“Thank you for calling the Hard Rock, Maui! This is Mike – how can I rock your world?!” I remember like it was yesterday. Hands down the second-best job I’ve ever had (running this dental practice is pretty great). Young twenties, summer breaks, Maui Hawaii, … There must be a lesson we can take from that experience to apply and dramatically improve our businesses, am I right? In fact, there were many lessons I learned that I carry with me today, but the one I want to focus on here is how we were trained to answer the phone at ‘The Rock’ (as we called it).
What my managers in Maui understood that I think many of us in the business world forget is that customers may come because of your brand or marketing, but they’ll stay because of the experience you provide for them. My question to you, then, is why not begin providing that amazing customer experience from the very first interaction with every prospective one? Set the tone early then continue delivering great service with every interaction going forward.
Differentiating your business from the others while answering the phone is not a difficult thing to do. All we’re looking to do here is make a mark on that person’s day. They chose to reach out to you for some reason. Reward that decision.
Here are 5 steps to convert incoming phone calls into new customers for your business
1- Hire the right people / choose your attitude wisely
You can’t train attitude. A great former football coach of mine would say, “You either want [greatness] or you don’t! I can’t want it for you!” I’ve seen that the same can be true when it comes to the demeanor of your incoming call team. My philosophy is that we can train skills, so we’ll hire for attitude and fit with our team. I’ve offered interviews to folks who provide amazing customer service at our local grocery store, Subway, and community center. There’s something about having a conversation with a person, then leaving with a brighter outlook on your day and a happier mood. We want those people answering our phones.
When all of our precious marketing dollars pay off and convert into a phone call, I want the caller hanging up the phone with a smile (we’re in the smile business, after all…).
But if you’re already committed to a great incoming call staff who could use a little boost in this category, all hope is not lost. You can provide a focus on great customer experience to your people. Remind them that these phone interactions are the first impression that prospective customers get from our business. Encourage them to have fun with the caller and to try and learn a bit about who they are.
If you’re having a difficult time conveying the message to your team, try a different approach. Read a book with your team, listen to a podcast, or watch a video, then discuss what you learned as a group. We do each of these on a regular basis at our office and many times lessons are best learned from someone outside of your organization. Here are some that we’ve tried as a group that I highly recommend:
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition)
It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, 10th Anniversary Edition
Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behavior and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life)
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
2- Know your business and the services you provide
We don’t eat out much anymore. A 1-year-old and a 4 (and a half) year-old remind us that it’s best to either cook or order takeout. But when we did go out, I’d always be in awe of the servers who knew their menus, front to back. Without hesitation, they could tell you exactly what side is perfect for the glazed salmon, what wine is best to pair it with, and if you’re in the mood for an appetizer, they knew exactly what you’ll love just from their 30-second conversation with you. But the servers who would hesitate or refer to their notes, while they may eventually get to the best answer, our experiences weren’t as great as they could’ve been. Our confidence would wane and maybe we’d go for the appetizer, but maybe we wouldn’t.
When someone is selling your business to a prospective customer, arm that person with all the training and knowledge they need to answer questions correctly, efficiently, and in a manner that builds trust and confidence with the person on the other line. That may be an extensive training or shadowing program or it could be an ongoing system of making mistakes, communicating openly, and learning. To do this will take some time and investment but like any good investment, it will pay great returns in the future.
3- Focus your attention on the caller
In the middle of posting payments, generating the treatment plan that needed to be done 5 minutes ago, greeting the patient that just walked through your door, and submitting the pre-approval to insurance, I’d be lying if denied shaking my head as the phone started ringing. “As if I didn’t have enough to do right now…” But while all of those items above have a relative importance to your business’ bottom line, if we don’t answer the phone and convert new callers into clients, eventually we won’t have jobs.
So as you put the treatment plan down (for a minute), wave to the incoming patient, and let the pre-approval time out on the website, put on your ‘awesome attitude armor’, garner a smile, and answer that phone with Hard Rock gusto to make a phenomenal impression on Bob who just may be looking to get 4 implants as a result of the Turkey Bowl ‘accident’ he had a few months back. Listen to the caller’s comments without distraction so that when the time comes to respond, you’ll know exactly what you can do to help Bob, specifically.
(Then as soon as you hang up, get that treatment plan back to your doctor, who’s most assuredly headed your way!)
4- Ask a random question about the caller’s comments
Remind incoming callers that there is a human who actually cares about them on the other end of the phone. If they’re calling because they need a new gym after moving to the area, respond with, “Welcome to Columbus! How do you like it so far?” or “I’ve always wanted to visit Sheboygan! Did you enjoy it there?”
Maybe they’re looking for a new treadmill before they enter retirement – “Are you looking forward to retirement?” or “What did you do for work?”
Some people love these tangents, and you can use that to build rapport. If they’re more into efficiency on the phone, then it’s no problem to shift focus and meet their needs. But at times, this extra touch can stick with people and be the push that gets them to choose you over the business down the street.
5- Give them some (any) reason to visit your office
Alright. You’ve greeted the caller with a tremendous attitude, instilled confidence with your knowledge, actually listened to them, and asked them about their grandmother’s birthday party last month. Now it’s time to convert. All of your efforts are empty if this caller doesn’t schedule an appointment at your office or buy your product. At this point, 3 outcomes are possible depending on the caller (Sara).
Best case – Sara heard just what she needed during your call and is ready to schedule her appointment. Give her what she wants.
Lukewarm case – Sara likes what she heard but she won’t be ready to buy for another 3 months. Offer to schedule the appointment for three months from now that way she can get the time she prefers (because it’s still available). Remind her that this method will allow you to give her a reminder call, text, or email once we get closer to the appointment time. If she’d still rather not schedule quite yet, ask if you can take her name and number so that you can reach out in a month or so. This way, when you call back in a month she’ll vaguely remember you and the conversation you had. At that point, the familiarity could win her over.
Difficult case – if Sara doesn’t know that you are her best option or that you can provide the service she needs, try to find some way to get her into your office. Offer a time to meet with her to discuss her specific needs or just schedule a visit so that she can stop by, look around, and see what a great team you’ve built. Trust your office culture and your team to deliver once Sara’s in the office. At that point, she’ll either buy or she won’t, but she did reach out for a reason. Remind her that you can help her solve her problem.
Remember, the way your team is perceived over the phone is all about attitude, knowledge, and caring about people. And if you’re able to use these tools to positively impact prospective new clients over the phone your business will benefit because of it! Good luck getting out there and “Rocking worlds!” (just maybe use a different greeting…)
(Photo courtesy of Steve Wiechman)