Is Your Telephone Working For You?

For years, I've talked about how much business you could gain (or lose) from incoming calls. The person who's answering your phone is quarterbacking your business. You might spend a ton of money on advertising, but that interested customer is very apt to make a decision to purchase or not to purchase strictly based upon the way he or she is treated on the phone.
But, over the years, the statistics have not changed. About 78% of the time, no one asks for the caller's name, and 55% of the time, no attempt is made to get a sale or to get the caller into the place of business.

Phone research
Last week, I experienced first-hand how nothing has really changed. It was snowing outside, and I didn't feel like leaving the house. So, while the snow was turning into a virtual blizzard, I wanted to do three things: (1) Get some quotes on building/installing a sunroom onto the back of my house; (2) get some prices on buying a new furnace, dehumidifier and air conditioning system; and (3) get information about gas fireplaces so I can put one on the back porch. I let my fingers do the walking. Okay, okay, so these are not kitchen and bath dealerships. I think you'll get the point.

I asked the first company I called about patio enclosures. This is a company that spends thousands of dollars each week advertising on television. The gentleman who answered the phone told me there was no one around, sounded like he was in a hurry, and suggested I call back the next day. He never asked for my name, and he didn't give me any information.

So, I called another company from the Yellow Pages. The person who answered told me his name, and asked for mine. He asked for as much information as I could provide, gave me an approximate quote over the phone, and asked if he could come over to give me an exact estimate. He came over, and I spent $13,000 with his company. I never called the first place back. So much for TV advertising.

Next, I called around about furnaces. This was something else. Out of four places I tried, two treated me like an intrusion on their day, one was actually mean when I said I was calling around for estimates, and one very nice person gave me only a very rough estimate. The last person said he could come over the next day for an exact figure, and told me about the various types of furnaces the company sells, and why one is better than the next. He asked for my name and where I live. I told him. He came over. I spent $4,000. I wonder if those other three places knew how much money they were losing over the phone.

Gas fireplaces were a lesson in futility. I called three places. Nobody asked for my name, and no one tried to get me into their dealership. None of them had "customer service hours."
Here is an actual conversation from one of the places I called:

Me: Hi there. Do you carry gas fireplaces?
Them: Whatcha need?
Me: I need a small unit for my sunroom.
Them: C'mon down.
Me: How much do they run?
Them: The prices are all over the lot.
Me: Are you there tonight?
Them: No, we close at 5:30.
Me: Are there any nights that you're open?
Them: No.
Me: Why?
Them: Because there are only three of us here, and we put in too much time as it is.
Me: I think I'll go someplace else that's more customer oriented.
Them: Do what you want, pal.

That was the conversation, almost word for word. If the company had asked for my name, and tried to get me in, even on Saturday morning, I probably would have gone in. Instead, I'm having a contractor make the decision for me, and spending a couple of thousand dollars on his choice, which I will make sure is not from the place I called.

being Familiar
All of these calls reminded me of when I made the decision to remodel my kitchen last year. I called four dealerships on the phone for information.

One told me they were very busy, but I could have a new kitchen in three to four months because they had a large workload at that time. That firm didn't really have a huge interest in doing business with me. One told me about all the lines the dealer carried, gave me some rough estimates, but never tried to set up an appointment. Another said that "the kitchen guy is out right now, can you call back?"

Not one kitchen and bath dealer asked for my name.

I finally went with a local contractor I knew. Price was not that much of an issue, and I had the contractor pick out the kitchen. I just wanted to feel like someone had an interest in me.
It's simple. Remember the theme from the television show "Cheers"? You want to go "where everybody knows your name." Well, to be able to call a customer by his or her name, you have to ask for it first.

Businesses, including kitchen and bath showrooms, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on Yellow Pages advertising, TV and radio spots, and newspaper ads. Then, a customer calls to ask for information about a new bathroom or kitchen, only to be blown off by someone on the phone who doesn't care if the customer comes in or if an appointment is set up or not. It doesn't make sense.

Break the cycle. Start by asking for the name of the caller so you can establish a possible prospect. Offer to send them a brochure on one of your kitchen or bath lines so you can get an address with which to follow up. Then, try to get the caller to come in and meet you personally.

It isn't brain surgery. But if it's so easy, why do only 22% of kitchen and bath dealers do it? Beats me.

Do a little soul searching yourself. How do you handle incoming calls? How about the other people at your dealership? They're quarterbacking your kitchen and bath firm every time the phone rings. Are they NFL quality, or are they second-string high school caliber?

And how about yourself? Did you get the name of the last person who called? Did you try to get him or her in to meet you? Did you get a name and try to set up an appointment? Did you try to get a phone number or address?

If you answered no, then it might be the right time to take your phone skills up a notch..