Have you ever called a company for support, listened to someone pick up, but when you started to talk, thinking you were having a conversation you discovered you were talking over a robot?
It makes sense from the company perspective, they can handle more customers easier, but it wastes time for the customer. No surprise that customers often prefer a live agent on the other line. In one study, several top internet retailers were found to use live customer service, including giants like Amazon, L.L. Bean, and Urban Outfitters.
But what happens if you’re an actual person who still sounds like a recording?
When the time comes to make a lot of sales calls, it’s tempting to stick with a script that after a while, makes even the most dynamic human sound like a robot. Fortunately, the wonderful world of psychology shows that it is possible to create meaningful connections with customers in just a few minutes over the phone, starting with some simple techniques.
1. Use the customer’s name often
This may seem like an arbitrary detail, but using someone’s name throughout conversation shows that you identify them as a person, and not just a customer. If you don’t already know their name, ask for it early in the conversation. Be sure to use their name at the beginning and at the end of the conversation, at the very least. If necessary, write it down/add it to your database so that you will remember during the call and have it on hand if they call again.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone how to pronounce their name. If their name looks tough to pronounce, it will most likely not be the first time they have been asked, and they will more than likely appreciate the gesture.
Using someone’s name is a quick and easy way to build good rapport with a customer and an opportunity to deviate from a routine script.
2. Show you are listening by referring to what the customer has said
During a call, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to think of what to say next. Reflecting on what the customer has said and following up with simple questions is a tried and true method of conversation, popularly used by psychotherapists. It is not recommended that you repeatedly ask customers about their feelings. Rather, this tactic has more to do with following the conversation where it leads.
Simple phrases like “How may I help you today?” and “Tell me about what your company needs” pave the way for a more personalized conversation. Make note of their responses and refer to those later on.
This not only forces you to listen instead of panicking over phone etiquette, but also allows for a more natural conversational flow. When you refer back to what the customer has said, this lets them know that you are listening and not just trying to get through another call.
You can also respond with simple meaningful questions about their business that will provide you with information on how to serve the customer effectively while also building positive relationships with them. Are they a family business? How long have they been in business? What are their preferred methods of communicating with customers?
Overall, getting to know a customer doesn’t have to involve the weather or elaborate conversations about their life; the connection begins simply with actively listening and responding accordingly.
3. Hold your script loosely, but don’t toss it out yet
Instead of a strict inflexible script that might as well be a branch of a phone tree, the National Association for Sales Professionals recommends a “loose script to which you add your magic as you go along.” Begin your calls with a friendly greeting (don’t forget their name,) and make some conversational connections before launching into any kind of pitch. Remember those open ended questions and the importance of listening!
Then before you close, be sure you agree on and explain what the next steps will be. Will you call them again next week? Did you mention connecting them with another representative? Will there be a follow-up e-mail? Even if your company’s follow-ups are automated, letting the customer know what to expect eases the pressure. It also decreases chances the customer will have fear-based reactions to further sales calls.
Close with an affirming salutation, including their name which by now should roll right off of your tongue. Congratulations, you just completed a personalized call and have a framework for any others!
Scripted or not, calling customers can be an intimidating process. Use these quick and easy tips to make phone calls more personal and effective. It may take a bit more time than automation, but sincere connections with customers are worth the effort!