When we think of customer service, we generally think about face-to-face conversations, yet often our first contact with the potential customer is over the phone.
When I was first promoted to Regional Manager over the Greater Detroit Pearle Vision stores (back in the late 80s) I spent the first few months traveling the stores and getting to know the doctors, opticians and sales associates.
During my visit the phone would ring and customers would come in and the associates would leave me to take care of business. That was my chance to observe!
A Missed Opportunity
On one such occasion the phone rang. Obviously, I was only able to hear the associate’s end of the conversation and this is what I heard – exactly what I heard:
The associate then turned back to continue her conversation with me, the phone call concluded. Now, I may have jumped to wild assumptions but I’m going to guess that someone had called and wanted to know how late the store was open.
Here is a perfect example of a telephone make or break moment. Let’s step in the caller’s shoes for a moment:
They planned to come to the store for some unknown reason and needed to know if our hours would allow them a visit on that day based on their schedule. They found out we were open until 7pm. We don’t know if that fit with their schedule. However, if the basic need was to know when we closed – their need was met.
Their BASIC need.
What Information Did We Miss?
I don’t even want to start with the poor phone greeting or the fact that we didn’t bother to say good-bye and thanks for calling – let’s just touch on what we could have learned and didn’t, by just offering the fact that we closed at 7pm. Just the facts, madam.
We don’t know WHY they planned to come in:
- To make a purchase,
- To see the doctor,
- For a repair, or
- With a question
We might have been able to save them a trip if we’d asked a few clarifying questions.
If they planned to see the doctor, we could have an angry customer on our hands if we don’t have a doctor on staff in the evening.
If they needed repair work done – we might have been able to pull their records and had replacement parts ready or checked to see if they were in stock.
Worse yet – we should have verified our location – often people get confused, thinking they’ve called the Main Street location when in fact they’ve called the South Street store.
In your business, what might you want to know before someone comes in to make their trip more efficient? The price of gas has every consumer second guessing their need to make a trip and if your customer travels all the way to your place of business only to be told you could have saved them a trip: oooh, we now move on to “angry customer make or break moments.”
How Can You Manage Customer Expectations Over the Phone?
The next time someone calls and asks how late you are open – how might you respond?
“We are open until 7 this evening. Is there something specific you need help with? Do you know where we are located? Is there something I can do to help you over the phone and save you a trip? “
In the case of a location where a specialist (doctor, manicurist, mechanic) works shorter hours than the store, take the time to clarify who they hope to see to ensure you set appropriate expectations.
Make or Break Moments Mystery Shop Program
The telephone is the perfect place for mastering make or break moments. Sadly, most moments are missed in an effort to hurry on to the next task. I will be starting a new feature in which I’ll be calling different businesses and asking a few basic questions as a potential customer. I’ll report here if the telephone experience was a Make/Break or Missed Moment.
If you’d like to have your business “mystery called” send me an email with your business phone number and hours of operation. firstname.lastname@example.org
What else might this associate have asked or said to help make the telephone moment for helpful for the caller?