You Lost Me At “Hello”

I was calling an accountant client of mine—we’ll call him Bill Peterson.  The phone rang seven times, so by then, I was expecting his voice mail.  Instead, I was greeted by an unhappy, bored, stressed-sounding female voice.

“Mr. Peterson’s Office,” the voice grumbled crankily.

“May I speak with him?” I asked politely.

“He’s busy right now,” said the voice with an edge that suggested I was a huge interruption to her busy morning.  “Would you like his voice mail?”

“I’d prefer to leave a message with a human,” I responded jovially.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m too busy to take a message, I can’t even find a pen in all this mess,” said the voice with mounting hostility, “Do you want his voice mail or not?”

The decision to do business with you—or to continue to do business with you—is made within the first few seconds of contact.  If I had been a client on the phone with this assistant or receptionist, I would have responded, “No, just have him send my files to my new accountant.”

But I’m the coach who is helping him get more business, so I reluctantly accepted the voice mail offer.

“I had no idea,” Bill apologized, when we spoke later on that day.  “I know Gloria is cranky sometimes—she’s got a lot going on in her life—but I never suspected that she was taking it out on callers to the office!”

You might be wonderful on the phone with your clients, prospects, and vendors, but how does your staff answer the phone?  I’ll bet that many of us would be as surprised as Bill at what we overheard if we were paying closer attention.

In case it isn’t obvious, here’s how the conversation should have gone:

Pleasant Voice [answering after no more than three rings]: “Mr. Peterson’s Office. This is Gloria. How may I help you today?

Me: “May I speak with him?”

Pleasant Voice: “I’m sorry, sir, he’s with a client at the moment. Maybe there’s something I can help you with?

Many of my clients have opted for the efficiency of calls being automatically forwarded to their voice mail boxes.  But if you want to make a really good impression on a new client, nothing beats a well-trained, pleasant human who answers the phone promptly and makes a noticeable effort to be helpful.

If you don’t know how your clients, prospective clients, vendors, and others are being treated, have someone call your office while you’re listening in.  If there are problems with reception, gently work on fixing them.

Maybe there’s something I can help you with?  Contact me now, before another of your clients asks for her files.  Keep working to improve your “front end”, and keep REACHING…