Been a busy week, made busier by a series of salespeople and front desk folks who for some reason are under the impression that a customer on the phone is more important than the customer who is standing right in front of them in mid-conversation with them.
Look, there’s no question that almost no business has enough people on staff to answer the phones and work with customers during the busiest times, BUT your #1 priority should be the client in front of you. You know, the one who has an appointment with you and traveled across town to give you money.
I’m not saying don’t answer the phone. You have to do that. Letting it go to voice mail is as good as giving them your competitor’s phone number – unless you’ve positioned yourself very well. Don’t answer the phone and spend 10 minutes helping that person, then get back to the person in front of you, only to have the phone ring again.
At least once this week, I considered stepping out front of the building and calling the business in question in order to tie up the phone.
So what do you do?
Say excuse me to the customer in front of you. Take the call, and tell the caller that you are in the middle of helping a client who is standing here with you. Get their name and number, ask what the call is about, write all of this down, repeat it back to them to make sure you have it right, THEN ask them if they’d prefer to hold for a few minutes or get a return call when you finish with the customer in front of you. Obviously your “call back or hold” comments have to be dependent on what you’re doing with the customer you’re already working with, but get them off the phone so you can attend to the person you’re with.
The reason you ask what the call is about is so that someone else can call them back as appropriate AND that decision can occur before calling them, or before the call is taken off of hold.
All of this will take just a moment and not only shows the client in front of you that they are the #1 concern in your mind right now. Meanwhile, it lets the caller know that you are aware of what they need, and will help them soon, rather than giving them the “call volumes are unusually high and your call is important to us, blah, blah, blah” treatment, or the “” treatment.