A long, long time ago in an article far, far away, I introduced the concept of the ‘Communications Hierarchy’ which inscribed certain degrees of emotional commitment to each form of contemporary communication, ranging from group emails and direct messages to conference calls and face-to-face meetings. What was made readily apparent was that the more intimate the form of communication, the better it was for securing business and building rapport.
If it isn’t obvious from the title, you should know that I am a staunch proponent of talking to clients and customers over the phone. Yes, email and text messages are often significantly faster, but the written word (outside of novelistic expressions) will always fail to grasp the full inflection, subtle cues, mannerisms and hidden desires of the opposite party. Importantly, the 21st century has seen the proliferation of these digital forms of communication, therein making phone calls rarer by comparison.
And this presents an opportunity for you. The more atypical voice channels become, the more their use stands to separate you from the pack, whether it’s a direct sales call, connecting with a reservationist or following up on a service request. Their relative scarcity nowadays will make people feel validated, especially if you work tactfully to develop a rapport.
While in-person conversations are still the foremost way to reach a meeting of the minds, the telephone is the next best thing. Hearing customers speak will allow you to learn things about them that electronic messaging channels can never provide. This as well as other abovementioned reasons explain why voice reservations have the highest satisfaction rate still to this day.
But in order to have voice channels perform optimally, here are a few suggestions:
- Timing is everything. You must train staff to judge the best time of day to call and to not be annoying in this regard. Calls first thing in the morning will be dismissed in favor of organizing one’s day, whereas calls during dinnertime are considered as particularly rude. Frequency is likewise to be kept at a minimum.
- Inquire about the best time. People are always busy, or at least they’ll say they have more pressing matters to attend to. No worries; simply ask them when is a more appropriate point for a chat and try to firm up a specific time.
- Voice mail is your elevator pitch. In a large number of cases, your first call will get the answering machine. Do not despair; this is your time to shine. Have a prepared speech ready and practiced that is personable and delivered with candor. Don’t overstay your welcome either; keep it under 30 seconds.
- Call then email then call again. Rather than sound off the elevator pitch when you hit voice mail, send off with an email stating that you will call again at a certain time, keeping the ball in your court while being firm yet respectful with your follow up.
- Ending with a new age marketing term, this describes the process of pursuing inbound calls that don’t result in direct sales. While you don’t want to be an interloper, persistence is nevertheless a virtue. If you are forthright and earnest when returning an inbound call, you stand a much better chance of converting it into a sale.
I hope these tips illustrate how viable the voice channel can be if you use it correctly. After all, hospitality is still about people connecting with other people, and in this age where texting is the norm and it’s hip to be retro-chic, picking up the telephone is now more lucrative than ever.
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky. Published by HotelsMag on January 22,2016)