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0 comments | Posted by: Terri on November 27, 2012 | Categories:
We’ve all heard of the importance of first impressions. Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, in a Psychology Today article, states “The first thing you learn about someone influences everything else you learn about that person.” Meaning, the first impression you make with a client is extremely important, as it’ll ripple across every other interaction you’ll have with them. With this in mind, men and women in business devote massive amounts of time and energy to appearance—such as grooming and body language—in an effort to convey an air of confidence and trustworthiness to customers.
Surprisingly, not as much effort is extended towards the customers whose first point of contact is a phone call. In the 2012 Customer Tipping Point Survey by ClickFox, 54% of customers were said to lash out after a bad customer service experience by complaining to friends and family. Separate studies show the opinions of friends and family hold more sway than any marketing tool the cleverest ad executive could think up. One bad 30-second phone call could cost you not only the caller’s business, but the business of everyone in that caller’s social sphere.
Below are three tips to ensure your over-the-phone first impression is the equivalent of a nice suit and warm smile:
We humans are perceptive creatures. Amy Cuddy, of Harvard Business School, discovered that when meeting someone for the first time, we gauge two characteristics: trustworthiness and confidence. And trustworthiness trumps confidence in importance. We can typically tell, even if it’s on a subconscious level, when someone is being authentic. Say what you mean and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Honesty goes a long ways with today’s media-savvy consumers.
A calm, confident tone of voice is the firm handshake of telecommunication. Your tone of voice is responsible for 38% of the way your words are interpreted. An assertive, engaged tone will tell your callers you’re an authority, while a bored monotone will make your customers feel you’ve no interest in helping. Eliminate filler words, such as “um,” “ah” or “like,” and avoid letting your voice go up at the end of a statement, making it sound like a question. Try recording your voice and playing it back. It may surprise you.
Focus on the caller
In all this effort to make the best first impression possible, it’s easy to focus solely on what you’re saying and how you sound. But remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the customer’s experience in that moment. Practice the above tips until they’re second nature, and use the phone call to make your customer feel they’re the center of your attention. Listen to and absorb what they’re saying. When it comes down to it, all any customer really wants is to be heard.
Our AnswerConnect virtual receptionists have the first impression thing down pat. Often, we’re the first point of contact between a company and their customers, and it’s up to us to decide if the impression we give on behalf of the company is a great one or a mediocre one. We’re experts at making sure it’s the best one. How do you ensure your callers get a great first impression? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on November 13, 2012 | Categories:
Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, but the effects of the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane continue to ripple throughout the United States. Here at AnswerConnect, our virtual receptionists have been fielding calls left and right for insurance agencies, renovation companies, disaster-response teams and other recovery-related companies as both businesses and homeowners begin the process of recovering from the devastating storm.
In the aftermath of disaster, good customer service isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Many of the callers we’ve been helping are exhausted, stressed and in desperate need of a friendly voice. Below are three techniques our associates use to ensure every customer feels they’re getting the best care during a difficult time:
Empathy is the foundation of good customer service anytime; it’s importance is magnified during a crisis. Keep in mind, those few minutes you spend with each customer is just a snapshot of their day. You can’t really know what they’ve been dealing with before they’ve crossed your path, but you can use that brief moment of contact as an opportunity to offer understanding and support. Your patience will make an impression.
Tone of Voice
When a frantic customer calls with a rushed tone of voice, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to match their pace. Awareness of that reflex is half the battle. Try to keep your voice even and measured instead, striking a balance somewhere between calm and efficient. Too soothing may come across as patronizing, make sure you still convey you understand the urgency of the situation.
Outline a Plan
Depending on your role, you may not be in a position to be able to fulfill customer’s request right away. But this doesn’t mean you can’t help them. Tell them what you can do, even if it’s something as small as making sure their information gets to the right person. More often than not, letting them know exactly what you will do, and the outcome they can expect, will offer much needed reassurance. Most importantly, make sure you follow through with your plan. There’s no quicker way to lose trust than by not keeping your word.
AnswerConnect saw a significant increase in call volume as many of our East Coast clients evacuated their offices over Halloween weekend. Our clients knew they could rely on us in their time of need, and rising to the call of duty was our pleasure. What other disaster recovery plans should companies have in place? Leave your comments below!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on October 22, 2012 | Categories:
AnswerConnect’s 24/7 availability depends heavily on a flexible workforce. We fully embrace the concept of remote work; some of our employees work in the office, some work from home and some switch between the two depending on the day. With so much fluidity in the workplace, we depend on many channels of communication, frequently chatting, video conferencing, emailing or calling each other to collaborate. We’ve discovered there are times when a quick chat or email is perfectly adequate and times when it’s best to just pick up the phone. Below are the four most common forms of workplace communication and the best (or worse) times to use them:
When you should use it: Chat is the most casual of office communication and easily the most convenient. However, it’s also the most informal. Be sure you already have an established relationship with the recipient. Chat is best used for a quick question that can be answered in a sentence or two. We’ve previously posted about proper chat etiquette if you need a refresher.
When you shouldn’t use it: If you find yourself writing paragraphs of information, you may be better off sending an email or making a call. And, remember, text is only 7% of communication. If there’s even the slightest potential of a misunderstanding, you shouldn’t be chatting.
When you should use it: Video conferencing has all the highlights of chat with the added benefits of visual cues and the warmth of a face-to-face meeting. It’s perfect for meet-ups between dispersed team members or meeting a co-worker/client for the first time. Putting a face to a name, especially amongst remote workers, can strengthen a sense of community.
When you shouldn’t use it: If you’re conversing with more than five teammates, it may be easier to share everyone on an email or cloud-based document. It becomes difficult to moderate a video chat when too many people become involved, and video/audio quality can start to degrade depending on the software you’re using.
When you should use it: Email is probably the most utilized form of communication, in or out of the office. If an immediate response isn’t required, it’s perfect for relaying general information while keeping a record of the conversation for later review. Email also gives the recipient a chance to reply when it’s most convenient for them, rather than forcing you to catch them when they’re in.
When you shouldn’t use it: Managing Partner at Kwittken + Company Worldwide, Aaron Kwittken, offered this advice in an interview with Fast Company, “Anything you have to think twice about it, anything you think might be sensitive, anything that you think requires your relationship skills requires a phone call instead of an email.”
When you should use it: Sometimes, the personal touch of a phone call is the best option. A phone call offers an option lacking in chat or email: the ability to listen. Always make a call when conveying a complex subject, when emotion is involved or when a two-way conversation is high priority.
When you shouldn’t use it: If you just have a quick question or need to divulge a short piece of information, it’s more convenient to the intended recipient to just send a quick message over chat or email. If the recipient has follow-up questions, they can call you.
No matter which form of communication you choose, remember: it’s all about connecting in a meaningful way. Be clear in what you’re trying to convey and remain open to replies. Being willing to maintain a dialogue is integral to any successful conversation.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on August 24, 2012 | Categories:
Okay, we admit it. We’re biased when it comes to communicating by phone. We’ve honed our phone etiquette and communication skills razor sharp. Not everyone, however, is as comfortable talking on the phone as we are. We get it; sometimes it’s just more convenient to ping someone with a quick chat. And video chat, with its ability to screenshare, is always handy when collaborating with remote workers. Before you hit that chat button, keep in mind these more modern forms of interaction have a few rules of their own:
Emily Post never got around to writing rules of etiquette for chat or video conferencing, but all the basic social interaction rules still apply. We hope you’ve found these helpful! Do you have an pet peeves or rules of your own? Leave them in the comments!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on August 16, 2012 | Categories:
As a 24/7 answering service, we take calls day and night. But the calls we take at 3 a.m. can be vastly different from the calls we take at three in the afternoon. Late-night callers are often dealing with urgent or emergency situations that need special attention. Here are four tips to make after-hours calls go smoothly:
Many businesses use our answering service to relay urgent calls to on-call technicians, meaning if we’re getting called, something needs to be fixed. The callers may be panicked or upset. It’s critical to keep your voice calm and professional. Pitching your tone low and speaking calmly will help de-escalate the caller’s anxiety. An article from Business Insider advises, “Think of the public speaking tip that you should always speak a little slower than feels natural to you. Talking too quickly can make you sound nervous, frustrate the other person and only adds to the general air of franticness.” At the same time, be sure to convey to the caller you understand the gravity of the situation and will work quickly to relay the information to the correct person.
Talk With Not At
Make sure you’re talking with the caller, not at or over them. Mark Goulston says it best in his blog from Harvard Business Review: “The more you talk over or at anxious people…the more they will close their minds to what you are saying.” Actively listen to the caller and use empathic statements to convey you are talking with them.
Let them wake up.
If you do have to dial out to an on-call technician or property management specialist in the wee hours of the night, you’re probably waking them up. Don’t pelt them with information the moment they answer. Give them a chance to fully awaken. State your name and where you’re calling from, them give them a moment to orient themselves and perhaps locate a pen. This will save you from having to repeat yourself and will likely be appreciated by the person on call.
Take extra care to verify.
Verifying information is always important, regardless of the time or situation. But in moments of heightened stress, you’ll want to take extra care to make sure all information is complete and accurate. Always double-check any on-call schedules. Dialing out to the incorrect person in the middle of the night is a surefire way to an unhappy conversation.
When taking late, after-hours calls, all the rules of phone etiquette apply, but a little extra patience and assurance will go a long way towards ensuring a stressful situation reaches a pleasant outcome.