How Are Customers Treated When They Call Your Business?

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customers treated

Is your small business paying enough attention to incoming calls?

Today, with so much focus on social media, email and online marketing, it’s easy to believe that providing customer service through live chat is all you need to do, or that customers are content to contact you by email and wait to hear back from you.

In reality, human behavior hasn’t changed – just the technology.

When customers are frustrated about something, have questions about your product or service, or are ready to buy, their first instinct is often to pick up the phone and call your business. In other words, customers who take the trouble to call you are primed – to buy, to vent, to ask questions.

What’s more, if your business is involved in any kind of inbound marketing program – whether using SEO, click-to-call buttons on your website or in your ads – you’re spending good money to generate those calls from interested customers.

How callers are treated can make all the difference in whether they move to the next stage in the purchasing process, get over their anger, actually make a purchase…or get turned off of your company forever.

So how are customers and prospects treated when they call your business? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Do They Get Through Right Away?

Set standards for employees to answer the phone on the second ring (third ring at the absolute latest). Make sure all employees—not just the receptionist or office manager—know it’s their responsibility to answer the phone if necessary.

Are They Greeted Pleasantly?

Do the employees who answer your phone sound excited to talk to customers—or like it’s an interruption in their busy day? Remember, customers are the ones who pay your bills, and they have plenty of options to go elsewhere.

Do Employees Have the Tools They Need to Help Customers?

Internal FAQ lists can help employees quickly find answers to questions customers may have. Make sure all employees know how to transfer calls to the proper person.

When Customers are on Hold, Can They Tell?

There’s nothing worse than being put on hold and hearing dead silence, so you don’t know if you’ve been cut off or should continue to wait. Use on-hold messages or music so customers know what’s going on.

Are Calls Returned Within a Reasonable Time?

The faster you can respond to a customer’s inquiry, the more likely you are to make a sale. If you can’t answer all calls, strive to return all calls within 30 minutes—yes, 30 minutes—for best results. Outgoing voice mail messages should state how quickly customers can expect their calls to be returned.

By paying as much attention to incoming calls as you do to your social media outreach, you’ll rapidly see results—and increased sales.

Phone Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

8 Reactions
  1. Well the topic holds more importance under the current scenario, where retaining a customer in the long run of business is truly crucial. Every customer needs to be handled with good care & their dignity needs to be maintained while conversing with them. Also customer representative needs to be given proper training in handling customers.

  2. Getting through is a problem I have encountered in most businesses. Sure, they tell us that our call is important to them but I don’t see that it is important if they don’t answer it. It is definitely hard to keep up with a lot of customers but it must be done if you want to have some regular clients.

  3. I like calls where, if I’m in a queue, I’m told how long my wait time is, or i’m offered an option for someone to call me back. I hate waiting for longer than a couple of minutes without knowing how long I will be.

    • Martin Lindeskog

      It is a bit “interesting” that phone companies often have a long queue and you have to wait 15-20 minutes. I have now learned the trick to press the option “personal assistance” and then you could be treated in a fair way.

      • Why do you find it “interesting”, Martin? You think there’s a motive?

        What’s the “personal assistance” option? Over here, for some companies, it’s dial 0 to speak to a customer service assistant (not always an option), but then there can sometimes be a wait for that too once you do!

  4. I agree with Aira but our agency has gone a step further. In our office we don’t have extension numbers or anything but we have multiple incoming lines. Not only do we pick up our calls on the first and usually by the 2nd ring but the owners have gone so far as making sure our phone system has NO voice mail. That is a sure way to lose a good number of callers because when someone is calling it’s because they want to talk to somebody right now not later. Some days our phones are busier than others and if we can’t help the customer on the spot because we’re too busy we get the details & let them know when we’ll get back to them – usually within the same day depending on type of request. I think the no voice-mail option is a good practice at least for a smaller agency. We all know only too well just how annoying it is when we call a supplier and get a voice mail or are told that the wait is going to be a half hour or more, so it only stands to reason that our customers would feel the same way and in being sympathetic to that I think we’ve done a pretty good job of addressing it.

    • I think it’s great you pick up the phone so quickly. As a small business, how do you manage to juggle answering calls on a first/second ring while trying to fulfill the rest of your responsibilities?

  5. I would add, take ownership of the call. Treat the person like family and be determined to solve whatever issue they have.