Here’s why the humble phone call is still best for business communications

Are you reluctant to use the phone to communicate with customers? Many people fear being seen as one of ‘those annoying callers’, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most effective methods of communication for business.

You know the sorts of call I mean: untargeted conversations about solar panels, or building a website, or changing energy plans and everything in between.

But just because the telephone is being used ineffectively by some companies does not mean it’s a tool to be ignored.

In fact, when communicating with your customers, sometimes the phone is indeed the best communication channel for the job.

Here are five examples.


1. Handling customer complaints


It can be difficult to communicate your sincerity over a short text message or instant message.

When customers feel aggrieved they’re usually waiting for someone to call them. So, by picking up the phone you meet expectations and offer your customer the experience of being heard.

You may also avoid the mounting anger that can occur through emails by being able to answer questions and provide explanations on the spot.

And it’s easier to communicate empathy over the phone than in writing.

So while business owners often prefer to send emails to deal with upset customers, it’s worth weighing up the convenience offered by email with the fact that a prompt phone call can diffuse most situations quickly and rebuild trust fast.


2. When you need a quick response


Sometimes in business you just need a quick yes or a no to a question to be able to proceed.

The phone is ideal in this situation; it’s quick for the customer and quick for you.

An email marked ‘urgent’ may not get read for a few hours, whereas an urgent phone call will likely get the message through on time.


3. When you need to get paid


Chasing money is about as popular with business owners as cold calling. But it’s a vital part of business.

If you don’t chase, you don’t get paid. It’s that simple.

There are lots of reasons why people aren’t paying your invoices. Rarely is it because they don’t want to pay you.

Your electronic invoice may have gone unnoticed or ended up in the wrong folder, funds may be tight for your customer this month or they’ve simply forgotten to pay.

READ: New invoicing tech is helping to reclaim Mondays

Getting on the phone and having a conversation can get money moving back into your business. You’ve the opportunity to find out what’s happened, negotiate terms if required and discover if there’s a reason behind lack of payment.

Better than that, you’ll make a personal connection and it’s much harder to say ‘no’ to a person than it is to an email.

If you already outsource this task to another staff member or agency and it’s not working, try making the call yourself.


4. When email and other forms of communication aren’t working


Like most people, business owners are creatures of habit. We have our way of communicating with customers and suppliers that suits us and we will default to that method.

How many times have you heard someone say: “I’ve already sent five emails to this person and they are just not responding”? Maybe email is just not the customer’s preferred method of communicating.

Not everyone can type, spell or even likes communicating through writing. And it’s amazing how switching the communication method can draw a different response.


5. When you need to close the deal


Standing in the face of rejection is tough for everyone. That’s why we often hide behind email when following up quotes.

The problem with email in this scenario is you lose the opportunity to negotiate, overcome objections and get a sense of whether it’s a ‘no’, a ‘not now’ or a ‘yes’.

READ: Should you cold call or cold email?

A conversation over the phone allows you to gain clarity around which leads are going to become customers.

Finally, here are four tips for using the phone:

  1. Always ask for a specific person, not a department
  2. Ask if now is a convenient time for your call. If it’s not, then ask when might be more appropriate
  3. Advise how long the call will take. If it’s five minutes then make sure it’s five minutes
  4. Ensure you’ve a clear line and good reception. The power of phone calls goes out the window when the service fails.

It’s strange that, in a world where everyone carries their own mobile phone, we can be so reluctant to use it with our customers. So I recommend we all just pick up the phone and use it – you may be delighted at the results.

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