When someone calls your small business on the phone, what happens? Who answers? What does he or she say? If you’ve never thought about this before, it’s time to make a plan. In this episode of A Drink With the Hurricane, I talk about the importance of having a system in place so that everyone in your company answers the phone the proper way.

Who handles inquiry management for your home care agency?

“Inquiry management” is the fancy way to describe the act of answering the telephone on behalf of your company. You should have a specific phone process in place that everyone who works for you knows and masters. This is a topic that I’ll cover in-depth at our next boot camp event.

How do you answer your phone?
What’s the first thing that gives someone an impression of your company when they call? It’s the way that someone answers the phone on your end.

You never know who could be calling your business. It might be a prospective client or a referral source. How you answer the phone means everything.

There are different styles for phone greetings, but not all are appropriate for a home care agency. Some people just say, “Hello?” Others say, “Can I help you?” Still others, believe it or not, don’t even answer the phone! I’ve found this to be the case even among my own clients, and I’ve yelled at them about this. You should know better. Phones were meant to be answered, especially in the service industry.

Some companies have automated recordings answering the phones with a message saying something like: “Thank you for calling John Doe’s Home Care. Someone will be with you shortly. If you are a caregiver, press 1. If you are a future potential client press, 2.” This is unacceptable! You run a people business, so a real person should answer the phone.

Why should someone choose your agency over another one? In the home care industry, it’s all about the human touch and human relationships. Potential clients reach out to local businesses like yours to make human connections. If you have an automated message instead of a live person on the other end, you’re no better than the dot-coms out there, which are all automated and impersonal.

A proper greeting
If you call my office, anyone who answers the phone will say something like: “Thank you for calling Hurricane Marketing Enterprises. This is Jennifer. How can I help you?”

Every single person in my company answers the phone this way. Even I do. It’s a short, succinct greeting that doesn’t take more than 3 or 4 seconds to say, but it gives people who call the right impression. It’s a real person who identifies himself or herself. The person says the name of my company and asks how he or she can help. It’s so simple, yet so few people do this.

Uniformity and standardization
When someone calls, we don’t know who it will be, but we answer this way because that’s how you’re supposed to answer the phone when you’re a professional establishment. The person who’s calling is seeking services from a professional, so you want to sound professional. The very first step is answering the phone in a professional manner.

If you’re reading this and scratching your head, thinking that you honestly have no idea how the people in your office answer the phone, there’s a really easy way to find out how people answer your phones: Call your office right now and see what happens.

If your office phones have caller ID and you want to get the full experience of calling as if you were a stranger, call from someone else’s number. Call from a referral service. But make that call. It’s important to find out how people are representing your company to anyone who phones in.

I hope that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you hear on the other end. If you aren’t, have your employees read this blog post and watch my video, then come up with a greeting for you and your business.

For more tips about talking to clients and referrals on the phone, sign up for our upcoming boot camp. We’ll be talking at length about inquiry management and phone etiquette. You’ll learn all the phone skills that you and your employees will need to Blow Away The Competition!