As the Director of Customer Experience for Iceberg Digital, I have devoted my life to helping estate agents transform their businesses to work in the digital age. I spend most of my work life contacting estate agencies to speak to them about one thing or another. In these calls, I get to experience the journey of any potential or current customer calling your business – and since my specialty rests in the customer journey, I study these interactions. I am going to be direct - I am shocked at the lack of phone etiquette I witness on a daily basis. For many, this seems basic but I cannot count how many times I have had an experience like the one below and it only seems to be occurring more often.
- Me: dialling estate agent… choosing option 1 to speak to sales… it's ringing:
- Agent: yeah?
- Me: um, is this so-and-so agency?
- Agent: yeah, how can I help?
What if I had a £1 million property to sell and was calling you? How would I react? Would I want to work with you? Probably not. Honestly, it doesn’t matter the price of the property, I would be very unlikely to work with you further after that one mistake.
And I’m not the only one: according to a study published in Forbes, the majority of your clients will make a judgement call on who you are and what you are about in 7 seconds. First impressions really are important as, according to Harvard Business, it would take 8 highly positive interactions following this bad one to recover the customer’s lost trust and interest in your business.
While a great marketing system and CRM to nurture your clients will help with providing these repetitive positive interactions, if this is the first impression, it could very well be the last.
Here are 3 reasons your business must have a solid phone experience for your callers:
1. Shows competence: It is no secret that for many years, the public has thought of estate agencies as shady or incompetent. Each experience a client has with your company is important in convincing them that you are the solution to their problems – that you know what you are talking about and are a ’real’ business.
2. Rapport building: You are in the business of relationships – always. The first impression you build should be about building that rapport. At Iceberg Digital for example, our team answers the phone by introducing the company, themselves and then asking for the person’s name and how they are. Psychologists say people love to hear their name and this helps us to focus on the person rather than the issue. It helps the team to stop and take a breath as well and build relationships with those that matter most – our clients.
3. Shows Reliability: Answering your phone and providing a great experience throughout the interaction will help build trust with your clients. Training your team to answer the phone in the same way every single time, allows the customer to feel safe knowing that you provide the same experience and are reliable.
Maybe you’re thinking – yes, I know, I know. I’ve trained my team. Or maybe, it’s that you don’t think this is a problem for you but do you know how your team is talking to people when you aren’t there? Trust is a great thing to have with your team but you also need to create a foundation of expectations in order for them to represent your brand correctly. And, let’s face it, your team is busy – juggling multiple responsibilities. Even the most trained and experienced of people can slip from time to time.
Here are some steps that every customer-facing business must take to ensure their customers are receiving the best phone experience:
1. Create Brand guidelines for phone calls: How do you want your company to be represented? What greeting works best for you? How do you want people to put callers on hold? How do you want your team to say goodbye? This is a very important part of your journey that many companies take for granted or forget to create. Don’t make this mistake – and if you have already, fix it as soon as possible.
2. Train your team: Make it 100% required that each of your team has the rules for the phone. Make these rules clear and check for understanding with each team member.
3. Record your phone calls: This is a good policy and system to have in place anyway – it protects you and your team from nasty situations and helps you keep track of how things are going quickly and easily. You should review these recordings at random at the very least. Some companies have call quality reviews weekly or monthly. Just the idea that calls are recorded helps keep your team performing well even when they are under a ton of stress.
4. Coach your team: Give them positive feedback when you hear the right things, and coach them to improvement when you don’t hear what you expect. Keep it consistent by providing this feedback every week at first and then at least once a month.
The problem is basic.
The solution is simple.
Make the change so that every customer that calls you is treated like the owner of a £1 million property, and you will see the difference in your business.