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Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Interrogating People (and Clients) Who Call Your Office

I’ve talked about this many times, in writing and in person. It is something I learned years ago. We implemented it at our firm and never looked back. It came to mind recently as I was working with a very successful firm on the topic of client service.

Mobile devices has eliminated many of the phone calls that come through your main office telephone line, however, many clients still call your main office number to reach someone at your firm.

When people call your office, do they feel important? I made a call to a CPA firm recently and was asked, “Who’s calling?” After a pause, I was dumped automatically into the person’s voice mail.

I know of many firms now who do not screen callers and instead put them directly through to the person they ask for. Plus, that person actually answers the call rather than let it default to voice mail.

To establish such a culture in your firm you need a system and need to work towards making it part of your culture.

Here’s a sample called Phone Greeting Skills. At our firm, we rolled this out many, many years ago and it has evolved over time, however, we always strongly believed in not screening callers and making them feel important when they called the direct line at our offices.

Action Steps – Phone Greeting Skills

One of the most vital links to our clients and to others outside the firm is the phone. Much of our day-to-day communication is done via the phone. It’s the best place to start on our journey to making our firm different from all other accounting firms.

A major key is to start the process of differentiation through measuring and monitoring our current telephone calls. Our Director of First Impressions will be monitoring our progress.

We no longer want any call (yes, any call) interrogated or screened.

The first three phone standards (PS) are critically important for the Director of First Impressions:

PS1:  SMILE to the point of a grin before you answer it.

PS2:  Answer it on the SECOND ring.

PS3:  Smith & Company. This is Mary Jones.

PS4:  Listen attentively. Give out positive strokes.

PS5:  Ask questions. (What, when, who, which, where, how, why)

BAN:  May I ask who’s calling? Will he know what this is about? Can I take a message?

REPLACE WITH:  I’ll put you right through. Thank you for calling. Maybe there’s some way I can help?

When a call is put through to you – YOU do the following:

PS1:  Smile to the point of a grin before you answer it.

PS3:  “Good morning. This is John Smith.”

PS4:  Listen attentively. Give out positive strokes.

Just to clarify:

  • Whether you like it or not, screening calls puts a barrier between you and your clients.
  • Whether you like it or not, your client feels slightly insulted when they’re asked to state their name and a reason for calling.
  • Whether you like it or not, most clients hate it.
  • Whether you like it or not, many clients believe the only reason they’re being interrogated is so that you can be “out” when they call – – that is, it’s a “nice” way of telling them you’re there but you don’t want to talk with them. Actually, it’s an awful way of doing it and it’s dishonest.
  • Whether you like it or not, if you don’t know who’s on the phone, you have to answer it right away.

Keep in mind:

Not interrogating does NOT mean you have to take every call. In fact, your Director of First Impressions can handle many calls immediately.

Good morning. Smith & Company. This is Mary Jones.

May I speak with John Smith, please?

Thank-you so much for calling. John is actually with someone right now. He tells me he’ll be free in 30 minutes or so. Maybe in the meantime there is some way I can help? Or maybe there is someone else who could assist since John is not available?

I wanted to review this today because I call a lot of CPA firms. I have found that interrogating the caller has actually disappeared in many firms. When I reach a firm where the receptionist interrogates me I really do feel somewhat offended and think “I guess she is determining if I am important enough.”

Sure, someone you might not want to talk to might be calling. Being a business professional, you can handle those easily by dismissing them quickly and professionally.

Sometimes I feel like most business professionals let every incoming call, whether through their office number or their mobile device, go to voice mail thinking they will handle it later.

Wouldn’t it make your firm stand-out if your professionals didn’t use the phone to dodge calls?

  • Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Screening Phone Calls
(The little things can make the biggest difference.)

When people call your office, do they feel important? I made a call to a firm this week and was asked: “Who’s calling?” And then after a pause I was dumped automatically into the person’s voice mail.

I know of many firms now who do not screen callers and instead put them directly through to the person they ask for. Plus, that person actually answers the call rather than let it default to voice mail.

To establish such a culture in your firm you need a system and work towards making it part of your culture.

Here’s a sample called Phone Greeting Skills. We rolled this out in our firm MANY years ago and it has evolved over time, however, we still stongly believe in not screen callers and making them feel important when they call our offices.


Action Steps – Phone Greeting Skills

One of the most vital links we have to our clients and to others outside our firm is the phone. Much of our day-to-day communication is done via the phone. It’s the best place to start on our journey to making our firm different from all other accounting firms.

A major key is to start the process of differentiation through measuring and monitoring our current telephone calls. Our Directors of First Impressions will be monitoring our progress.

We no longer want any call (yes, any call) interrogated or screened.

The first three phone standards (PS) are critically important for the Director of First Impressions:

PS1 SMILE to the point of a grin before you answer it.

PS2 Answer it on the SECOND ring.

PS3 Brady Ware. THIS IS Mary Smith.

PS4a Listen attentively.

PS4b Give out positive strokes.

PS5 Ask questions..
What, when, who, which, where, how, why

BAN:
Can I ask who’s calling?
She’s in a meeting
Can I take a message?

REPLACE WITH:
I’ll put you right through.
Thank you for calling.

Maybe there’s some way I can help?

When a call is put through to you – YOU do the following:

PS1 Smile to the point of a grin before you answer it.
PS3 “Good Morning. THIS IS Joe Brown.”
PS4a Listen attentively.
PS4b Give out positive strokes

Let’s review:

–Whether you like it or not, screening calls puts a barrier between you and your clients.
–Whether you like it or not, the hairs on the back of your client’s head stand up when they’re asked to state their name, and reason for calling.
–Whether you like it or not, most clients hate it.
–Whether you like it or not, many clients believe the only reason they’re being interrogated is so that you can be “out” when they call – – that is, it’s a “nice” way of telling them you’re there but you don’t want to talk with them (actually, it’s an awful way of doing it and it’s dishonest).
–Whether you like it or not, if you don’t know who’s on the phone, you HAVE to answer it right away.

Before you think we’ve gone crazy, here’s one more critically important thing:

Not interrogating does NOT mean you have to take every call – far from it. In fact, here’s the way your calls can be handled at the reception desk – please notice that key phrases are underlined for you. It’s essential that the Directors of First Impressions start using these skills right now.

Good morning. Brady Ware. This is Mary Jones.

May I speak with Jane Doe, please?

Oh, fine, thank you so much for calling. Jane is actually with someone right now. She tells me she’ll be free in 30 minutes or so. Maybe in the meantime there’s some way I can help?

Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson