Have you ever tried to call a business and had a seemingly impossible time getting a human being on the other end? You probably have. Or, maybe you called and encountered a “voicemail full” message. Or an unprofessional vacation message saying the office would be closed for the 4th of July… in October. There are plenty of businesses out there that make mistakes such as these with their phone etiquette, and we can all relate to the feeling of frustration when you’re on the other end. Maybe you even decide that it’s not worth the hassle. Just like that, they’ve lost your business. As a tax and accounting pro, your practice’s phone line couldn’t be more important. Sure, many prospects will find you online, fill out a form, make an appointment, and meet you at your office. But there are also plenty of people who will want to speak to a real person first. So, what level of professionalism and customer care are you showcasing through your phone line? Let’s discuss a few best practices for making that initial prospect interaction a great one.
1. Keep your voicemail cleaned out.
One of the worst experiences for a potential customer is to wait through the endless rings, your greeting message, and even a phone menu only to discover that your voicemail is full. In these cases, their wait feels pointless and their time has been wasted. Will they still be interested in giving you their business? It’s hard to say, but one thing is certain: this leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth. A company that is not detail-oriented enough to keep an open voicemail may be hard to trust with much more important details — like financial records and tax returns. Keep your voicemail functioning so your practice can capture every last piece of business that comes your way. When it comes to growing your client base, the last thing you want is to have something as simple as your phone standing in the way. With cloud-based phone systems, having a “full voicemail box” message should be a thing of the past.
2. Answer like a business.
In this day and age, it’s perfectly acceptable if your cell is also your business number. Landlines are becoming much less common and being able to answer calls on the go is a great way to improve customer service. That being said, find a way to ensure you’re answering business calls with your business hat on. If a prospect calls expecting an office line and you answer as if it’s any old friend calling, then you’re not off to a great start. There are a few ways to handle this. You could have a second line forwarded to your cell, so you know when those calls come through that you are answering as your practice. Otherwise, you could set up some kind of notifier that you have a business call, that way you know to answer it professionally.
3. Stay on top of your vacation messages.
If your practice will be closed for a holiday, vacation, or other reason, make sure to record your voicemail message with a notification of those dates. It’s important that callers understand why they may be sent to voicemail. That being said, stay on top of your vacation messages and remove them once the dates have passed. A message about how your office will be closed over Labor Day when someone is calling in January will appear sloppy.
4. Create a professional automated attendant greeting.
If you choose to set up an automated greeting on your phone line, make sure it sounds professional and doesn’t waste the caller’s time. Here are some tips:
Automated Greeting Do’s:
- Start with your appreciation for their call or business.
- Keep the greeting short.
- Use your tagline or company slogan as well as your website.
- Avoid unnecessary details.
Automated Greeting Don’ts:
- Don’t use more than a few sentences in your greeting.
- Don’t promote your website if it’s not valuable or relevant to your prospects.
- Don’t make up a slogan just for the sake of the greeting message.
Another pro tip: turn off your automated greeting during business hours. Having a real human being answer incoming phone calls when your office is open can drastically improve client satisfaction.
5. Design a simple phone menu.
If finding the right extension in your phone tree feels like a maze to your callers, then changes need to be made. Menus should feel intuitive and fit with commonly accepted options. For instance:
- “Press zero for the receptionist.”
- “Press the pound key to go back to the previous menu.”
- “If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time.”
Here’s an example of a phone script you could use: “Thank you for calling Bob’s Tax Preparation, where "You give us your taxes and you get back your time.” If you know your party's extension, you may dial it at any time. Otherwise, choose from one of the following options. For client services, press '1'. For document submissions, press '2'. For our regular business hours and location, press '3'. For new clients, press '4'. Otherwise, press '0' for the receptionist or stay on the line and someone will assist you shortly.” Most importantly, be the kind of professional that you would want to have on the other end of a call. Being polite, helpful, and patient goes a long way to ensure that you’re retaining the clients you do have and converting the prospects who call into paying customers. Make sure that proper training and phone etiquette is used by everyone at the firm, from the receptionist to the partners.
6. Quickly respond to new prospects.
Many tax and accounting professionals lose out on web referrals because they are slow to respond. A Harvard Business Review study showed that businesses who contact prospects within an hour of them submitting a request are seven times more likely to have impactful conversations with decision makers than those that contacted an hour later. It may seem like the phone is a dying medium for growing your business, but it’s actually crucial for the success of any practice. In the same way that your phone line can quickly help you bring new clients onboard, it can also be the reason you lose their business if not handled properly. Make it easy to communicate with you and watch the benefits start to roll in.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about proper phone etiquette and capturing more business, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts. We’re here to help!