Christina Burns is the vice president of customer success at Ruby Receptionists and a customer experience leader. Her blog shares insights and best practices for others in the field and those who want to up their customer service game. Burns has been in the industry for over a decade and has a passion for helping businesses focus on customer experience as a key business metric. Visit callruby.com.
People have more ways than ever to connect—social media, virtual meetings, online chat rooms, texting, email, etc.—and with smartphones at our fingertips, we can stay tuned in to the web anytime, anywhere. The question then becomes: How do all of these methods of communication impact customer preferences and expectations? Surprisingly, the preferred method for clients to interact with businesses remains the phone call. Companies of all sizes are seeing an explosion of inbound calls. According to the call intelligence company, Invoca, a predicted 162 billion calls will be made to businesses from smartphones in 2019. A significant reason for this spike is the tremendous growth of mobile search and click-to-call options. With this functionality, smartphone users can search for, find and call a business in seconds with just a few screen taps.
While an increase in phone calls could be good for business, answering the phone isn’t always possible or the best use of your time as a business owner. Missed calls are missed opportunities. According to call handling and telephone directing company, Message Direct, 85 percent of people who call and get no answer will not call back, and consumer reports show that 72 percent of callers who reach an automated answer will hang up without leaving a message (and perhaps call a competitor).
Even if you can answer the phone, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task at hand after being interrupted. Answering spam calls alone wasted nearly 20 million hours for small businesses in 2014, which translated to about $475 million annually and is only increasing with call volume, says a study by the University of California, Irvine. Increased call volume means increased distraction, and, since the typical contractor is conducting business from jobsites or on the road, this can be a challenging reality.
Still, the rise of the phone call creates great opportunities for contractors to nurture new and existing relationships, creating happy clients who will drive positive referrals and repeat business. To capitalize on this trend, it’s important that every incoming call is handled proficiently. Consider it part of a productive marketing channel. A call is an invitation to clearly communicate the value of the service you provide. Every call is your chance to demonstrate dedication to providing a great experience, building rapport and trust. Other marketing channels, such as direct mail, social media, email marketing and advertisements can bring in the phone call, but then, it’s even more important to close the loop and win the business. After all, inbound phone calls are 10 to 15 times more likely to convert to a sale than inbound website leads, says Hubspot’s marketing experts.
Make It Ring
How can you make the most of the click-to-call boom and drive more traffic to your phone while still remaining productive? The following list will help you prepare for every call, and answer each call expertly.
- Look good to Google—Most clients will come through mobile search using Google, so confirm that your Google business information is up-to-date, with a phone number connected to the profile. This ensures potential customers will be able to call your business directly from the call icon.
- Make your website phone-friendly—For those potential customers who click through to your website instead of your Google profile, it’s essential to have your phone number prominently displayed on your website in areas such as the header, footer, contact page and in any calls-to-action. In addition to listing your phone number, a simple line of code is all it takes to make your phone number clickable from a mobile phone.
- Find your voice—A phone call is an efficient, cost-effective opportunity to make a great first impression. Don’t lose your callers after making all that effort to get the phone to ring. Start every customer experience right by knowing what you’ll say and how you’ll say it.
- Measure twice, cut once—With some simple preparation, you can ensure a consistent and positive experience for every caller. This requires asking the right questions to better understand why they’re calling in the first place and how you’ll solve their problem.
Smartphone users typically reach for one or more of these reasons:
- To get a quick answer—These callers aren’t interested in waiting a week or more for a response. They’re looking to click, call and get to the bottom of things quickly (e.g., service, pricing, hours, etc.).
- To express a concern—They are calling to voice their thoughts and want to talk to a live person now, not later.
- To get expert advice—Callers are seeking guidance from the professionals and want to speak directly with you.
What do these three reasons have in common? They all require a real person to answer the phone. To meet the expectations of these callers (whether existing or potential customers), you need a friendly voice on your end of the line during business hours—a voice to consistently welcome callers and build trust.
The Right Toolkit for the Job
Consider building a phrasing toolkit for your business that will help ensure a consistent experience for callers. Your exchanges with callers may be brief, so every word matters. Use positive phrasing to establish rapport and inspire connection-making conversations. Your toolkit should address the basics about your business, handling curveballs and using your voice effectively in situations, such as the following:
- Mobile callers are likely to have a lot of basic questions. Having a concise description of your company and some FAQs on hand can be extremely helpful for you and your team.
- Prepare for curveballs by keeping an upbeat, go-to reply on the tip of your tongue. Something like, “Great question! I’ll be happy to find out,” will help prevent backing yourself into a conversational corner and continue guiding callers through a positive experience.
- Prepare to make the most of your time with someone when they call. When your voice is your only tool, your tone and pace are as important as your word choice. In general, it’s best to listen and follow your caller’s lead. Engage with talkative callers; get down to business with tight-lipped callers; pick up the pace for fast-talking callers; and pour on the service to callers who sound upset.
The popularity of mobile search poses a big opportunity for construction business owners. Thanks to smartphones, the very minute a potential customer conjures up a need, they can find a company that meets it. When you can accommodate the click-to-call inquiries with a friendly voice eager to offer assistance, you’re better equipped to reap the benefits of the inbound call boom and see the results of investing in positive experiences for every caller and potential client.