From Telephone Enquiry To Firm Booking Recently, I personally rang six local therapists at random from Yellow Pages, and asked the simple question, “What are your opening hours?” Four of them told me, for which I thanked them, and the call was over. One of them told me, and then asked if the hours were a problem. I said ‘no’, and the call was ended. One told me, and then asked how they could help. I said that my back was playing up again. I was assured that I could be helped and would I like to make an appointment. I said I would pop in when I could find the time. They said ‘OK’ and the call was ended. Six opportunities – totally wasted! And yet, at every seminar and workshop I give, I ask each attendee if they think they are proficient, professional and effective on the phone. I have yet to hear a ‘No’ – although some hedge their bets by saying it’s always possible to improve! I wonder if any of my six were ever among those attendees? So let’s look closer at this seemingly simple procedure. Incidentally, the following is aimed at you answering the phone, but if you have a receptionist or someone else doing that job, stand by and listen to how the call is handled, and, of course, monitor the result. Think now of how you answer the phone. The first obvious thing is that you don’t know who’s on the other end. It could be a sales call. It could be your partner or friend with a query. It could be anybody…..even a potential customer!! As illustrated above, it is clear that just being (or think you’re being) polite, pleasant, businesslike and informative is not enough. The reasons it is not enough is because of the above results, and also, to get the best result from every call, you need to have prepared the right mind-set. That means you have to automatically ‘click’ your mind into the appropriate attitude with which you treat every call from its very first ring! It has to be totally positive. You have to be proactive in anticipating the call. You mustn’t re-act to what is said, you have to be ahead and in total control of the conversation. So, when the phone does ring, always presume that it is a potential customer. (If it’s not, you act accordingly). But initially, you now need to be excited – you need to feel passionate about the success of that call – you need to feel a challenge – you need to feel that you are about to make a new friend – you need to feel that there is no way that the caller will not agree to come to see you – you need to exude enthusiasm – you need to know that when the caller puts his or her phone down, they will not only be pleasantly surprised but actually stunned by the conversation they have just had! Slightly different to your normal, calm, efficient thinking perhaps… But doesn’t this sound a bit dramatic? A bit over the top? Well, it may sound it – BUT IT ISN’T. It is exactly the difference between being good, very good and being excellent. It’s the difference between a customer being satisfied and being delighted. It is what differentiates you from all the others (see first paragraph!), and that ‘difference’ translates into many more customers than you would otherwise get from just phone enquiries alone. Remember that initially people often phone more than one therapist, so it’s obvious you need to create that difference. You need to act and behave in such a way that will make you stick out from the crowd – way out from the crowd! This will be achieved by treating your enquirers in a manner that will have them preening with satisfaction and delight – and it is oh, so relatively easy to achieve this! Put another way, you are not only holding a telephone in your hands – you are holding a golden opportunity….an opportunity to convert the enquiry into a loyal and happy customer – and it will all depend on not only what you say but how you say it. What is required is a conscious ‘upgrade’ of your thinking when it comes to answering the phone. The main thrust must be you asking questions – and then some! Irrespective of the initial enquiry (opening hours!) find out what the problem is and confidently assure the enquirer you can help. Questions keep you in charge of the conversation, and the information gleaned from them enables you to identify and overcome any obstacles that may arise. You can then give time alternatives, reassurances, solutions and incentives. People want and need to be helped. They have a (often painful) problem. They are often in unknown territory. They may not be sure what is involved. They are not looking for ‘efficiency’ and ‘professionalism’ in the true sense at this stage. All they want is helpful sympathy, and someone they can immediately feel comfortable with. If you deal with their requirements and relieve them of their worries and objections, you will almost certainly have no trouble in getting them to make an appointment. You’ve made it almost ‘impossible’ for them not to! Here’s an interesting exercise. Make an intelligent guess as to how many phone calls you have answered (or have had answered) in the last month. (If you already monitor your calls to conversion rates, good on you!) Use a daily / weekly average figure. Now try to remember how many of those enquiries came to your practice and became a customer. Make a note of them and use them as a comparative to next month’s figures (keep records of conversion), and so on, on a monthly basis. You will be pleasantly surprised or even amazed at the difference just ‘answering the phone’ with this different attitude can make to your business.
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