First impressions are critical.  The first time you interact with a new customer will most likely be over the phone.  Running a small business can make you feel like you are stretched for time, but you need to realize that how you communicate with your customers is vital to the growth of your business.  My colleague, Amanda Shaw, already gave you a few good tips on proper phone etiquette in her blog post, Proper Phone Etiquette for Your Small Business.  I want to build and expand on this focus for the next few minutes to help give you some ideas to think about while trying to grow and balance the craziness of running your business.  

Here are 6 tips to keep in mind while communicating with your customers on the phone:

  • Memorable Greeting
    Greeting a customer warmly is the most important thing when receiving a call.  A customer can tell right away if you are busy or irritated by the call. Make sure your tone is enthusiastic and positive.  Your voice has to be friendly, warm and professional. Your greeting should also include your name and the company name. Make sure the greeting is audible and clear, not answering with loud noises in the background.  Here is an example greeting: “XYZ Company. This is Bill. How can I help you?”
  • Listen Actively
    Listening carefully and actively is key to building relationships with your customers.  Once you listen to the customer, it is very important to give an immediate response, which gives him/her the assurance that you listened to what was said.  This will instill confidence in the customer that you care about them and their problem, which in return helps you build a stronger relationship and loyalty with that customer.
  • Ask Questions
    Get the most information from the customer as possible. First of all, get the basic information you will need to complete the job and be able to engage with them later (i.e. name, address, phone number, email address).  Then, ask questions about their issue and scheduling a time to come and take care of it.  Using an integrated CRM platform to store the details gathered on the call helps so that the customer is not asked the same questions if they call again.
  • Go Above and Beyond
    Go beyond the bare minimum to make your customers love you.  There are so many other companies out there that do what you do.  In reality–this customer took a chance and picked you, make it count.   If there’s a real problem, and you can do just a little more to make a customer’s day, he or she is going to remember it next time something breaks.  Make sure to let the customer know what you did for them, otherwise they may not recognize the value.  If you do, you’ll get more repeat business and word of mouth advertising as you over deliver on a job.
  • Customer is King
    Allow the customer to feel like a priority. Don’t answer the phone if you can not offer your full attention– you’ll sound distracted.  It is understandable that you are a busy small business owner, but spend the few minutes it takes to really pay attention. Your customers will hear and feel the difference and the results will be worth it.
  • Follow up!
    Follow up with the customer after a problem has been taken care of to find out how things are going. It is important that you don’t try to sell anything during this call or email.  The purpose of this communication is to let the customer know that you care about their issue and the quality of your work rather than just coming and getting paid.  You may not think this one tip would do much but over time it will help grow your loyal customer base and help drive new customers from referrals.

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