Don’t Be in a Hurry
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Last week I couldn’t log into one of my financial services accounts. I had three options: online help, email, or phone. I opted to call. That’s what you do when you’re in this industry.
I reached their automated attendant and listened to the prompts. After a couple of button pushes I reached a real person, perky and positive sounding. But before I could finish telling her what I needed, she interrupted me. Apparently anticipating what I was going to say, she knew just what to do. “Becky can help you. Let me transfer you.”
I expected to hear ringing. Instead I heard more prompts and after more button-pushing I heard the pleasant voice of the first person again. “I think I’m stuck in a loop.”
She didn’t apologize. “Yeah, it’s best to leave a message in voicemail. You’ll get a call back within 24 hours.”
I didn’t want to wait 24 hours. I wanted help right away. Isn’t that what phone support is for? I left a message and hung up.
I’m still waiting for a call back. Fortunately I figured out the problem myself.
Although the receptionist I talked to was pleasant and confident sounding, she also hurried to pass me on to someone else. Also, both times we talked, she interrupted me to offer her solution. Though the second time I was appropriately transferred to voicemail, I doubt she routed my call correctly the first time.
In the answering service industry, our agents may be tempted to make this same mistake. With callers holding in queue and likely growing less patient by the second, agents may feel pressure to complete their present call quickly and go to the next caller.
I understand this. I suspect it’s common at most answering services, but it shouldn’t be. There are two side effects when agents rush through one call to get the next:
Poor Service: The first outcome is poor customer service. This may result in the caller feeling they weren’t heard, the agent jumping to a wrong conclusion, or the agent handling the call inappropriately. In each scenario, the result is failure.
Lower Revenue: The second outcome of rushing through a call is less time spent talking. If you bill by the minute this means reduced revenue. Now I would never suggest you train agents to stretch calls to boost revenue, but you should train them to take as much time as they need to appropriately respond to the caller while they’re on the line. This will allow the caller to receive great service and end the conversation confident their concern was addressed.
You’ll see improved service, along with a decrease in complaints, as well as an increase in billing. And all it takes is a reminderer to your agents to slow down and not rush through their calls.
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You Lost Me at “How Are You?”
By Kate Zabriskie
“Hi, this is Gerald calling from Acme Industries. How are you today?”
“Well, Gerald, I was a lot happier before you called and interrupted me. I’m behind with my project, and I’m too busy to leave my desk. Don’t call me again.”
The truth hurts, but it’s honest. Gerald blew it. He had an opportunity to win the ear of the person on the other end of the line, but he squandered it by asking a silly question.
Gerald probably won’t get another chance. Is there hope for Gerald and others just like him? Of course there is. Paying attention to three basic things will help improve your business-to-business calls:
Preparation: Invest an adequate amount of time to prepare for the call.
First, do you know what you offer? Can you use under twenty words of conversational English to explain that product or service?
Second, have you researched the people you plan to call? This doesn’t mean cyber stalking, but at a minimum you need to look for them in the usual places: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Also search for people by name and company, by name only, and by email address.
The third step in the preparation process is choosing a reason to call. The more specific it is, the more likely you are to get a thoughtful response.
Practice: Just as a skilled skater makes jumping, twirling, and other acrobatics look effortless, phone selling requires athlete-level discipline. What you say should roll off your tongue and sound natural. A perfect conversation starter will often sound stilted if it’s not practiced. Be prepared to work hard to sound unrehearsed. Role playing can be painful and unpleasant, but as the saying goes, no pain, no gain.
Patience: What if you follow the preparation and practice steps, and your first two calls are a bust? Not everyone is going to want to talk to you, and that’s their loss. If you have a good reason to call and you offer a product or service that might solve a prospect’s business problem, hold your head up and press on.
Keep dialing, improving, and learning from what works and what doesn’t, and do it with a smile and a good attitude. Lack of patience will get you no place you want to be. Practice and critique your performance and you will get better. If improvement isn’t happening fast enough for you, enlist someone you trust to provide feedback on your calls.
There’s no secret for better business-to-business calls, just hard work. With better preparation, practice, and patience everyone can improve their results one call at a time.
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.
Telephone Answering Service News
Nate Gefvert Recognized with 2017 Allen Kalik Award
Nate Gefvert of Towne Answering Service received the 2017 Allen Kalik Award at the annual PINetwork User Group Meeting in Miami, Florida. The Allen Kalik Award was implemented in 2011 after the passing of industry leader and Professional Teledata’s president, Allen Kalik. Gefvert is the systems administrator at Town Answering Service. He joined Towne in 2004 and moved into his current role in 2009. He is an active member of the PIN Board, currently serving as secretary. In 2013, he served as vice president and in 2014 he served as president of the PIN Board.
Alston Tascom Announces Two Easy-to-Use Revenue Enhancing Products
Alston Tascom announced two new products: ADAM Outbound and Reply and Deliver. ADAM Outbound is an excellent tool for taking on outbound campaigns to offset the inherent idle times by offering outbound campaign calls to designated agents when they aren’t taking incoming calls. The built-in scheduler blends calls, adding the ability to keep agents busy during slow times. Reply and Deliver is a feature that allows call center customers to send a reply to the message sent to them via SMS or email with an option for them to close out the message.
Amtelco Introduces Intelligent Series v5.0
Amtelco introduced version 5.0 of its Intelligent Series (IS) suite of applications. The updated IS messenger interface incorporates multiple conversations into one window. The contacts page is used to select agents and supervisors for a new chat message. Agents can initiate a chat, refresh the screen, dock the IS messenger window, and view the IS messenger history. Amtelco also announced that the Genesis Intelligent Series solution and the Intelligent Soft Agent have successfully completed Avaya DevConnect Compliance Testing. The Genesis software switching solution provides an all-inclusive product based on the Intelligent Series suite of applications.
Alan Hartmann Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
Alan Hartmann, director of software development for Professional Teledata, received the Maryann Wetmore Lifetime Achievement Award. Hartmann was presented with the award on June 29 during the awards dinner gala at the Association of Teleservices International (ATSI) 2017 Annual Conference. “Alan is a relentless advocate for our industry,” said ATSI president Doug Robbins. “His receipt of the Maryann Wetmore Lifetime Achievement Award is well deserved, and we thank him for his contributions.” Hartmann has forty years of software engineering experience. He oversees all product development of the Professional Teledata product line.
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Quotes for the Month
“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” -Theodore Rubin
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” -Lord Byron
“The dead batteries were given out free of charge.” -unknown