How badly do you want to hang up? You’re talking to “that customer” and they want to tell you their life story and talk and talk but meanwhile you just want to get stuff done. How is it that they can’t tell how much you just want to hang up on them?
Now the other side. You want to share all the details of your situation with the people who sold you that whatchamacallit and you paid good money for it so they should just listen. But it’s really clear that they want to hang up on you. You’ll never shop there again. And you won’t tell your friends to go there.
As much as I’m no fan of talking on the phone, sometimes it’s a necessary part of our lives. And we all know that there are some people we’d much rather talk to than others, obviously.
Listening in on others phone conversations (no, I don’t have a wire tap) I’ve noticed that just about everybody is considerably more pleasant to the people who call their business when they’re old friends than they are to complete strangers. But a stranger is really more of a friend you just haven’t made yet.
Think about that. Your best friend, at one point in your life, was just another stranger out there in the cold, cruel world. You didn’t know them from Adam (or Eve). Yet if they were to call you today you’d have a very different tone to your conversation than you would if a customer called, most likely.
But think about this. What if you took the same tone with your customers on the phone as you did with your best friend? Or your grandmother? Imagine what the customers would think? What if you thought of a question you could ask them on the phone that wasn’t just run of the mill? What if, instead of something like “how’s your day going” you asked them “where was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?” Or switch it up. “What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever tasted?”
I’ve been trying this in limited doses at my own work and it’s taken on like gangbusters. People are initially shocked by these weird questions that replace “how are you” or “how can I help you” and the conversations are really, really interesting.
On the flip side, it helps me to remember them, too. So far I’ve had people who’ve tasted monkey (ew) and several escargot samplers.
We, as Americans, have gotten stuck in a rut with the question “how are you doing” when, truthfully, we kind of don’t really care. I mean, yeah, we don’t want people doing badly but it’s also just an alternative to “hello.”
There are several places I go to where talking to them on the phone is just painful. Despite the fact that I’m asking things like whether they have something in inventory or when I can make an appointment to spend a bunch of money there their answers are curt, short and make me think they just don’t care. They probably don’t.
So here’s the takeaway from this week. Maybe print out a picture of your best friend, or your grandmother, or someone else you love talking to on the phone. Then put it next to your phone. When you talk to your customers take a look at that photograph and try to treat them more like that person you really enjoy talking to than, well, an interruption of your day.
You might find that you actually enjoy talking to people on the phone more and they enjoy talking to you more. And if they enjoy talking to you more, perhaps they might be willing to spend more money!
Oh, and where’s the best vacation you ever went on?