Proper telephone etiquette for business owners

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by Tom Watson on March 12, 2017

As most everyone knows, my goal is to get you to run the best cleaning business possible. Some tips I share make a big difference and some are smaller details that help you fine tune your business.

This post deals with a smaller detail that falls under the fine tune category, but it’s important nonetheless. It deals with how you approach all phone calls you make. I want to get you thinking a little differently about how you intrude into someones life when making a call of any kind.

But first, I’ll take a step back and look at what happens when you meet someone in person. Let’s say you are meeting a potential customer for the first time just to set the stage. When this happens you say your hello’s, make a little small talk then get down to business.

That is how conversations that are ‘face to face” play out, and that is how they are supposed to work. But far too many times when people make phone calls the situation plays out much differently.

People tend to not have the best phone manners when making calls. What I mean by that is when you are face to face, it’s easy to recognize whether or not you are interrupting something important because you can see whats going on. For instance you wouldn’t just barge up to someone and interrupt a conversation they were having, as that would be rude.

But when you make a phone call, you don’t really know what’s going on inside that person’s home or business. You can’t see anything at all. They could be making dinner, having company, be on another line, dealing with a vendor or any number of things. We just don’t know.

And this is why you need to view your calls as intrusions in a sense. You, by picking up that phone and calling them are just “barging into their life”. You are interrupting whatever they are doing. So this leads me to share with you how to ask the one question that should be asked by you whenever you make a call. It’s real simple and it goes like this…

When you make a call and the person you are calling answers, simply identify yourself then ask “Is this a good time to call?”. So in real life it goes like this… Pretend for a moment I need to call Mrs Smith, and she answers…

“Hi Mrs Smith, this is Tom Watson from Quality Cleaning Service calling about your service”. She will probably say “oh hello” or something similar… then you ask her “Is this a good time to call?”.

When you do that you are asking for permission to interrupt their life. Remember… you have no idea what she was doing just before she picked up the phone. She may have been walking out the door for an appointment that she is late for and stopped to pick up the phone. Or she could have been in the middle of making a big family dinner for all you know. You simply don’t know.

So by asking that one question… it gives the person on the other end the chance to decide whether or not to let you proceed. Most times they will say “yes, now is a good time”. When they do… perfect, you’ve been invited into their life. But the goal is to ask first, as that is the polite way of doing things. You don’t want to barge in!

Now sometimes they respond to your question by saying something like, “Well I’m kind busy right now, but how can I help you?” When they respond in that manner they are giving you “partial access”. They are not swinging the front door wide open and asking you to come in, instead they are saying, “you can stand on the porch and ask me a question, but that’s it”.

When that happens it’s a clue that you better get to the point and not waste their time. But that’s OK, as least you know where you stand. Now sometimes they will simply say “you know Tom, could you call me back in an hour, I’m in the middle of something”.

When that happens everyone wins. You get to call them back at a better time and you were very polite by asking if they had a moment to spend with you. So the moral here is to be aware of how much of an intrusion a phone call can be. And the added bonus is that you get extra points with the customer for being so darn polite. It’s a win-win scenario!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Agrinet Mothibi March 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

Hello Tom, thank you for the work you are doing for us…..I’m having a trouble with a realtor agent that I’m working with,she is a none payer.she pays after two or three months and even so I have to drag the payment out of her……how do I go about handling this? I think my mistake is not drafting a contract from the first place…..

2 Tom Watson March 19, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I don’t have a great answer for you. I would just just stop working for her.

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