Are people calling each other less? It seems so! Forbes notes that Millennials and Gen-Zs are less likely to make phone calls than older generations, while even Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers have gotten into the habit of just firing off texts and emails. Welcome to modern society, where convenience is everything!
But before we announce the death of phone calls prematurely, note that 70% of customers still prefer human engagement when it comes to customer service. Why? Because—convenience! It’s easier to ask a human for help than wade through a gaggle of generic auto-responses.
For small business owners, this is an important detail because you (or someone on your staff) must be well-versed in the art of phone etiquette. You’ll also need to make a strong first impression on a call, which means conveying an air of confidence.
“Confidence, you say? What if I feel anxious on the phone? What if I grew up in the social media era, practically raised to be more comfortable with written messaging?”
Valid concerns, yet none change the fact that phone calls aren’t disappearing anytime soon. If you run a business but struggle to sound confident on the phone, you’re in luck, though. At Ruby, we’ve made it our business to master telephonic communications, and we’re here to share some vital tips we’ve picked up over the years!
You’re not crazy—phone anxiety is real.
The world has changed drastically in the last few decades. Older generations have come to terms with technological advancements and gone with the flow. However, younger generations have never lived in a world without 24/7 access to the Internet, social media, and mobile devices…and can’t fathom what life was like before those things existed.
Now 76% of Millennials experience anxiety when the phone rings, and 61% avoid answering altogether. Gen Z, of course, doesn’t have it any easier. Meanwhile, 42% of Baby Boomers are in the habit of letting calls go to voicemail in order to screen calls and avoid the hassle of speaking.
Expect the calls—and have your responses ready.
If you run a business, you know customers are going to call, so be ready. Preparation is half the battle and competence = confidence. You know your business, so you can predict what information callers will want.
Type up a list of every potential question you can anticipate, then write up every possible response. Think about what products and services you offer, and what your average customer’s pain points are.
Use a flowchart if it helps, but create a table of these questions and scripted answers you can refer back to when fielding calls. This can be part of your customer matrix, and should exist as a living document you can add to, as needed. Any time you get an unexpected question or change something about your store, products, or services, update your list.
You can also script other vital information you’d like to share, such as details about discounts, promotions, memberships, events, etc. Anything that helps your business establish an ongoing connection with a customer, add it!
If you’re not the one answering calls, share the document with your receptionist or administrative assistant (or, if you don’t have one, we suggest looking into a virtual receptionist solution like Ruby’s!)
Categorize your callers.
We all sound more confident when we know what we’re talking about. We’re also more confident when we know who we’re talking to. So let’s break down callers into categories, so you can get to know more about them before they ring.
You know what a lead is. But what’s a caller? A caller is generally one of two things:
- A potential prospect (i.e., a lead who has engaged your business but hasn’t bought yet), or;
- An existing customer.
Both types of callers can be subcategorized based on personality and behavioral characteristics. Knowing the five basic caller types will help shape your speaking strategy.
For instance, there’s the “Talker.” Talkers can be high-value customers who take up an inordinate amount of your time. Then there are “Venters” who may also suck up your time yet often contribute little to your bottom line. Study the different types. Create a game plan for addressing each in a manner that benefits all parties. And no matter what, never let frustration get the better of you on the phone.
Speak with confidence.
How about practical tips for literally changing the way to talk, so you’ll sound more confident? We suggest the following:
- Slow down. Most people talk fast when they’re nervous. Slowing down your rate of speech will convey an impression of calmness and confidence.
- Speak up. Shy people tend to lower their voices. You’ve got to do the opposite. Turn up your vocal volume so you can be heard and understood.
- Smile when you speak. Smiling can change your voice and make you sound more confident and “more pleasant to listen to,” according to Michigan State University.
- Articulate and enunciate. Ever been in awe of a classically trained actor? You know, the Shakespearean types who can command a stage with their voice? Here’s their secret: they’ve turned their mouths into instruments that can articulate sounds and enunciate words with deliberation and authority.
- Stop saying “Um.” When we talk, our brains are spinning sentences in our heads that we speak out loud in real time. Sometimes we make unintentional micro-pauses as this is happening. To fill that gap, we utter “uhs” and “ums”…which make us sound unsure of what we’re saying. Try being silent instead of using these pointless filler sounds.
- Make statements. In modern society, there’s a speaking trend to lilt our voices at the end of some sentences. This makes them sound hesitant, almost like questions instead of statements. Business owners must provide definite answers that don’t sound wishy-washy.
- Stop talking. Calls should be as succinct as possible in order to keep your phone line free (and so you can attend to your million other tasks). If you don’t have something pertinent to say, try active listening instead. Customers will feel more heard, and you’ll get to talk less.
Make the most out of every conversation—by answering with confidence.
Conversations with customers bear tangible financial value. You aren’t merely passing information; you’re either a) establishing a new relationship, or b) maintaining an existing one.
How much these conversations are worth depends on the unique circumstances of each. We’ve calculated the average value of every workday conversation to give you a rough idea. Remember, the more confident you are, the higher you can raise the value of each call you receive—so start practicing the above tips ASAP!
Don’t forget—Ruby’s team of virtual receptionists is already trained and ready to provide your business with any level of support you need via our flexible, affordable, scalable packages. Reach out now to learn how Ruby can help you achieve your business goals through superior 24/7 customer service!