Between email, social media and chat services, there are a variety of ways for your customers to reach your small construction business. But it may come as a surprise that 48 pecent of new customers prefer a phone call as the first point of contact for a local business. Though many of us may shy away from phone calls in favor of text messages in our personal lives, professional phone etiquette remains a vital skill for all small businesses—especially those seeking to forge valuable new business connections.
In a recent survey, only 21 percent of customers reported being satisfied by telephone interactions with constructions firms, making construction the sector of the survey with the most room for improvement. As a construction business, it’s important to stay on top of new client relationships and even existing projects with exemplary phone etiquette. Whether you have a dedicated receptionist, or answering your business phone is a shared responsibility, every time your phone rings, it could be a new business opportunity. From the first ring until the end of the call, there are a few simple ways that your construction business can make every phone call count.
1. Make your phone number easy to find. Make sure your number is visible on every page of your website, and consider making your website more mobile friendly by using tap-to-call links for smartphone users. Your customers will naturally have questions about your services, experiences and rates, so make it easy for them to get personalized answers when the time comes.
2. Take it one step further by making sure your phone number is easily accessible—and correct—wherever your business name appears, including online directories such as Google Maps and Yelp. When your business’s phone number appears in search results, it’s even easier for your potential customers to make that all-important first call.
3. You may find yourself asking, “My phone number is visible, but is it memorable?” Many businesses turn to vanity phone numbers to make them more memorable to their customers. Vanity numbers associate your business’s phone numbers with the telephonic alphabet that appears on our keypads. Think catchy soundbites that speak to your unique business, like 1-800-FLOWERS.
4. Be reachable. Once you’re certain that your business number is easily accessible, make sure that there is a human presence addressing callers during your business hours. For every caller who is sent to voicemail, your business risks losing an untold number of callers who may hang up and move on when greeted by an automated voicemail system.
5. A customer-facing phone greeting is comprised of three parts: a salutation, your company name and an offer of assistance. While “hello” works well when answering a personal call, try treating your customers to an enthusiastic greeting like “good morning” or “good afternoon.” When spread across time zones, “thank you for calling” always gets a customer call off to the right start. Follow the greeting of your choice by identifying your business by name. Stating your business’s name when answering the phone is professional in any setting, but it’s especially important to communicate to potential new customers that they’re speaking with the right person. In fact, small construction businesses can go the extra mile by punctuating their telephone greeting with an offer of assistance. Smooth over any initial awkwardness by cutting to the chase and addressing your customer’s needs. “How many I help you today?” or “How may I assist you?” are short, sweet phrases that put the focus on your customer’s reason for calling. In total, your business’s standard telephone greeting should sound something like, “Good afternoon! ABC Construction. How may I help you today?” or “Thank you for calling ABC Construction. How may I assist you?” Whether you’re speaking to a new business inquiry or a returning customer, a three-part telephone greeting will get every business call off to the right start.
6. When it comes to answering your customer’s questions over the phone, it’s important to answer with confidence—even when you need to put your caller on hold. Infuse your answer with positivity and let your calling know you’re finding the best answer to their question with simple phrases like, “I’d be happy to find out! May I place you on hold?” In concept, nobody likes to be put on hold. But, when used well, placing a caller on hold gives you the opportunity to fully answer their question with confidence. For more complex queries, offer to call back or the put them in contact with the person who is most capable of answering their question. You and your customer will appreciate the time saved by ensuring you have the complete answer ready. Keep a phrase like, “Great question! I’ll find the best person to answer it and have them return your call. May I have your telephone number?” or “He keeps his own schedule, but I’ll be sure to have him return your call as soon as possible. May I have your telephone number?” at the ready for your most complex customer queries.
7. The location of the hold button is one of the first things you learn on your business’s phone system. But do you know how to put a caller on hold? When it comes to putting a customer on hold, it’s better to ask than tell. Ask your customer’s permission to press the hold button with a simple “May I put you on hold?” Of course, your caller may prefer to stay on the line. If that’s the case, stay on the line and communicate how it is you’re addressing their question or ask how their day is going. A hold button is a valuable tool for small businesses, but only when used correctly.
8. Incorporate politeness into your phone etiquette with a few key phrases. While there’s no shortcut for great phone etiquette, saying “please” and “you’re welcome” will go a long way. Phrases like “my pleasure,” “may I,” and “I’d be happy to … ” make a conversation feel balanced, pleasant and natural—especially when it’s your customer’s first point of contact with your business.
9. Be sure to smile when speaking over the phone. You may have heard this piece of advice before, but did you know that you can hear a smile over the phone? Callers will be able to hear the warmth in your voice, and you may find yourself feeling more positive. No one else can truly anticipate all of your business’s unique needs, but a smile is an important first step to keeping the conversation upbeat.
10. When the conversation is winding down, reverse our three-stage greeting for a professional sign off. Be sure that you’ve addressed your customer’s reason for calling by asking if there’s anything else they may need help with. Once the conversation is at a close, thank your caller for reaching out! They’re expressing an interest in your business, so regardless of how the call ends, be sure to thank them for their time. Your final exchange for every call will sound something like, “Is there anything else I can help you with today? Thank you for calling ABC Construction. Have a great day!”
While a myriad of communication channels feed your small business sales funnel, it’s important to remember that for nearly half of all new customers, a phone call is an integral first stage in your sales funnel. As a small construction business, your telephone etiquette is an opportunity to extend your professional courtesy and outshine the competition. Be sure to share these ten tips with anyone who may answer the phone on behalf of your business.