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Proper phone protocols
By Richard DiToma, 
contributing writer

First impressions can lead to long-term relationships. The person who answers your phone for consumer calls is the first person in the communication between your business and your potential or existing client. That person must have, and implement, great phone techniques in order to give your business the first opportunity to grow with new customers, while keeping your existing clientele satisfied.
Great phone techniques include: cheeriness, knowledge, understanding, organization and the intent to follow the progress of the call to its next step – the dispatching of a technician who will address the consumer’s requests. Most often, the call-taker is also the dispatcher.

Cheeriness is the ability to smile at the caller through the phone so consumers sense they are speaking with a pleasant person who can help them regarding their particular needs or requests.

Knowledge of your business and your client is vital. Regarding your business, the call-taker must know about the services your enterprise provides and the business polices under which your business operates. The call-taker must also know about the consumer in order to properly blend your business policies with the consumer’s requests. Therefore, they must have the ability to extract pertinent information from the consumer.

Understanding is similar to the good bedside manner needed by people in the medical profession. It will allow you to put the consumer at ease with regards to their situation, and assure consumers your business is the right business to use for their needs or requests.

Organization can only be achieved by an organized person. Organization makes the drudgery of work easier and more pleasant for everyone.

Follow through is the mark of a person who cares. And, it’s one of the signs of a job well-done.

Whether a one-person or multi-person enterprise, the phones should be answered quickly and calls should be addressed in the same manner by all who answer your phone. To this end, I suggest creating a form that will allow the phone conversation to flow easily. The following suggestions will make your job easier and less argumentative in the long run.

Regarding the phone caller

The form should include:
1. The date and time the call was received.
2. The caller’s name.
3. The caller’s status regarding the property. Are they the owner, tenant, or other? This will allow you to know if the caller has the authority to call for service.
4. Is the caller an existing client or new customer? This will allow you to know how specific you must be regarding your business policies. Existing clients do not necessarily want to listen to a litany of your business protocols because they are aware of those policies. However, a new customer should be told those policies to avoid arguments.
5. Question asking where the caller got your phone number for this call will help you track the best place to spend your advertising dollars.
6. The call-taker’s name.

Location for service

1. The address of the client.
2. The address of property for which service is requested, if different from client’s address.
3. Phone numbers for the client.
4. E-mail address will help you notify clients when future services are recommended.
5. Type of building for which service is requested. Is it a single or multi-family residence? Is it condo or co-op? Is it a commercial, industrial, or high-rise building? This information will allow you to realize there may be certain special ways the call must be handled.

Service requested

1. Type of service requested – plumbing, heating, cooling, or other.
2. Specific service requested.
3. When the caller first noticed the situation that prompted them to call. This will allow you to know whether it is truly an emergency, or if it can be scheduled for another day.

Explanation of your business policies

I wrote the following script points for anyone answering the phones in my PHC contracting business and we have been using it for years. It shows examples of policy issues you should consider informing the consumer about.

1. “We send a technician to visit the location for which you are requesting service.”
2. “We verbally give options and prices of services we can perform regarding your request, for your approval prior to rendering any service.”
3. “Since we incur costs sending someone to you, there is a minimum service call charge to you if a task is not performed at that visit for any reason.”
4. “During our regular business hours (explain your regular business hours) the minimum service call charge is $_________.” (Place an amount that will at least cover your average cost incurred for travel and speaking to client).
5. “After our regular business hours, the minimum service call charge is $_________.” (Place an amount that will at least cover your average cost incurred for travel and speaking to client).
6. “Task prices are higher than our minimum service call charge to you.”
7. “When a task is performed at that visit, we only charge you the prices you pre-approved and authorized for the task(s).”
8. “Payment is due at the time of the service call visit.”
9. “Payment can be made by _____.” (Inform the consumer of which type of payments you accept such as cash, credit cards— specify which ones—) checks, etc.)

Appointment section

1. The day, date, and specific timeframe agreed upon with the client.

Protocols

When you always utilize these phone protocols properly, your business will be seen as consistent. You will get through phone calls easier. You will be thorough. And, you will decrease the possibility of arguments after the work is performed.

Start utilizing proper phone protocols today and grow your business through cheeriness, knowledge, understanding, organization and the intent to follow the progress of the call to its next step – dispatching a technician who will address the consumer’s requests and your client’s satisfaction.

If you need help with this or any other contracting business issue, give me a call.

Richard P. DiToma is a contracting business consultant and active PHC contractor with over 41 years of experience in the PHC industry. To receive more info about his contracting business coaching, consultations, business books, seminars with solutions, customized price guides, business forms, etc., contact Richard by phone at 845/639-5050, email richardditoma@verizon.net, fax 845/639-6791or write R & G Profit-Ability Inc., P.O. Box 282, West Nyack, NY 10
- See more at: http://www.phcnews.com/nov_14/plumbing.php#sthash.j8gv0ZdT.dpuf
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