My first business (high performance Audi/VW parts) developed a significant mail-order component, I worked that phone as if my life depended upon it – which in a way it did – we had great advertising that made the phone ring non-stop.
People wanted what we had and of 100 incoming calls per day, ~30 would be ~$250.00 orders.
OK, my very life didn’t depend on success per se.
But money is oxygen for a small business, and phone skills were the lifeline.
One skill learned early on, which sticks to this day, was to repeat back answers to questions asked, and to do so in a format that worked on our end of the phones.
For instance, a client could rattle off all 16 digits of their card in a steady stream while we interject with a few ‘uh-huhs’ and ‘gotchas’, but if you really want to take control of the flow of information and eliminate error…
Read back the first four digits and pause.
This may break the client’s flow at first but nearly every single time the caller would read the next four digits and pause for the repeat, they were quick studies that this would be a great way to verify and eliminate errors.
Clients deliver as we allow them to.
Repeating credit card numbers was a key skill in my learning-how-to-listen experience.
It was also a lesson in how we can have a significant impact on the flow and pace of a conversation with a subtle bit of feedback.
When a client spells their name, reads you their SIN, address, or email—the key application pieces—don’t say ‘yep’ or ‘got-it’, because often we don’t ‘got-it’.
Instead, read back the exact information they just gave you in bite-size pieces that work for you. The sooner you do this in the application conversation, the smoother it all flows.
Often, as the client reads their first three SIN digits I interject and repeat them before they utter the fourth digit, and the client will then pause after the sixth digit waiting for me to recite the second three back.
We adapt quickly to the style of the person on the other side of the conversation, so be the leader and take the conversation in a direction that works for you.
This is you taking control of the process and setting expectations in a very small way in the early minutes of the very first call.
Taking control and setting expectations is what business is all about.
Equally important is listening for similar cues from the person you are speaking with. Whenever possible try and match their pace and delivery, Be certain you are gathering it all accurately.
What about online applications?
People still typo, data still needs to be verified, and yes I know I am old… but as much as I love tech and embrace it’s use left and right… I still like a conversational application when its a complex transaction with a lot of personal information.
Besides, it takes how long to quiz a client on the key data points? 6 minutes or so?
Which you can stretch to 15 minutes making connections and learning important nuances along the way.
Make It Happen!