Mastering the Phone Conversation

October 27, 2017

As we’ve discussed in an earlier blog, the art of phone conversation seems to be dying. More and more, people have moved their personal lives into social media and text messaging with humorous memes and zany emoji. But while many people now have underdeveloped interpersonal conversation skills in their personal lives, an astounding amount of business is still done over-the-phone—some 80% of all incoming business communication by one estimate! As such, no business can afford to be weak in this area, especially when you consider how often they’re customers’ first point of contact.

First, let’s address a technical consideration before diving into the necessary skills: all businesses should have an answering machine. As much as 85% of callers will not call a business back, and if you don’t give those callers a chance to leave a message, most (if not all) of those calls will fall by the wayside. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s shockingly common problem in our experience helping our clients.



To begin, your employees should personalize their conversations by first offering their own names. This small human connection is fundamental to establishing the beginning of a rapport with potential new customers. But it doesn’t stop there: employees should always ask for customer names as well, so that they’re able to use them throughout the conversation. Businesses that don’t personalize their interactions with customers are effectively faceless and unmemorable. This is perhaps the easiest way to stand out in the crowd.


Employees need to make sure they hear callers out to better understand their needs. Phone calls already deprive of people of seeing body language and hearing subtle inflections in voice—don’t exacerbate potential misunderstanding by trying to talk over the caller, or by guessing what they’re talking about without letting them finish. To really demonstrate understanding, you should repeat back what the customer’s asking about in your own words. Listening demonstrates courtesy.

Encourage Them to Visit

Unless your business has no brick-and-mortar presence, you’ll want callers to visit your location so that your employees can form stronger, face-to-face connections. Putting products or services in front of customers offers the greatest chance of success. Even the best salesperson can only describe with words in a phone call—nothing beats experiencing these things in person because putting a product in a customer’s hands allows them to unconsciously form an ownership connection with that item. This is precisely why high-end tech brands like Apple, Microsoft, and Google now have retail stores. Pictures on a webpage are superficial.

Don’t Talk Price

We heard a great example from a gym employee recently. One of our mystery phone shoppers called his location to ask him what memberships cost, and he was quick to suggest that she visit to see what they have to offer. Prices, after all, would vary based on what she was looking for, that their product was custom tailored to each person. He added, “You wouldn’t buy a car over the phone without looking at it first. Come on down and let me give you a tour.” If he had just listed prices off a sheet, he would only be competing on price instead of value. Build that value before talking dollars and cents.


If you’re trying to get a caller to visit, make sure you get them to commit to a date and time. It’s not good enough to simply say, “We hope to see you”! Without that appointment, the customer could just as easily forget about stopping by. But even if the customer hasn’t committed to visit, asking for a callback number is paramount to keeping that connection going. Find a good reason for asking it—promise to look up some piece of information and get back to the caller. Don’t let your opportunity be one-and-done. This effort will demonstrate to callers that you want their business.

Most of All, Smile

Even though body language is lost on a call, you’d be surprised to know how well people can “hear” smiles. Enthusiasm and decorum go a long way to ensuring that caller transforms into a customer. Truth be told, even if an employee did everything else right but still came off as arrogant, flippant, or annoyed, he’ll just manage to scare the caller away. Every employee must remember that he serves at the pleasure of the customer—failing that, he will have no customers.


Just imagine flipping an additional 5% of callers into customers. Wouldn’t that be transformative to your business’s bottom line? To that end, you’ll find no better tool to measure employee phone performance than mystery phone shopping. Recordings and typed audits will allow you to keep your high standards up and identify where training is needed most. Reach out to us at The Brandt Group today to learn more.

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