Our May blog discussed getting customer service right and how bad customer service can be. For example, how not returning phone calls can have a massive impact on a company’s reputation especially in the age of online reviews and social media.
Unanswered phone calls got me thinking about sales communications in general and I found myself wondering…“Why do customers not return my calls”?
Most of our current workforce is made up of “Millennials” – 20-40 years old. They are mobile, productivity-driven and commanding of their time. Answering phone calls doesn’t line up with these traits and as a result using the phone for talking, is becoming the most diminishing form of communication.
Take some tasks that once required a phone call which can now be done via app or online – booking a table at a restaurant or even a doctor’s appointment. But cancelling the appointment often requires a phone call. The combination of fear of the phone, saying no and letting people down gets in the way. And this combination with the associated discomfort is something we all can to relate to at some level.
However, phone and voicemail are still a CRITICAL piece of effective sales communications.
Why is the phone no longer a first choice for some? Let’s explore.
Phone calls are disruptive. Have you ever been out for dinner or in the office and seen your phone ring (yep ‘seen’, who has their phone on loud these days?), let it ring out and then sent a text to say ‘sorry I missed your call, everything ok’? Yep, thought so! Answering disrupts but you also feel ‘on show’.
Phone calls are not private. If you do decide to answer you then find yourself moving to ‘find somewhere quieter’ to begin the conversation. Eurgh. So much effort!
If you do decide to answer there is then no telling how long you will be on the phone for. Phone calls tend to involve ‘small talk’ and ‘chit chat’ (usually about the weather, traffic or poor signal) and this isn’t time effective. The unknown duration of that phone call can be enough reason to let the phone ring out to voicemail. Many people hide behind their voicemail systems or are simply just too busy to return even the calls they are meant to return.
We are all on the treadmill of life and for many answering the phone and returning calls is just simply not a priority for them because they are so busy.
When the phone rings it forces our mind to change direction and refocus. This is particularly frustrating if you are getting your head down to complete a piece of work or other important task for the day (like lunch!). Choosing to answer or not is annoying in itself, plus your mind has been allowed to wonder away from what you were doing. We have many forms of communication available to us and we tend to gravitate towards the least intrusive ones.
So, what can we do to ensure we do get to speak to our customers via the phone?
- Master the communication that your customer values and use it to support your call if needed. For example, email and text message to schedule a time and date for a phone call and even a suggestion of how long that phone call may take.
- Schedule the next appointment or follow up call before you end the call, so that you don’t surprise your customer when you ring.
- Unblock your number! People are much more likely to answer if they recognise your number. Pass on your number as well when arranging the phone call so they know it is you who is calling.
- Change the way you leave your voicemails. Don’t make people have to listen your voicemail more than once. Returning your call needs to be effortless and painless. Leave your message in the correct tone, keep it brief and to the point but give them a “teasing reason” to call you back.
- Accept that sometimes you can’t win them all and there will be the odd person who just won’t pick up despite arranging phone calls. Use a different form of communication to reach them and boost the connection using social media for example Linked In.
And remember, some people don’t like to give bad news or is way down their list of priorities. Avoiding your phone call, means they avoid having to give some sort of lame excuse that is neither convincing nor satisfying. If this is the case, then review your sales pitch, consulting and close with purpose.
Are you closing deals via the phone? What are the most frequent lines of communication with your customers and potential customers? Is that how they like to be communicated with and are you BRILLIANT at it?