Lately, I have been discussing the importance of first impressions. As professionals in the field of senior care services and elder care marketing, we should always be mindful of the old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your receptionist who greets guests entering a senior living community could be the one who determines whether or not a customer receives a positive first impression. When I recently described a receptionist’s role as being the “Vice President of First Impressions,” I was not merely speaking about the job of greeting people face to face. Often times before most potential clients enter your door, they have made an inquiry over the phone. It is crucial that these phone calls generate a positive first impression of your company.
Basic phone etiquette skills are still important for all of us today—even with the many advances in technology and social media. Here are some simple tips to share with your co-workers:
Rule Number One: Be polite, friendly and calm when answering the phone. Always try to answer the phone promptly. This may sound like mundane advice, but just think about how many times you personally have had a negative reaction because the person on the other end of the phone answered in a rude voice or seemed too busy to help you. Now, imagine that the customer on the phone–your customer– is someone who urgently needs to find new living arrangements or services for themselves or an elderly parent who has immediate needs. These customers may be in crisis mode. They are seeking someone who can both provide immediate help or information, as well as demonstrate compassion. You and your fellow staff must be eager to assist them from their very first telephone contact.
Rule Number Two: Make sure to take down a potential client’s correct name and phone number, as well as the reason for the call. This rule has become even more important with the occurrence of dropped calls on cell phones. If you do get disconnected, make sure to call back as soon as possible. Any time lost in the interim may allow the customer to contact your competition.
Rule Number Three: Tell the customer your name as well as the name of person they are being transferred to. If you are connecting them to someone with a different phone number, make sure you give them this number too. This will help if you get disconnected and will also demonstrate your concern and willingness to assist the customer. If the transferred party is not available, promptly return to the caller to take a message.
Rule Number Four: Check your voicemail messages frequently and throughout the day. Many of your customers are calling about pressing concerns and waiting 24-hours in your voicemail is too long. Responding in a timely fashion could make all the difference for both the caller and you.
Personally, I advocate a “no voicemail policy” with all inquiry or admission phone calls. However, if calls do go into voicemail, check your phone at regular intervals during the day. If you are using a voicemail system, select one that alerts you that a call is waiting in your voicemail so it can be returned immediately.
There is no doubt that we all need to possess basic phone etiquette skills. Just ask any customer service specialist from a call center on any continent who trains employees. (For those of you who have seen the highly acclaimed movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, you will know exactly what I am talking about–especially about seniors!) In today’s global community, the need for phone etiquette still “rings” true. Our first impressions could hold the key to our success.
Marla Levie, BSW, MA, President and Founder of Focus on Aging, has successfully been providing marketing consulting, social media and recruiting services to the elder care market and to other service-related professions in the Chicago area for over 20 years. Use the contact tab to email Marla for additional information about her services.