3 Basic Phone Answering Mistakes Every Business Should Avoid

By Mike Taylor

Did you know that the way you answer your phone can actually help or hurt your business? That’s right. The way you answer your phone serves as your business’s first impression for new callers.  There are some common mistakes every business should avoid when it comes to answering customer calls.

First Impressions Matter

Why does it matter? According to one survey, first impressions are everything, noting that:

“66 percent of people aren’t willing to give people a second chance if they make a bad first impression; and 75 percent won’t make contact for more than a month, meaning that potential business deal could or has fallen by the wayside.”

So how you answer each incoming call is often crucial in determining whether or not someone does business with you. And if for some reason you miss their call and it goes to a generic voicemail, you’re in even more trouble.

The Trouble with Voicemail

According to an article on Salesforce.com, “Forbes reported that 80% of callers that are sent to voicemail, hang up.”

customer service calls with IVRsThis is usually because the voicemail is a last-ditch catch-all for calls. With a generic message, customers have little to no confidence that their calls are even making it to the right place.

That means you not only made a poor first impression, but you’re highly unlikely to even know who called. And that translates to a missed opportunity altogether.

You can avoid these potential pitfalls. Here are 3 ways you can improve your phone answering skills, make a better first impression on potential customers, and drive more sales.

1. Not using automated answering

This may come as a shock, but people aren’t perfect. We all get busy and make mistakes, and that rings especially true for people trying to manually answer every call that comes in to a busy business. To drastically reduce (or even altogether eliminate) phone answering mistakes, use an automated answering service.

One type of automated answering service is an IVR, or Interactive Voice Response. IVRs are more advanced than standard automated attendants and typically handle automated tasks that involve yes/no answers, and numbers. An IVR is a smart routing system that answers your phone professionally every time, and efficiently directs calls to the most appropriate place in your business.

2. Not giving callers an option to speak with a human

Automated answering services can be a huge asset to your business. But you don’t want prompts to sound robotic. Equally important is to make it easy for people to get out of the automated prompts and sent straight to a real person. One of the most frustrating aspects of calling into a company with an automated answering service is the endless list of options and trying to find the seemingly hidden path to a real person.

You may feel like giving people an option to talk with a real person defeats the purpose of an automated system. If your automated prompts are to-the-point and relevant, you’ll likely find that most people are happy to use your prompts.

3. Not having a pleasant tone

In case you haven’t noticed, emotions can definitely be contagious. According to a report in US News, “During a conversation, people have a tendency to match the emotional valence of their word choices – particularly when it comes to using negatively charged words such as “hate,” “anger,” or “sad” – with whomever they’re talking, according to 2014 research from Oregon State University.” In other words, how you say something can actually affect the emotions of the person receiving what you’re saying.

Keep in mind it’s important to be pleasant, but don’t go over-the-top. Note that unrealistically cheery people can be just as annoying and off-putting as negative people.

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About the Author

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor was the former Content Marketing Specialist at Digium. He’s a small business and entrepreneurial enthusiast, and before joining Digium he spent years helping startups and businesses of all sizes grow using content and digital marketing strategies. He covered business and communication topics on Digium’s blog and on other business publications as well.

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