5 Trends in How Covid-19 Is Changing Business Phone Calls
In response to Covid-19, brands are adapting their services, offering different products and deals, and introducing new safety programs and processes. As business owners work as quickly as they can to implement these changes, finding time to train their teams for handling phone calls from stressed consumers can be challenging.
Even if a business isn’t fully open, understanding the changes in today’s consumer behavior and expectations can help in planning as talk begins about a recovery. Training for the new normal will require abandoning assumptions, while building new skills calibrated to today’s changing caller needs.
With data from ServiceScore performance reporting from thousands of incoming phone calls to franchise brands across the country, we’re sharing 5 trends – and the skills that front-line team members can use to build trusting connections with callers.
1. Call volume is lower, but quality is high
If someone is calling a business these days, they have an urgent need. With companies changing their hours, services, and ways of doing business, many consumers find themselves seeking new providers, which can be the start of a new customer relationship with your brand.
How to help
- To understand what callers value most, ask them about their needs. With first-time callers, take a moment to explain how your business serves customers. Let them know what information you need from them to best respond to their reason for calling.
- It’s more important than ever to ask the caller to take the next step. Front-line team members can’t assume that callers know how the business works with customers if they’re calling for the first time.
2. Price sensitivity is higher
With family budgets strained by the economic shutdown, customers today are more concerned than ever about price. They’re asking about fees and other costs for the service – and trying to negotiate those away.
How to help
- Share how your business is adding more value at this time. Some brands are suspending certain fees and offering financing. Services are being added such as phone or virtual diagnostics and pick-up and drop-off.
- More than ever, it’s important to share the unique value of what you do. This is especially true if your differentiators have changed as your products and service delivery have changed as a result of the coronavirus.
3. Safety and health are top of mind
Callers are asking how they can safely do what they need to do. They want to know that if they take time to carefully conduct necessary business that they’re not putting their heath, or the health of others, at risk.
How to help
- Brands having the most success in this area are sharing what they’re doing for customer safety by weaving this information into phone calls. Quotes or estimates might be conducted virtually instead in-person, for example. The important thing is to make sure to mention it on the call. This helps callers understand how they might have to plan differently, and it shows that your business cares about them.
4. People are stressed
We’re seeing a wider variance in the length of calls – some are much shorter and some much longer. Shorter calls typically involve someone looking to move quickly – a fast quote or a quick question. Longer calls are often from someone who finds new value in being able to talk to someone – anyone, especially if it’s a friendly, helpful, reassuring voice. Often a call to a business might be the only person they interact with all day – and they suddenly find a bit of joy in the human connection as part of taking care of their business reason for calling.
How to help
- Be ready for both shorter and longer calls and “meet the caller where they are.” If your team has embraced DiSC profiling in selling, they’ll know that one’s adapted style changes based on the situation or environment. DiSC is all about how people approach tasks and people, and at what speed. Today, there are new opportunities to connect using these skills.
- Kindness and courtesy are more important than ever right now. Answering the phone with a name and sincere offer to help, asking how the caller is doing today, and being sure to say thank-you all go a very long way, especially when many of us feel a bit fragile nowadays.
5. “Phone first” is back
People of a certain age will remember the “Phone First” slogan from Yellow Pages advertising of yesteryear. It was all about avoiding unpleasant surprises by calling a business to check on store hours, directions, or product availability before jumping in the car. Google changed this, of course, but in this time of Covid-19, with many businesses changing hours, services, and running low on inventory, cautious consumers are learning that calling a business before leaving home is a smart move. Consumers also have a new reason to call: to make sure they’re going to be safe by learning what precautions they and the business should be taking to ensure their health.
How to help
- It’s critical that the team members answering calls have the most accurate, up-to-date information to share with callers. Changing hours, services, policies, and procedures make it tough to keep up.
- If someone is calling for your hours, go beyond just answering the question to being truly engaging – and securing an appointment or purchase whenever possible.
There’s no doubt that the way we interact with our favorite businesses has dramatically changed during this pandemic. Our reporting shows that what will not change is the value of a knowledgeable, sincere human connection on the other end of the line to help us get done what we need. Businesses that understand these trends will be building more trust, at in a time when it is valued most.
Jayson Pearle is President of ServiceScore, a company that helps franchised brands get the results they want from phone calls. By reviewing and scoring actual inquiry calls, ServiceScore delivers actionable reports along with strategic insights to help improve conversion rates, customer service, and marketing ROI. Call him at 414-436-0040.
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