Archive for May, 2012

What to say when you do answer (Part 1)

Don’t say your entire sales spiel.

A long greeting causes your caller to be uncomfortable, unsure whether you’re quite finished, and even interrupt you before you finish! This situation makes the initial interaction an awkward one.

Remember the plumbing company from Chapter 2? When it’s time to decide how to answer your phone, it can serve as an example for good…and for bad. You should have scripts for your front line people. How they answer the phone is critical to how people perceive your business, so you don’t want to leave that up to chance.

But don’t put your entire sales spiel into that script…no matter how tempting that may be! Your frontline phone people will be dealing with a large number of calls, and it is more customer-friendly to limit the greeting. Sure, if you’ve got some major promotion that will affect a lot of people, then let them know. But keep it brief…no more than a few words.


Confirm the company name, and provide your first name

Here’s an example: “Charter Insurance. This is Julie.” This greeting confirms for the caller that he reached the right company (you’d be surprised how many people dial the wrong number!), and it gives your name as an invitation for the caller to use it to springboard into the conversation. You have now become the “voice” of the company. And with that power comes a responsibility to provide a great customer experience.

Answering the Call

Be Genuine

When you answer with genuineness, you make a quick human connection with the caller. This connection will make the caller feel more comfortable, especially if he is unsure of whom he needs to talk to, or what he should ask for.

Being genuine means concentrating on the present. What’s important right now? Answering the phone…connecting with your caller. Make that personal connection.


Connect with Interest

Because the caller can’t see you, it’s even more important to convey the cues to him that you are glad he called, and you are ready to help him.

Answer with a question mark at the end of your greeting…your voice going up slightly at the end…inviting the caller to say the next thing. You can do that whether you say, “Hello?”, “How may I help you?”, or you answer with your name, as in “This is Chester?” We’re going to look at how to choose what you say when you answer the phone in the next section. Just remember that you want to invite the caller to participate with you in the conversation. Make him or her feel welcome.

Answer with a Smile

The best way to convey cheerfulness on the phone is to be excited about answering it! When I was a kid, every phone call was an event. My sister and I raced each other to the nearest phone, knocking down tables, leaping over toys, and diving or sometimes sliding around the corner…arms reaching to grab the phone. And yet, as out of breath as we may have been, we would somehow be able to control the breathing, control the excitement of getting there first, and answer the phone with a clear “Hello?”…and a solid question mark on the end of the word.

Even when you don’t feel especially happy, it’s hard NOT to improve your mood by simply lifting up the corners of your mouth. Go ahead…try it now! Now with a great big smile on your face, try to be angry! Go ahead; I dare you! The reason smiling works is because the human body associates physical responses with associated emotion. So when you smile, it automatically lifts your emotions, in turn making you happier!

Remember this…happiness is frequently a choice. So make up your mind to be happy…BEFORE you pick up the phone…even if it’s for the ninety-eighth time today!

Stop Talking and Start Answering

Time and again I’ve called a company…a professional business, mind you, and the person on the other end picks up the phone, but she hasn’t fully finished the conversation she was already having! Does she think I can’t hear her? Does she think the phone only starts working AFTER she has said, “Hello”?

If you’re in a conversation with someone, but you need to answer the phone, simply stop talking, quickly excuse yourself from the conversation, and answer the phone!

When I hear bits and pieces of your conversation as you pick up the phone, it makes me, the caller, feel less important. It amplifies that I’m barging in on whatever you were doing. And sometimes, it reaches the level where I don’t know whether you’re talking to me or the other person!

So stop your previous conversation before you answer my call!

Who Should Be Answering Your Phone?

Have you made the decision to use an auto-attendant? What went into that decision? Your company needs an edge, and how your phone is answered is a critical place to start.

Consider this real-life example: A company I recently worked with had a “live answer only” policy, thinking it was pleasing its callers. But with four salespeople answering calls, callers had only a 25 percent chance of their specific salesperson answering the call. If the salesperson the caller wants to talk to does not answer the phone, it means the customer may experience hold time, transferring, and maybe even voicemail hell! Without a dedicated receptionist, a caller’s experience will be different every time. And that’s a difficult environment for making your company stand out!

Here’s where you gain an edge. This environment is perfect for implementing an auto-attendant solution. But give your callers control over where they go. Offer your salespeople’s extensions right up front, so callers can reach them by name, extension, or option. This offering gives callers a precision experience because they reach exactly the right person 100 percent of the time.

A second benefit to your company is eliminating interruptions and distractions for your employees. Pugh Research says that every time a call takes your employee off task, it takes up to ten minutes for him to recover. Once the employee no longer has to handle calls for co-workers, he will stay much more focused on the task at hand.

Your competition has made a knee-jerk reaction to how its phone is answered. Now you can get a step ahead by extending your superior showroom experience over the phone to your valuable callers.

Rock your customer’s world while controlling the interruptions for your staff!

Live or auto-attendant? Evaluate your inside environment to make that decision with confidence.

Your Phone as a Useful Tool

Your customers can’t possibly know every service you offer, or every item you carry. And while there is no way you can communicate all of that in a phone call, or how you answer the phone (more on that later!), you can pique your caller’s interest.

That’s “pique,” which defines as “to excite curiosity or interest.” Highlighting a product per week, or a unique service each month, is a great way to pique people’s interest and create Top of Mind Awareness. Top of Mind Awareness (or TOMA) means that people think of you or your company first when they want to buy the product or service you offer.

Sure, some of those people have already known that you offer that service, or you have sold that item since the day your business started. For those people, it’s simply a reminder for when they need you. But others may have had no idea you carried the item they want and have been trying to find (or buy from your competitor), and they would rather bring their business to you!

One of the questions you should ask as you design your On-Hold message is “What do I do that no one knows about? What’s the thing about my company that you wish people were more aware of?”

Most of the time, the customer has an answer on the tip of his tongue. I was recently interviewing an insurance client who told me he was suffering from this very problem. His clients used him for auto, home, and business insurance, and they were very happy with him. But most had no idea that he offered health insurance as well. As an agency devoted to business clients, health insurance is very high on the list of things with which he would like to help his clients.

A second thing he told us about was life insurance. People don’t often want to think about buying life insurance. But one day he picked up the phone to talk to a current client who had his home and auto insurance with this company, and that client said he had heard about life insurance while he was On-Hold. After talking through the options, and what the client needed, that client purchased a life insurance policy. The premium from that one purchase covered the cost of the On-Hold message service for an entire year! Studies show that when an insurance client adds a life insurance policy to his existing home and auto policies, the likelihood that he will remain with that insurance company rises to 95 percent.

Here’s a situation where a business can use its phone to pique its caller’s interest. The phone becomes the perfect tool to educate customers about your company. In this case, my client was already providing insurance services to customers, with which they were happy. Now, the next time one of his clients calls in to check on his policy or to make a change, my client has the opportunity to let that caller know about the health or life insurance options available.

So what are the ways you can use your phone to reach callers with relevant information? Let’s look at a couple of ways.

First, one way to reach people is by including the information in the Queue or Hold message. Rather than simply make your callers wait in silence, hear an annoying “beep-beep,” or listen to generic music, you can use that time to educate and inform your callers about your products or services that they may have not been aware you offered. Just like in the example of the insurance company, this method can be a very smart way to reach potential clients.

Another way to reach people at their moment of purchase is to play a message after the initial ring. When your caller dials your number, rather than hearing a continuous “ring-ring,” they can hear a message like: “Connecting your call. The health of your staff is critical to your business success. Ask us about protecting your business from unexpected expenses with the proper health insurance coverage.”

This message plays while the call rings through to the agency. One of the keys to making this method work is to educate your employees so they are aware of what your callers will be hearing. Then your employees will be prepared to answer any questions the caller may have as soon as they answer the phone.

One thing you don’t want to do is cram it all into your initial greeting. One national plumbing franchise has the unique selling proposition that if its employees are late for the set appointment, it will pay you $5 for every minute they are late. Kinda makes waiting around for the repairman a little more fun, eh?

As a national franchise, this company also has specific rules for how to answer the phone. Its current script goes something like: “It’s a great day at XYZ Plumbing, where if there’s any delay, it’s you we pay! This is Chester; how may we save you time today?”

Wow! By the time you’ve heard that, you could have solved your problem! In an effort to hit all their high-points, they extend the greeting to the point of becoming annoying. (And imagine if you were the one who had to say that every time the phone rang!)

If you draw the caller in, you will have the opportunity to sell to him later, the opportunity to explain what makes you different, and why the caller should choose you. Pay very close attention to the words you use to answer the phone. But don’t cram your entire business proposition into the initial greeting!

Again, choose a service or a product to highlight each week. Inform your staff of the item or service, and make that part of your outgoing message, and your On-Hold message.

Sign of a Great Caller Experience

One day I was driving home from a camping trip with my family, and I decided to come home without traveling on the Interstate highways.

It was a beautiful day, and as we drove through small-town USA, it struck me how a business’ presentation to passersby was critical to its survival! If the business had a good sign, a clear presentation, and was the type of place I was interested in stopping, I would be a customer.

But poor signage, a bad presentation, or no clear idea of what I would find inside would cause me to keep on driving (maybe never to pass that way again!).

While this concept may seem obvious to you, there’s a parallel here for your business.

You’ve run your ads on radio, TV, billboards, and the Internet. You’ve spruced up your front entrance to make it appealing and inviting. You’ve educated your staff on how to ask the right questions of customers, without being pushy. Now you’re waiting for customers to come pouring in your door.

Have you overlooked anything? I think you’ll be surprised!


Your Caller Experience is a critical link to convincing new customers they should buy from you, and reinforcing that message to existing customers.

And just like the road signs I was watching as I traveled through small towns, you have but a few seconds to make or break that experience over the phone. Callers will put up with bad experiences for only so long.

So what makes for a bad experience? Here are a few situations that result in customers not wanting to do business with you:


  • Poor phone skills: Staff who do not properly answer the phone, and do not place an importance on handling the phone call with clarity and promptness.
  • Silence On-Hold, or even music alone: Callers don’t know whether they’ve been disconnected, or simply put on “forget.”


You wouldn’t have an empty showroom when your customers walk in…so don’t have “empty” On-Hold time. Nobody likes it.


  • Long waits: Being On-Hold at some point is a fact of life. But don’t forget about your caller On-Hold. Try to get back to him or her as quickly as possible!
  • Transferred to the wrong person: Make sure when you transfer a caller that you stay on the line to make sure the caller gets to the right person or department. Your caller will really appreciate it.


Whether callers have these unpleasant experiences is one of the many the things you can measure by using a Secret Caller service, where calls are made into a business to test how its phones are answered. It’s amazing how just a few small things can make a huge difference in how customers experience your business.


Those few seconds over the phone are critical to whether a customer chooses to do business with you…or go on to your competition.

What do your phones say about your company?

Sound is Engineered

“Sonic branding is about getting something that sticks in someone’s head and is not going away, even if you’re not watching or not paying attention, you hear that sound and you know it.” — Alex Moulton, Creative Director at Expansion Team

Did you know that Mercedes employs twelve engineers who are dedicated to fine-tuning the sound of opening and closing doors? Mercedes really takes its sonic brand seriously!

The sound a can of Pringles potato chips makes when opened is engineered to make you associate the product with freshness.

Brands you know by sound

Branding by sound is not a new concept. You would probably be surprised by how many brands have been consistently paying attention to how they sound for many years! How many of these brands can you identify by their signature sounds?



Are you paying attention to the sound of branding all around you?

Audio Branding is about much more than simply having your secretary record the new Auto-Attendant greeting. Effective Audio Branding is engineered to complement and enhance your company’s sensory touch points. Audio Branding is as important to your customer as your visual brand. How important is it to you?

Designing an “Audio Brand” is a critical piece of your Customer Experience

Katz Creative created a very compelling presentation called the Power of Sound.

In it, Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business, says:

“Sight and hearing must be considered the twin major senses for two reasons. First, they can both carry specific messages: we can say exactly what we want in either vision or sound. Second, sight and hearing can both be broadcast, and they are therefore the only two mass communication senses. So far, nobody has found a way of broadcasting smells or tastes.”

In 1999, three scientists got together to study the influence of sound on product sales. Over a two-week period, French and German music was played on alternate days at an in-store display of French and German wines. French music led to French wines outselling German ones, whereas German music led to the opposite effect on sales.

Obviously, sound plays a critical role in the emotional connection a customer makes to your product or company.

What is Audio Branding?

The Audio Branding Academy defines Audio Branding this way:

Audio Branding describes the process of brand development and brand management by use of acoustic elements within the framework of brand communication. It is part of multi-sensory brand communication and holistic corporate design. Audio branding aims at building solidly a brand sound that represents the identity and values of a brand in a distinctive manner. The audio logo, brand music, or the brand voice are characteristic elements of audio branding.

This Audio Branding needs to be designed for any space where your customer hears from you.

When your customer walks into your business, what music does he or she hear? What sounds in general? Are those sounds consistent with your business’ image?

When customers call your business, what do they hear? Is your phone system’s recorded voice the same voice throughout? Or is it the voice of the receptionist who used to work for you, but has been gone for a year?

When that caller is On-Hold…can he still identify that it’s the same company?

Margarita Bochmann, from Audi AG puts it this way:

 “Concerning the effect on the emotional level and the communication of the brand image, sound is more efficient than visual elements. By using acoustic touch points like music on-hold, phone mailboxes, and the company’s website, it is also possible for small and medium sized companies to do audio branding in a reasonable way.”


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