Best Practices for Handling Phone Calls to Small Businesses

For most small businesses, inbound phone calls are a vital channel for securing new revenue and improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. The handling of inbound calls is very different for small businesses compared to large companies who rely on call centers. In a small business, it’s likely that the person answering the phone is not dedicated to answering the phone, but rather has other responsibilities in addition. Plus, each call can have a larger impact on your bottom line when the total volume of customers is lower. A lot can be at stake. But there are also huge advantages that small businesses have in being able to connect to prospects and customers by voice. When done right, it can be your most efficient and profitable channel. Here are some best practices to follow when answer the phone in your small business:

1) Answer with Optimism. Unlike digital channels, it’s easy to emote over the phone and if you’re harried, it’s going to come across. Purposefully pay attention to your tone of voice when you answer the phone. Always imagine that there is a fantastic opportunity on the other end of the line – an opportunity to close a sale or to fix a problem for someone and improve their day. Greet that opportunity with a positive, upbeat tone of voice. Quick tip: Even though they can’t see you, smile when you answer.

2) Focus on the Caller. We all wear many hats and it can be easy to try to multi-task while answering the call, finishing up a quick email or reading IMs. If you are distracted, you might miss an opportunity to wow the person on the other end, or you might skip over valuable information that would solve the issue sooner. When you answer the phone, put the rest of the world out of your mind and focus only on the caller. Quick tip: Close your eyes or turn away from your computer when you answer.

3) Speak Slowly. There is a good chance whatever the person is calling about you’ve talked about or handled before. Your familiarity with the situation can cause you to give the advanced, abbreviated solution – most likely on high speed. It can be easy to forget what it’s like to go through it for the first time. Slow down, listen more than you talk and take the extra minute to make sure you’re being really clear. Quick tip: Check in with the caller to make sure they understand. Ask if they are getting what they need.

Best practices for SMB inbound calls

4) Get Personal. You read every day about how to personalize and humanize your digital communications…. Well, you can’t get more personal and human than talking directly with someone. While some companies use every opportunity to talk about themselves, our advice is the reverse: Take this chance to get to know them. Ask questions. Be sincere. Talk to them like a person, not a revenue stream. If you have a CRM, record down some details that might help you wow them later, like remembering the names of their kids. Quick tip: Using the person’s name in the conversation can create a stronger connection.

5) Close the Relationship, Not the Sale. While the goal of a business is to bring in more revenue, it doesn’t have to be accomplished in every call. People buy from businesses and from people they like, and forming relationships can take time. It’s more beneficial to your business to build the long-term loyalty than it is to rush to the sale. Hard sells are rarely welcomed and can damage your brand reputation. Quick tip: Brainstorm other kinds of actions that step up to a sale such as sending additional information, getting budget approval, or setting a time for a follow up call.  Get the caller to commit verbally; they will be more likely to follow through.

6) Invite Phone Calls. The more phone calls you handle, the better you get at handling them. Voice connection gives you the ability to be nuanced, convey emotion, and build quick rapport. It also allows you to problem solve on the fly, uncover new opportunities, and grow revenue more quickly than going back-and-forth through digital channels. It also builds brand trust for a consumer to know they can reach an actual human, so encourage your audiences to call you through the promotion of your phone number. Quick tip: Secure a custom phone number as the ultimate signal that you encourage customers to call.

7) Set a Standard. In this day and age, phone skills are not something to be assumed. But you know what that creates? An opportunity for competitive advantage. If a company can master voice communications, they will stand out. Train your employees on how to answer the phone, what your company standards are, and how phone call success is measured. And don’t forget to lead by example. Quick tip: Make discussing phone calls and phone etiquette a permanent agenda item for your routine company meetings. When it comes to phone calls, one size doesn’t fit all. But that’s the beauty of them, too. While each call can be as unique as the callers themselves, if you are savvy in how you handle them, you can remain in control and efficiently build your business.

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