HBSD: Diving into details, what sorts of phone skill challenges did you find at your own operation?
Callan: “We’ve worked hard over the years to attain 100% engagement with our customers when they are physically present shopping in our store, so you can imagine my disbelief when I began monitoring our phone calls via Call Rail and realized that this same level of service was absent over the phone.
“Some issues we discovered were poor usage of language, improper tone and volume, customers being left on hold for long periods of time, transferring calls that never arrive at a destination, not taking messages when uncertain about customers’ questions, and never calling them back with an answer.
“Others included interrupting customers when he or she were speaking, not utilizing active listening skills, informing customers we didn’t have an item in stock when in actuality, we did, or even offering to special order items we didn’t have. This is literally thousands of dollars lost over these mentioned issues.”
HBSD: What new methods did you use to improve your team’s phone etiquette?
Callan: “Our marketing company, Mountain Mojo Group, set us up with Call Rail. Call Rail is a service that connects data points and lets us see why someone called – like if they called after clicking on an ad, or a specific page on our site – and helps us determine how we can better reach our market.
“If we don’t know why people are calling, or a better way to reach them, we won’t be able to target them effectively, and that’s information lost. We could lose a sale because someone was looking to purchase something we had, but we didn’t know they needed it.
“Call Rail can track common questions that customers call about, so that we can assist people better and faster. If we know common questions, we can train our employees on how to better handle those questions and assist the customers in an exemplary way that will keep them coming back.
“If we’re unable to assist our customers, less people will call, and that will in turn decrease our business. Being able to assist our customers with the answers that they need, and knowing how to answer their questions, is something that we aim for very highly. Informing our employees of how to help those customers efficiently is also something that the Call Rail system has allowed us to do.”
HBSD: What tips can you pass along to readers who want to improve their team’s phone skills?
Callan: “Communication is key. If phone etiquette skills are lacking, communicate this to the whole team. Make sure to explain what exactly is lacking, and the proper way to fix the poor communication. Bring up some examples, highlight the main issues, and provide the solution to those problems.
“Keep emphasizing the fixes, beyond the initial meeting, so that there is a consistent effort to change the poor behaviors. That consistent effort will really hammer in the changes that need to be done to improve the phone etiquette.
“Some specific issues we encountered and spoke about were specific word choice when answering the phone, tone, and enunciation. We like to ask ‘how may I help you’ so that the customer knows they’re in the right hands. Another important aspect is asking the customer if it is alright with them to be put on hold. Let the customer know that we’re working for them, and not the other way around. This helps strengthen the business-customer relations.
“Phone etiquette and speaking etiquette is an art that is dying off and needs to be emphasized and revitalized, so we aim to improve this skill and assist our customers more effectively.”