Business and Operations
Marketing Insights: April-May 2016
Phone training 101
By Michelle Brisebois
It’s easy for us to forget that even though online ordering is growing, personal contact by phone is still the most popular way to order a pie. In the United States, there were 1.02 billion orders placed over the phone in 2015 versus 904 million placed online, according to NPD Group research.
If your workforce consists of younger people, this could pose some challenges for your business. Millennials are great with their phones – they tweet, post, text and take pictures with them. What they rarely do with them, however, is have a verbal conversation.
If half of your orders or more still come by phone, is your workforce ready to provide a great experience for your customers?
Communication by phone is going the way of the dodo bird. A study by the wireless industry association reports the time spent on the phone fell for several years from 2006 to 2012. The length of call decreased from an average of 3.03 minutes a day to 1.8 minutes. This decrease has been largely driven by millennials, who are more inclined to communicate visually than verbally. The important thing to remember is that many baby boomers still prefer to use the phone. If you mix this tendency with a workforce that doesn’t have a chance to develop and practise phone etiquette, it’s potentially going to hinder your ability to deliver stellar customer service and sales revenue.
There are interesting reasons for millennials’ reluctance to call people as opposed to texting them. Many millennials feel that calling someone is more intrusive than texting. Another theory is that millennials tend to be more direct in their communication – a style probably honed by texting, tweeting and posting daily to social media. These forums don’t allow for lengthy phone conversations.
A phone order potentially has benefits over an online order. It gives your team a chance to upsell, create a personal rapport and personalize service. A survey by SmartMoney.com discovered “15 per cent of customers actually want to hear about upsell offers, if done properly.” Try to guide your team towards an effective phone exchange with the customer. It won’t happen organically; this generation will need telephone training more than any before it.
Focusing on the following areas will help you develop a training program to enhance direct customer interaction by phone.
The most important first step is to ensure all team members who interact with customers know your products inside and out. Customers sometimes don’t realize that they actually want or need something different from what they’re trying to order. If your team knows the menu intimately and pays close attention to what the customer is saying, they can make suggestions for additional or different items. Role-play with your staff to help them develop a knack for identifying an opportunity.
For a generation used to direct and efficient communication without fluff (or often punctuation) to get in the way of sending a message, small talk may seem pointless and uncomfortable. Remind your employees that small talk does often have a point – to learn about the other person and then to use that information to fit them with products and services that solve a problem they have. Perhaps with this perspective, those goal-oriented millennials will embrace the process? The person in control of the conversation is the one asking the questions, so help them understand that they can help the customer by asking great questions. “I’m not sure what toppings to have,” a customer might say. “Are you in the mood for a hearty meal or would you prefer lighter fare?” would be an example of a probing response.
A verbal interaction with someone often requires note taking, but a generation used to already having notes documented in a text message or email may find the process quite foreign. Train your team to take notes while speaking to a customer to ensure orders are captured properly. If you have a strong point-of-sale system, then typing the notes while talking to the customer will likely be easier. Get a good headset for the phone so the receiver won’t be cradled between the ear and the shoulder with a crooked neck. Encourage staff to repeat back the order and delivery address to the customer to ensure they have been captured correctly. This step will cut down on confusion and missed deliveries.
These points may seem incredibly remedial if you were born before 1985, but that’s the point. Millennials are digital natives and there are many skills like baking bread from scratch and sewing one’s own clothes that were once commonplace, only to be relegated to hobby status as technology evolved. We’re in transition with two generations communicating via different channels and in different ways, and meeting each other halfway can result in great customer service.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.