By Carl Carter, APR
We should all call ourselves now and then. Just to see what the person on the other end is hearing.
It’s an occupational hazard that I obsess about our images — what we seek to project, and what people perceive. We spend thousands on websites, brochures, quality clothes, and wrappers for our trucks, trailers and toppers.
And then we answer the phone and create an impression — a lousy one, in many cases. That’s not good when the caller may be your next consignor, or somebody who may be bidding on an asset. With more people going to your website, callers may be rare and precious, so you don’t want to blow it. So here are some simple steps to make sure you make the most of every caller opportunity.
- Testing the technology. Most of us use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) for our office phones these days, for good reason. Just make sure you have enough Internet bandwidth to support your voice as well as data traffic so you don’t get warbles and distortion. Then test every phone in the office — every single one — including wired and wireless headsets. One of my phones works perfectly with a wired headset, but a different extension of the same system sounds terrible. Find and fix your weak links.
- Commit to courtesy. With leaner staffs, fewer of us have calls going through a central switchboard, so the phone may be answered by anybody around the office. Or it may go straight to your cell. This can be great as long as you answer the phone politely. Make sure everybody in your office — including you — is committed to a good caller experience and knows how to transfer a call without cutting people off.
- Spare the speakerphones. When you call somebody, do you want them to answer on a speaker? Neither does anybody else. Even with a very high quality speakerphone, your caller hears an echo or may feel intimidated, not knowing who might be listening in. Get permission first. Otherwise, use a quality headset or pick up the phone. If you know in advance you’ll have multiple people on the call, use a web meeting service or audio bridge.
- Music on hold. I was on a recently on a conference call with more than 30 colleagues from all over the country. We’d planned the call for weeks, and it was going well. Then somebody got distracted and hit the hold button, forgetting the “music on hold” feature. Suddenly, we were all drowned out by country music, and the chairperson had to end the call with unfinished business. I’m not sure who the culprit was, but I heard him called a few uncomplimentary things later. (Note: A web meeting service can prevent this, enabling you to isolate and mute the offender.)
- Background noise. Obviously, you want as little background noise as possible. Many of us work in home offices at least part of the time. Some home noises are unavoidable. Just arrange the geography so that your callers don’t hear barking dogs or crying kids. And when there’s a noise, acknowledge it and apologize.
- Bluetooth blues. Finally, there’s the Bluetooth earpiece. These are great when you’re driving and want to be able to answer the phone safely, and at times they can sound better than you would talking directly into the telephone (especially if you have a sloppy habit of holding your phone incorrectly). But different devices work better in different environments. Some have better speakers than microphones, so it may sound good to you and awful to your caller. Note that price doesn’t always assure quality. (The best Bluetooth I’ve had cost $29.) The only answer I know is to test yours in different settings (with an honest friend on the other end) and ask each caller if the connection is OK. Nobody minds being asked. Everybody hates static.
Getting it right isn’t much work and doesn’t have to cost much money, but when you remember that caller just may be your next big customer, it’s worth the effort.
(Adapted from an article originally published in Auctioneer Magazine. Used by permission.)