Did you ever hear the old story about two shoe salesmen who were sent by their employers to one of the poorer countries of the world? The first rep sent back a telegram that said “No good here. Coming home. Nobody wears shoes.” The other one also sent back a telegram: “Great opportunity here! Send shoes! Nobody wears shoes!”
That ringing phone in the back office or at the front desk can be so annoying. But you have to remember that the phone is at the heart of your business. If you want that heart to keep beating for a long time to come, just remember that a ringing phone is the sound of opportunity. Make sure that you treat it with the urgency and importance that it deserves.
Voicemail Makes For Missed Connections
There’s an annoying urgency to the buzz and chirp of a ringing phone, particularly with today’s electronic tones. If we are busy doing something else that’s important it’s easy to think of the ringing phone as an irritating interruption. But a ringing phone is important because it’s the sound of opportunity.
Those new members with the obvious questions that you’ve answered dozens of times before, those prospects who seem to be distant and picky, they all have a need for good service reassurance and encouragement. This is where the story about the shoe reps comes in. It is how you look at it that matters most. Don’t attribute the ringing phone to an annoying interruption, rather associate it with recruiting more members and getting paid.
I happened to come across this survey from 2010 that found, for small businesses generally, 92% of all interactions take place on the phone. Also, 85% of customers are unhappy with their experiences in communicating with businesses on the phone. It’s not that they don’t expect poor phone service because generally they do. According to this survey, most customer service experiences by phone are pretty shabby. That’s why there’s a great opportunity to make a difference here.
Be The Exception And Get Some Leverage
Receiving great customer service phone experience is always a relief and encouragement for customers. It can be real deal maker. If you do it right, it’s a great chance to impress and take the business from the less sharp competition.
Experience has taught me that a big worry for new and prospective members is that, after they have committed, you’ll go out of business and they’ll lose their prepaid fees and also have to go through the whole process of finding another gym. The frustrations of not being able to easily connect to you is a great way to make customers have doubts. They may start to think that you’re going out of business. That may mean having to put up with the bad phone habits of a dozen businesses all over again.
There will always be times when there are more calls coming in than can be dealt with at one time. Dealing with them involves taking the call, politely asking them to hold and getting back to them as rapidly as possible. That takes a little practice. If it happens regularly at a predictable time then it might be time to add more staff at the front desk or wherever the calls are received. Members will accept politely being put on hold over being ignored every time. The key here is that the habits must be in place.
Good Telephone Habits Are Always Good Business
Ask yourself, what happens in your gym when the phone rings? Is it ignored? Or does everyone look to see who’s going to take it? Or do they all just jump in? Getting your people into the habit of answering the phone is a first step to creating a conscientious business culture. Start a new drive to upgrade every aspect of your customer service with the simple habit of always answering the phone.
Your current and potential membership has questions and needs reassurance. The attitude that you take in response to inquiries on the phone is something that customers are very sensitive to. It’s immediately clear to them from how quickly you answer the phone or if you let it go to voicemail what they can expect from your customer service. Take the attitude that bare feet and phone inquiries are both indications of need. Whether you ordering shoes or exercising great telephone skills, the positive response will always be the most profitable one.
*LinkedIn article relied on the following stats from this article: http://returnonbehavior.com/2010/10/50-facts-about-customer-experience-for-2011/ [original link now broken]
i. 92% of all interactions happen via the phone – Gartner
ii. 85% of consumers are dissatisfied with their phone experience – Gartner
http://blog.rateyourburn.com/blog/post/2013/03/19/15-tips-for-running-a-successful-fitness-studio-business-1.aspx [original link now broken]