The Million Dollar Phone Call


Steve Stone
Contributing Writer

Certainly it’s every business owner’s dream to answer the phone to a customer who needs a contractor for a million dollar project. That would definitely be a booster shot to the bottom line and quickly round out our Million Dollar Phone Call edition of theBuzz,but let’s be a little more realistic. Million dollar phone calls aren’t going to happen for a lot of us. Instead, we’re going to look at phone answering practices that may be costing you a million or more in annual sales and advertising costs.

Let’s look at some numbers – If you receive 2,000 or more calls a year in response to your advertising, which costs a total of $100,000 per year, then it costs your business about $50 each to generate those calls. Regardless of whether you close the call and set the appointment, you’re paying $50 for your phone call. If your phone is ringing off the hook but you’re unable to set any appointments, you just threw away $50 in advertising per caller!

Are you effectively capturing all calls? Listen to your phone operators, how are they treating your clients and prospects? Try recording a few conversations for review; you may be surprised at what you hear!

If your call takers aren’t trained to convert every caller into a customer, those $50 phone calls are flying out the door. If just ten calls aren’t effectively converted, you’ve lost $500. If this happens six days a week, you’ve wasted $3000 getting your phone to ring. Spread this out over 52 weeks and your annual losses are up to $156,000!

That’s just in unconverted business. If you factor in lost opportunity from the business you didn’t get, the dollars really start piling up. If your average service invoice is $300, you’ve lost $3000 a day in business just because you’re not capturing calls effectively! That translates into $18,000 a week, or $936,000 a year in lost business. Add to that the $156,000 spent to make the phone ring and you’ve got more than your million dollars!

So what do you need to do to get that million back? Take a look at how you’re answering the phones.

Scripts – If your phone operators are not using a script, they’re going to handle every phone call differently. Standardization is crucial to business success. McDonald’s is the most successful franchise in the world because people know they can walk into any one and receive the same hamburger at every location. They achieve this level of customer expectation through standardizing how employees handle every aspect of what they do on the job.

Quotes – Don’t let your call takers provide quotes over the phone. Only your techs can effectively determine the price of a job after seeing and diagnosing the problem. Don’t invite trouble down the road by letting a phone operator quote a project over the phone that’s later followed up by a different price from the tech after he’s been on site. Instruct your operators to convert the call to a scheduled appointment and not a guess at the final price. If customers are persistent on getting pricing, have a standard diagnostic fee that’s applied to the price of the job. Include a line in your script like “I have a serviceman in your area right now, he can come by and take a look at your problem and let you know what’s involved. Our service charge is only (quote a minimum service charge). He will then give you a flat rate price for the work that needs to be done. I can have him there this afternoon and, if you like the price, can stay to finish the work. May I have your address?”

No food allowed – Besides what’s actually said, how things are said are just as important. Make sure your call takers don’t eat or drink while on the phone. Customers take offense to someone answering the phone while eating, it’s just rude. Not to mention that spilled drinks can damage computers and other office equipment. Make it company policy for call takers not to drink at their desks and provide a separate place for eating during breaks.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure – If your call takers aren’t asking how a caller heard about your company, there’s absolutely no way you can measure the effectiveness of your advertising. Have your operators ask how your callers found you. Require them to keep a log of this information. Something as simple as a list of advertisements they can check off while on the phone with the customer will provide you with valuable information on which ads are performing and which ones need review.

Let them hear you smile – Call takers who look into a mirror while answering the phone tend to smile more. Callers can “hear” a smile across the phone and will respond in kind. Place small mirrors beside your operator’s phones and make sure they know what their purpose is (not fixing their hair, primping, etc). With a team of smiling call takers, you’ll be amazed at how many more calls you’re able to convert.

Know what’s important – Make sure your call takers know what information they’re after while on the phone. Knowing what information is needed allows them to convert a call quicker and convert more calls to service appointments throughout the day. It’s not effective call taking if your operators have to repeatedly hunt down customers’ phone numbers to call them back in order to get their address.

Treat every call like it’s the only thing you’ve got to do that day. Take the steps listed above to instill customer confidence in your company. Business survival depends on your ability to capture and convert every opportunity that’s available to you. Following these guidelines will help grow your bottom line and make sure you’re not losing a million or more annually in business lost to poor or unprofessional phone practices.

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