First impressions are key. People have been thriving off of instinct since the beginning of time – only now instead of instinct regarding food and survival, our instincts are tuned into social interactions. We can’t help it – we meet a person, we judge them, and then (typically) we reinforce those initial judgments in later interactions with that person.
Is it fair? No, not really. But does it happen? Every day.
So how can you use first impressions to your advantage, especially when your first interaction with a potential client is on the phone?
Here are 13 tips to make a great impression and impress a new customer during your first phone call.
- Smile and use your phone voice. There is literally a difference in tonal quality between people who smile over the phone and people who don’t. Consciously or subconsciously, your customers are picking up on it. So smile, because a friendly first interaction with a potential customer will go a lot further than a grumpy interaction.
- Have all of their information in front of you. If a customer filled out an online request, is a previous client, or has any information available to you at all, then have that in front of you when you talk to them. You don’t want to ask them the same questions over and over, plus it makes them feel more important and valued.
- Have all of your information in front of you. Calendars, other employee’s contact numbers, product information… Don’t go into a phone call (especially a first phone call) without being able to answer all your customers’ frequently asked questions.
- Be able to make a commitment. In our blog, 6 Steps to Getting the Most out of your Online Leads, we talk about the importance of scheduling your potential customer for the next step in the sales process for conversion purposes, but it’s also important for quality customer service (as long as you’re not too pushy about it). Securing a commitment from your customer means you are guiding them along the next steps in the sales process and not leaving them to wonder “so… what next?”
- Use hold when you need a moment. Instead of covering up the mouthpiece and hollering to your colleague in the next cubicle, just say “would you mind holding for one moment while I find (x) for you?” then put them on hold. If you anticipate that you will have to leave a customer on hold for more than 15-20 seconds, then tell the customer how long you’ll be. For instance, “I need to check on that for you. Do you mind if I put you on hold for two minutes?” Then make sure to come back before that time elapses, even if it’s just to tell them that you still need another minute or so.
- Speak with proper English. Yes, you may be able to blow a customer out of the water with how well you know your “stuff,” but why risk a bad impression by not taking an extra second to speak properly? Leave the gonna’s and ain’ts at home and put on your professional face for a better first impression.
- Be prompt. This means prompt answering questions, prompt pulling up information, prompt when you put them on hold, prompt follow up, etc. If you’re slow on the first phone call, then you’re giving the impression that you will be slow in other parts of your business as well. People typically don’t like to be kept waiting, but especially not on the phone.
- Avoid “um,” “like,” and “ya know?” A short, silent pause or “that’s a great question…” is way better than an “um.”
- Make sure you have a good phone connection. Every time a call drops, you’re decreasing the likelihood for a conversion. First, it shows that you haven’t invested in quality technology for your company (so where else have you cut corners?), it shows disrespect for the person’s time, and there’s always a chance that when you call back they won’t pick up. Even if the call doesn’t drop, having to constantly ask a customer to repeat what they’re saying (or having to repeat yourself frequently) is equally unprofessional.
- Reduce background noise. If you want to sound like a professional company, then make sure you don’t have unprofessional sounds going on in the background. This means no dogs barking, babies crying, lawn mowers, television, etc.
- Repeat information back to them. After you gather a customer’s information, it’s professional to clearly and concisely repeat the information back to them to make sure it’s accurate. It shows them that you’re committed to accuracy, and lessens the likelihood of a clerical error.
- Send follow-up emails. If you have the capability to send a follow-up email after your first phone conversation with a customer, then you should do so. Saying “Thanks for taking time out of your day to speak with me” can go a long way. It’s also a great opportunity to promptly provide them with any additional follow-up information you promised.
- Get help. If you aren’t able to take the time to be prompt, professional, friendly, accurate, and informed on your calls, then it might be time to consider hiring someone on a pay-per-call basis who can. Your first impression is the first step to a successful conversion, so take it seriously!