Small businesses could be putting off potential customers simply by the their greeting on the phone, according to research by Moneypenny.
The telephone answering service finds that a quarter of small business owners (26 per cent) answer their business calls with a curt Hello, which can actually deter potential customers from working with them before they even begin a conversation.
In a survey of 300 micro businesses (zero-nine employees), Moneypenny finds that those surveying the calls thought the one-word salutation used on its own was ‘unprofessional’, ‘off-putting’ and even ‘rude’, meaning that thousands of small businesses could be losing out on potential customers at the first phone call.
‘It’s small but significant. The last thing a business wants is to blow a possible opportunity from the second they answer the phone,’ says Joanna Swash, managing director of Moneypenny.
‘How a business answers its calls is hugely important, but so many small business owners overlook this. A telephone call is often the first contact a person has with a business, so to make an impact that first impression has to be spot-on.’
The most common telephone greeting for small businesses is the time of day e.g. Good Morning, company name – 46 per cent of small businesses answer the phone this way and is considered the most professional greeting. Answering a call with the company name is the third most common greeting with 14 per cent of businesses choosing this salutation.
Joanna continues, ‘It’s one of the reasons so many small businesses rely on Moneypenny to look after their calls. While they are busy concentrating on running the show, they can rely on their Moneypenny PA to give their customers best greeting, in a way that they themselves wouldn’t be able to do. This goes to great lengths in taking them from a basic business, to a slick and professional operation, simply by changing the way their phone is answered.’
Claire Blanchard, principal lecturer in marketing and management at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, says, ‘The way you answer the phone is an opportunity for your business to make a real impact. We make judgments about people the first time we see or hear them.
‘Your tone of voice and the words you use create an initial first impression and that’s why it’s so important that it’s a positive and encouraging one. In this technology driven world it’s easy to forget how important it is to do a simple little thing like answering your phone and that having a real person answering phones is key to the success of your business.’
Jill Bradshaw, training manager at Moneypenny, has spent 11 years studying the most effective way to answer and handle business calls. She is responsible for training the 500 Moneypenny PAs who handle thousands of business calls every day for their clients across multiple business sectors, from estate agents to plumbers. Here are Moneypenny’s top telephone etiquette tips.
Be a ‘GOFI’ God/Goddess of First Impressions
When you answer the phone the person calling will build an instant impression of you. You want to come across as enthusiastic, helpful and efficient, not rude, bored and grumpy, so move beyond a curt ‘hello’.
Be chirpy but not too chatty
You’ve probably less than 6 seconds to decide how to deal with a caller’s enquiry and progress with handling the caller’s enquiry, as business people want to get to the point quickly. It’s friendly to have a line or two of general conversation, but don’t spend several minutes on pleasantries.
Commit to the words you are saying even if you are not sure and make sure you come across as positive and decisive rather than vague or distracted. If you don’t know the answer to a question, its fine to admit this, but quickly suggest you can find the required information and come back to the caller as soon as possible. Give a time frame for this; don’t leave it hanging.
Focus on what you can do and not what you cannot
If you’re busy and can’t go into detail with your caller there and then, take their details and tell them you’ll call back.
Say it with a smile and ensure your tone mirrors your greeting
If you are physically smiling then this will naturally be translated into an upbeat voice. It’s a classic, but there is a warmth and energy you only get with a smile. It also sharpens your speech so your words are clearer to the caller.
Be efficient and reassuring
There is no script and one size does not fit all. Don’t rely on stock phrases or replies. The caller needs to have confidence that you are really listening to them and taking their call seriously, not just mechanically going through the motions.
Think of each caller as your million pound customer
How would you speak to them if they wanted to spend £1 million with you? That’s how you should greet everyone when you answer the phone. Impress the caller to the point that they can’t wait to work with you.