How The Humble Telephone Will Build Your Business

by Kevin Cahalane - Date: 2007-01-20 - Word Count: 1229 Share This!

So, we're heading for tough times! Why? Because if we are told something often enough (by opposition politicians, bankers, debt collection agencies, economists, your next door neighbor, taxi drivers, stock market analysts and journalists) we are going to believe it - it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

Well, whatever the economic outlook - real or imagined - over the next year, perhaps it is time to assess how you are currently gaining business, what you will need to do to keep it and continue growing even when all around you are crying 'tough times' and are discounting madly, dropping services, slashing costs and 'downsizing' (one of my personally most hated words straight out of the 80's).

Never mind what the market is doing, what are you doing?

Look closely at how you use your telephone.

There are three key areas that senior people in any organization simply must consider when analyzing the awesome power of the telephone:

How can everyone in the organization use the telephone as a customer service tool, not just an inconvenient interruption to their work?

How can we make our customer service department more responsive as opposed to reactive?

How can we become more proactive in telephone use, and contact our customers on a planned, systematic basis?

Let me be blunt. The telephone is a more dynamic resource than any e-commerce, direct mail, advertising or promotion strategy you will ever devise. At the very least, it is the equal to any of them, at best the telephone and the people who use it) can drive each of the above-mentioned campaigns and add 20-50% more revenue to your bottom line.

Used effectively, the telephone is a prime tool in building customer relationships and loyalty.

Let's look at the first two areas, mentioned above:

Everyone in your organization becomes a 'Director of First Impressions'

The atom was split in 1944 and since then has become either a totally destructive force or a device which has helped to create a better life (physics and energy as examples). This is exactly the potential a ringing telephone has to your organization-destruction or harmony. Everyone in your organization has a responsibility to use the telephone in a professional manner every single time they answer it, transfer calls, put people on hold and take messages.


A calm, courteous tone of voice helps. People don't like abrasive tones, sounds of food being masticated or being told to 'hang on'. Speed of response counts and answering work colleagues' extensions counts too-anything to make life easier for the caller.

Consistency is the key-for everyone.


Take a little time with callers; find out what they really want and who they need to talk to. Then, connect both parties rather than get rid of the caller in the quickest way. I call this 'clunking' - 'can I speak to your accounts dep...' - 'CLUNK!'

The other thing customers really hate is being put through to the wrong person or department and then sent on the 'transfer shuffle' where they are given the privilege of listening to music/a sales pitch/nothing at all or your employee telling them 'not my department, I'll just transfer you' - to the next extension and the next uncaring employee.

On Hold

Don't do it. Don't leave callers on hold for more than 20 seconds. Offer them options, take personal responsibility, get their number and phone them back within an agreed timeframe.

Customers really hate waiting. They will pay a little more if they know they will get prompt service-part of that equation is not being kept on hold.

Message Taking

A lot of business is lost because people don't take proper messages or fail to pass them on.

This is not rocket science here; however, a significant number of company employees do not take messages correctly. This causes lost time, lost productivity and lost business - for the sake of a few more questions to confirm correct details.

Is the above happening in your company? Do you phone in, from time to time, to check out how the telephone is utilised - as a business builder or business destroyer?

Everyone within your organisation has a responsibility to be an effective Director of First Impressions, utilising the power of the telephone in customer service (and sales) and becoming more responsive to customers, rather than reactive.

Become proactive - this was the third area, mentioned above, to gain better results and profits from good telephone usage

If you are not giving serious consideration to developing and building a strong outbound call program, within your company, you could be in trouble over the next few months-particularly if your competitors are moving in this direction.

Here are the steps to a powerful, productive and profitable telemarketing program:

Step 1. Persuade your field sales force that their major focus is to look after their 'A' customers and potential 'A' customers.

Move all other accounts to a telephone based sales and service program. Offer them the benefits of regular and planned contact, competitive pricing, excellent service, instant response if they need to phone (you don't get that from sales people on the road) and whatever else they were getting when a sales representative was visiting them.

Except now they are getting faster, more efficient service-only by telephone as opposed to a personal visit.

I have seen this professional approach to managing 'B' and 'C' customers work extremely well across a range of industries. Your customers are happy and you are happy-you are delivering a quality, cost effective service, that is gaining you RESULTS.

Combine this with a cross sell/up sell program and you are miles ahead in terms of productivity and profit.

Step 2. Select the right people for the role of telephone sales and service.

Not everyone will jump at the chance! However, training, motivation, planning and leadership will go a long way towards ensuring you will be 100% successful when commencing a telemarketing operation.

The people you select will most likely have the knowledge-you provide them with the skills and they will develop the necessary sales attributes (training and coaching will help also!).

Select the right technology such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) package.

Step 3. Select the campaign. You have many choices-pick from any or all of the following:

Account management, 'B' and 'C' customers can be contacted on a planned, regular basis. They get improved, more regular service - you gain more sales and profits.

Account reactivation, there has never been a better time to regain lost customers. A well planned telemarketing campaign can achieve this.

Account acquisition, you can go nationwide and overseas, via the telephone, backed by a good direct marketing strategy.

Short term marketing and business building campaigns.Market research and customer satisfaction surveys.

Step 4. Collect data-build and manage your contact management system and ensure you provide call/sales reports.

Telemarketing is not an ad hoc 'just pick up the phone and sell something'. It is a strategic process, with inbuilt tools, that can gain you fantastic returns.

The telephone will make a difference whether times are good or bad. However, its impact is most keenly felt when times do tend to get a little tougher. You need good people, obviously, who are keen and willing to learn new skills (there are no 'natural' telephone salespeople for instance, just as there are no natural plumbers or auto mechanics). You need a top driven Customer Relationship Management system and, most of all, you need leadership-the kind of dynamic, visionary people who can bring new dimensions to a company culture. A culture which, perhaps, implies-things have been good for the last ten years, why do we need to take a different direction?

Related Tags: sales, customer service, proactive, telephone, responsive

Kevin Cahalane, Sales & Service Momentum, is an international speaker, sales/customer service training professional and business strategy specialist. He is the publisher of popular e.zine 'SaSeMo' - read by thousands of sales, service, marketing and training managers around the world.

Visit Kevin's website today, subscribe to his free e.zine and receive the complimentary report: How to Continue Building Your Business - Even When Times Get Tough.

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