Some businesses pride themselves on answering incoming telephone calls by the second or third ring, and every business should have incoming telephone calls answered by a live person. However, both of these great intentions may not be possible for some business people. Sole proprietors or those without a large support staff must have a professional greeting on their phone system, even if it is a cell phone. It should be short, direct, complete, and prompt the caller to leave adequate information for the business owner.
There are business people who brag that they actually answer their phones, but is it a consistent practice? I know many people who never answer their phones, hiding behind their voice mail and picking who they will favor with a return call. This will kill any business. People will learn that you do this and stop wasting their time calling you. Business people who have a secretary or assistant who answers their phone for them are guilty of a similar practice. The phrase, “I’ll see if he is in” means “I’ll see if he will honor you by answering your call.” Often the caller could easily say, “Just turn around and see if he is in”.
No matter the reason, when someone leaves you a voice message, return the call. If you can, return it within that business day or within 24 hours at the most. Even worse than not answering your phone, it is more insulting when you do not return calls. It doesn’t matter if the caller leaves a message on voice mail or with your assistant, return the call. You may know the caller or not, they may leave an adequate message or not, or they may need immediate assistance or just want to say hello. No matter the situation, just return the call.
If someone else can answer their inquiry before you can return their call, make that happen, and then call them to verify that their problem is handled. If they do not leave an adequate message, and you don’t know exactly what they want, call them to find out. You might do some research before you call, if possible, to anticipate their needs. If you don’t know the caller or what they need, you should call them to discover who they are and what they want. Don’t just wonder what they could possibly want; call them. If they call more than once, what are you waiting for? Many businesses would love to have a stranger call them.
I recently called someone that I met to verify his email address. The call rolled into someone else’s voice mail, and I left a message that I was searching for the other individual, giving my telephone number, name, and business name. When no one called me after several days, I called again and left the same message, adding that I would appreciate a return call. I received a call back stating that they had not returned my original call due to the fact that no one there knew who I was or what I wanted. I receive calls often from people who I do not know, and I am happy to discover who they are and what they want. If we cannot do business, how can we form a networking relationship that will benefit both of us?
What have been your telephone experiences? Do you ever take calls from strangers who turn into networking partners or customers? Please leave me your stories of similar situations and your feelings about phone etiquette. You can also email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or you can always call me at 360-314-8691. If you get my voice mail, I’ll call you back, I promise. Remember that your telephone greeting can make your clients feel appreciated or not. Make leaving a message a pleasant experience, only surpassed by your return call.