Should the phone etiquette used for a small business be any different than for a big business? I would say “yes”, in one very important way, it should be warmer. A small business has one important advantage over a larger business and that is there ability to focus more personalized attention on each of their customers.
Customer Service as a Competitive Advantage
Customer service is the one thing that can set a small business apart from a big business and customers will often pay a little extra to do business with a company that treats them right. Good customer service starts the minute you pick up the phone. Customers should always receive a warm greeting, should never be placed on hold without being ASKED for their permission first and should never be on hold for more than a minute or two.
Never Play the “Hold Please” Trick
One personal pet peeve of mine is having someone blurt “hold please” into my ear when I call them and then placing me on hold before I can even say one word. Sometimes I only have one little question that would take less time to answer than placing me on hold would! It is an immediate turn-off and my whole attitude towards the company has changed. Don’t do this to your customers!
Always ask if you can put the caller on hold. If you are responsible for answering multiple calls at once, always ask the caller politely if you may put them on hold before you do. Remember that the caller could have already waited several minutes before getting connected to you and may not take it lightly if they are put on hold yet again. Finally, never leave the person on hold for more than a few seconds or they may become upset and hang up.
Respect = Customer Loyalty
Treating your customers right, starting with good customer service on the phone, will help you grow your small business. Get a reputation for treating customers right and they will be loyal to you and refer more business your way. Sadly, it doesn’t take much to stand out for giving good customer service these days because so few companies do it anymore. The good news is that you have an amazing opportunity to remind customers what business is supposed to be like and to profit from your competitor’s shortcomings.
Titles are Important
Address the Caller Properly by his or her title. (i.e. Good morning Mr. Brown, Good afternoon Ms. Sanders). Never address an unfamiliar caller by his or her first name. This is just another way of showing the caller you respect them. Once you get to know them better, and they give you their permission, then and only then should you address them with their first name.
Remember to Listen & Empathize
Listen to the Caller and what they have to say. The ability to listen is virtue, and it can be a tough to do when most people want to be heard, but it is very important to listen to what the caller has to say. Try this: Repeat the information back to the caller when you are taking a message. Verify that you have heard and transcribed the message accurately before hanging up.
Always focus on the call. Try not to get distracted by people around you. If someone tries to interrupt you while you are on a call, politely remind them that you are on a customer call and that you will be with them as soon as you are finished.
Be patient and helpful. If a caller is irate or upset, listen to what they have to say and then refer them to the appropriate resource. Never react to a customer in a negative way. Learn to control your temper.