’s one last thing for you to think about. How much time and money do you spend thinking about the next new thing to make that phone ring? Yellow pages ads, websites, truck wraps, stickers, magnets, mailers, etc. Now I want you to compare that budget with the budget of what you spend on the team who answers the phone. My guess is for most of us, there is a pretty large disparity between them. I have long argued that one of the most important functions in our companies is the team answering and making customer calls. Sadly, our customer service team is also typically the lowest paid and least trained in our companies.
Here’s another challenge for you. After you set your expectations and goals for each call with a formal script, then make those customer calls yourself, identify where you need training and staff development. Then, provide it. If your team is not meeting your basic needs for the calls coming in, you are losing money. Losing money on what you are spending to advertise, as well as losing money by not maximizing each call.
At the end of the day, your success may not hinge on getting more phone calls, but instead just doing a better job with the calls you already receive.