When answering a business call, maybe less is more…


I was recently at the office store again… you know, the one that pre-screens employees to ensure quality service.  I’m still not sure what they pre-screen for, but maybe it’s the ability to memorize a catch phrase and say it at warp speed upon answering the phone.  Here’s what happened…

I was standing at the register completing a very pleasant transaction when the phone rings.  (Now, don’t get me started about answering the phone and giving priority to someone who pushed a few buttons over the person who actually came into the store… deep breath…more on this later*).  I could take that, I guess because it happens so often.  What amazed me was the speed at which the employee rattled off whatever mandatory “thanks-for-calling-whoever-we-do-something-better-than-someone-and-we-have-a-special-offer-on-something-my-name-is-something-how-can-I-help-you?” spiel.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

It reminded me of the old FedEx commercials.

How many times have we probably called a business, gotten a speed-talker and wondered if we dialed correctly?  Mandatory phrases like this usually end up creating the exact opposite effect than intended.  The caller didn’t hear something special about your company that made them glad they called, and they certainly didn’t catch the clever brand reinforcement you scripted. Instead, they heard the jumbled, turbo charged monologue from someone who probably didn’t want to say all that in the first place, and worse, probably doesn’t even believe it.

If I had the power to start the “less is more” phone greeting revolution, I would start by canning all the canned greetings that people are forced to say.  I would give the people who answer the phones the ability to greet their guests in a way that makes sense to them, but is still appropriate for the business.  Next, I’d take out all the fluff about deals and services and how great you are.  When people call, they want to know that they called the right place and who they are talking to.  I say give them that information and no more.  Remember, you can’t provide a service to the guest if you never give them a chance to tell you what you can do for them.

“Thanks for calling Big Al’s Amusement Pier, this is Matt.  How can I help you?

Just enough “ramp up” time to get used to your voice and it includes the information they want.  Now spend time practicing the phrase s-l-o-w-l-y, while enunciating every syllable.  Doing that, rather than working to memorize some random corporate tongue-twister, will undoubtedly cut down on the times you hear, “Who is this?  Who’d I just call?”  THAT”S not good for business.

PS – *to finish my “he took the call in front of me” story… as he was on the phone, the credit card transaction completed and the receipt printed.  He handed it to me while continuing his conversation with the person on the phone.  Silently I took the receipt and my purchases and headed for the door.  10 steps later I hear, “Thank you, sir! Have a great day!”  I turned around and sure enough, he was talking to me.  A little too little, a little too late.

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