Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When the phone rings, ANSWER IT!

  In our previous blog, we addressed how to get the phone to ring-- get out and pound on doors and make something happen.  Today, I want to address the complimentary challenge, the phone rings and nothing happens.
  I was at Rotary the other day and a member was complaining that he had called a business, wanted some help, and had yet to be called back.  One of the other members at our table opined that the firm was real busy, had recently expanded and was looking for a larger office space.  This member is a realtor who is helping the firm find new office space.
   As we discussed this challenge, we all concluded that it is hard enough to get a prospective client to call so that a sale can be made, but it is even more challenging when you are ready to buy, try and call the perspective seller and never get a return call back to address your question and customer needs.
   Now, the first question that must be asked is,"Did the phone ring?"  Well, the customer left a message on some voice recorder, he dialed what was the advertised phone number in the advertisement, received a voice recording announcing the name of the firm that he called and told to leave a message.  I guess we could say that he called the right business.  The real question is why he did not receive a return phone call back.  Now, about 5 days have transpired since the customer made the initial vendor contact, which is probably about 4 days longer than any customer should have to wait for a return call.
    The idea that the firm was expanding is of significance.  Was the firm expanding at such a rapid rate that they did not have time to return phone inquiries?  Who is responsible for checking the voice mail and either directing the call to the correct staff member, or making the initial call to ascertain what the perspective client needed?  Perhaps the phones had been disconnected for some internal moving to address the expansion plans.
    The key point here is that it is hard enough to get the phone to ring anyway.  However, if the phone did ring and nobody answered, or a customer left a voice mail and did not receive any response back, that indicates, at least to my fellow Rotary member, that the vendor was not interested in his business.  Indeed, that he is what he thought and asked us at the table to make some recommendations/suggestions on other vendors who could fulfill his need.
    Who answers your phone calls?  Who checks your voice mails?  How frequently do you have your voice mails checked?  Do you "test" the system periodically to see if indeed the identified procedures and protocols that you have established are followed?  If you don't have any procedures or protocols that address telephone answering, perhaps, this might be a good time to develop some!
    In today's challenging and turbulent economic conditions, it is hard enough to get the phone to ring at all.  However, it is even more frustrating to have someone call you wanting to buy the product or service that you offer and never receive a return phone call explaining how you can help with the customer's challenge.
    There is no reason NOT to return the phone call.  Even if you do not provide the product, service or need identified by the customer, you have a chance to talk to someone who thought that your firm was the correct one to provide that product or service.  You have the opportunity to explain your business and suggest/recommend another firm who may be able to address the customer need.   
     I have returned phone calls to perspective customers and explained that our firm did not perform the service that they were seeking.  However, in our phone call, I was able to explain what services we do provide and how those services could address other challenges that the customer had.  Interestingly, in most cases, I was at least able to explain more about our services, even if we did not receive an engagement at that particular time.  Make sure that the phone is answered all the time.  If you use voice mail, make sure that voice mail is checked several times each day and return calls are made immediately.  Don't force a perspective customer to go to your competitor just because you did not pay attention to detail.  Remember, Attention to Detail is the key to success in business.


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