Check out this guest post from our partners at Ruby!
Effective marketing is like befriending a cat. Like cats, most of your business’s potential customers aren’t ready to run into your arms immediately. They need some convincing first.
Building trust with cats—I mean, customers—demands a multi-layered approach. To start, you need to make people aware of your business through methods such as online and print advertising. Then you have to draw them in with the various elements of your online presence—your website, social media, blog, and so forth—ensuring you provide them with the information they’re looking for and the experience they deserve. Both of these steps necessitate careful planning and a deep understanding of your customers and prospects—not to mention a whole lot of time, energy, and investment.
Do the job right, however, and people will begin to reach out to your business, either over the phone or through electronic means such as website chat. This is the decisive moment. It’s akin to the moment when a cat sniffs your hand and signals that she might be willing to let you pet her. Are you ready to seal the deal with a well-timed, friendly response?
Quick, Friendly Communication Turns Potential Customers into Buyers
Consider what happens when a potential customer contacts your business. If they reach a dull answering machine recording or don’t receive a prompt reply, odds are they’re going to move on to one of your competitors.
In other words, someone else gets to pet the cat.
To make sure you’re the one who makes that special connection, prioritize the first moment of contact in your planning and communication. The goal is to convince those skeptical customers that they can depend on your business.
It Can Start Before a Conversation Happens…
Let’s be frank: it’s not humanly possible for you as a business owner to answer every call or message as soon as it arrives. It might be feasible in the early days when your business is small, but as you grow, you’ll probably need a backup plan. When you’re busy assisting current customers, you won’t always be available to pick up the phone or respond to messages online.
There are several ways to handle this situation:
- You can provide detailed information about when people can expect to hear back from you in your voicemail message.
- You can offer customers information to view or download from your website to help them in the meantime.
- You can hire an answering service to handle calls and messages when you’re unable to.
Each of these practices builds trust among your potential customers by setting their expectations and demonstrating your willingness to follow up. As a result, people are primed to be positive and open when you do get back to them.
…But the Conversation Is Where it Happens
Ultimately, whether a customer trusts your business comes down to the conversation. When you or your answering service make phone contact with a potential customer, you have a critical opportunity to make a good first impression and establish a trusting relationship.
Let’s explore a few ways to make the most of that opportunity.
Practice These Tips to Deliver Stellar Customer Service on the Phone
Here are six ways to build trust with customers over the phone (please note that the following may or may not work for cats):
Use the right tone.
The tone you use to answer the phone makes all the difference. To optimize your tone, remember why customers contact your business—what are they looking for? Depending on what they need, a caller might be nervous or even defensive on the phone, which is one reason why the most successful customer service professionals use tones that convey openness and empathy. Kindness puts people in a vulnerable state at ease. Learn more ideas about how to set the right mood with customers.
Keep answers to frequently asked questions handy.
A supportive tone is one part of the equation; the other half is helpful information. Consider keeping a written or typed list of answers to frequently asked questions next to your phone. You’ll make a good first impression by offering reliable information instantly. Yes, you’ll probably be answering the same questions over and over—that’s okay. You can offer answers to common questions on your website and social media, but there will be some people who would rather get their information from a human being. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable online or have trouble understanding written information. In any case, your presence on the phone fosters a sense of trust while giving them access to the answers they need.
Turn “I don’t know” into a moment of service.
You don’t need to know everything. If someone asks a question, you don’t have the answer to, be honest about it—but don’t just say, “I don’t know.” Tell them you’ll be happy to find the answer for them. Perhaps you can access it while they’re on the phone with you, or you might have to do a little digging. If the information isn’t readily available, ask the person how they would like to be contacted with the answer, make a note, and follow through. As a matter of fact, that second call can be an even greater opportunity to build trust and deepen the relationship.
Practice active listening.
Let customers lead the conversation as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you’re a passive participant. You can say things to indicate you’re empathizing—“I’m sorry to hear that” or “That must be really hard,” for instance. Asking clarifying questions (such as “How long have you been experiencing this?”) also lets people know you’re listening and care about what they’re saying.
Every caller deserves to be treated with respect, and respecting people is easy to do. It can be as simple as addressing a caller by their preferred name or title (e.g., Ms., Mr., Dr.). Another way to practice respect is to pay attention to how people are speaking. If their tone is clipped and business-like, they probably want answers to their questions quickly. If they sound confused and upset, they might need you to listen and empathize before getting down to business.
(P.S. Looking for more tips to grow your customer service skills? Check out the Ruby blog.)
Take care of your own needs.
Keep tabs on your mood. If you’re feeling frustrated by repeating the same answer over and over, for example, take a quick break from the phone. Make a cup of tea, take deep breaths, or go on a five-minute power walk around the block. Come back to the phone when you’re refreshed and ready. Additionally, make sure to spend your off-hours on pursuits and relationships that bring you joy, comfort, and meaning—feelings you’ll bring with you in your conversations with customers. The more you nurture yourself, the more you’ll be able to give to them.
Trust is at the foundation of every positive interaction, be it between people, cats, or both. You can build that foundation in moments by optimizing your tone, offering useful information, and treating people with the care and respect they deserve. Keep these tips in mind during your next conversation with a customer or prospect.
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