How is your year starting out? We’re into week two of 2023 … we’d love to hear back from you on challenges you’re facing in your business finances right now. Feel free to reach out!

On a similar note, what are your customer service goals for this year?

One customer relations tool that seems outdated but is still very relevant? Phone calls. Yes, we know there are chatbots and instant messages, and those are great tools! 

But, when the templated answers don’t help your customers, they’re sure to dial your company number to get more personalized answers. Lean into it!

Nothing beats a one-to-one. And that’s what phone calls are for.

But what if they’re turned off by the hold time? Or the greeting? What can you do to master the art of customer phone calls? We have some thoughts.

 But first, a quick reminder about how the final estimated tax payment for 2022 is due by Jan. 16th. The IRS makes it so easy with an online payment option. If you need to go over anything there, we’re here: 218-623-6050.

Now, onto how your business handles the phone…

The TCG Accounting Team’s
“Real World” Business Strategy Note

Mastering a Key Customer Service Lifeline

“The great advantage it possesses over every other form of electrical apparatus consists in the fact that it requires no skill to operate the instrument.” – Alexander Graham Bell

 Despite all the email and texts, using plain old “calls” remain one of your company’s customer-service lifelines. 

 Not to mention, calls remain a big way to stay in touch with any employees who might be working remotely. Make sure everyone in your operation knows how to answer the phone to your best advantage.  

Still useful

Calls remain popular for customer service among all ages – especially after those customers have worked with a company. In fact, studies have found companies also lose billions annually because of bad customer service.

The phone remains a tool for brand image: A phone number on a website or other marketing material generally still conveys more trustworthiness than a chatbots, even if customers elect to use the bot, email or other means to reach your company.

 Have a designated number for your company, by the way. New customers and most callers to your company should have one number to reach you or your office. Plenty of apps will add a designated business line to your cell phone. You can get a toll-free or a vanity number (where the numerals in your number spell out words relative to your business) for a nominal cost. But with today’s speed-dialing and contacts functions, that may not be worth the money.

‘Can I put you on hold?’

 Aim to pick up all calls in two rings. 

 It’s not always possible, but many more rings, and you risk starting a conversation with a prospect or customer who’s already out of patience. By about four rings at most, rig your system to bounce to voice tree or voicemail. 

 Your greeting will likely set the whole tone for the conversation. Be clear and professional. You or whoever in your company answers should say “good morning” or “good afternoon,” thank the caller for phoning and ask why they’re calling. 

Bear in mind that someone on a speaker phone often sounds like they’re inside a gymnasium. If fielding business calls at home, keep background noise to a minimum if possible. Fortunately, remote work through the pandemic has made something like an occasional bark or child’s laugh forgiveable, but the quieter of a designated space, the better. 

If placing a customer on hold is unavoidable, keep it brief. Ask for the caller’s number so you can call them back if there’s a disconnect – there probably won’t be, but it shows you care. And, if you think you’ll lose track of just how long the customer is on hold… use a timer.

Listen up 

The caller is using a phone because they want to talk to a person and not the tap of a keyboard. Your company’s first job here is to listen neutrally to their problem. Use small talk and pleasantries but keep them brief. Hear the caller’s issue before you start talking. 

 Ask questions. Take notes (more on this in a sec). Explain your first thoughts on what it’ll take to solve the problem — even short-term action will impress the caller if it’s quick enough.

 You’re within your rights to ask if you can call them back later with a progress report. Do so, even if there is no progress, by the next business day. Wrap up the call – those notes you took will come in handy here – and always thank them for calling.

Only if you feel there’s time should you try such survey-ish questions as, “Were you satisfied with your service today?” Or, “What could we be doing better?” Remember, your best customer answer comes from repeat business. Knowing how to handle a business call will help you get it.

Establishing tone

 Have an idea of what tone you want to answer your phone in. If you don’t have a set vision for an incoming call, it’s left up to the mood or personality of whoever’s receiving the call. That can go very poorly if someone’s having a bad day or if you have the wrong employee answering phones. 

 Compile some go-to phrases to utilize for tricky situations, such as a client who’s tired, panicked, upset, etc. These phrases allow you to set the direction of the conversation while maintaining a cheerful attitude. And this might sound silly, but smile while on the phone. It really does translate warmth in tone and word choice!

January is a great time to revamp things in your business, and customer relations is a great place to start. Even though we live in a digital age, it still matters that employees know how to answer the phone. Take some time this month to think some of the above through (and get your staff trained).