I visited my doctor’s office recently. The office staff there is very friendly and we talk and joke all the time when I’m there. But on the phone, it’s a different story.
When I call, their greeting does include the name of the doctor, but not their own name. Sometimes I can tell by the voice who has answered the phone, but not always. When I give them my name, I am quite surprised (and a little taken aback) to receive stony silence, or maybe a simple “Hello” in return. No use of my name (“Hi, Sandy!”) – no offering of theirs.
Wait! Are these the same people with whom I constantly joke and laugh while I’m there in person?
The difference between their in-person demeanor and their telephone demeanor creates a situation that causes some discomfort in calling their office. It makes me wonder (albeit only for a very short time) if they even remember who I am. And while I feel very special when I’m in the office (it’s a real “WOW!”), I feel exceptionally UN-special when I talk to them on the phone (a real “OW!”).
This is exactly the kind of “disconnect” that can cost a business (especially a healthcare-related business where a personal connection is even more important) valuable customers.
When someone calls your office, what kind of greeting do they receive? Is it friendly? Informative? Polite, but distant? Does the greeter give their own name, as well as the name of the company? And if the caller is well-known to the organization, are they given the special treatment of someone who is well-known and well-liked and whose call is valued? Or are they offered the same distant treatment offered to strangers? For that matter, how are strangers treated? Do they feel welcome? Are they given a reason to feel good toward the company, which makes them want to deal with the company further? Or are they given every reason to hang up and find someone who actually welcomes their call – and their business?
Remember that on the telephone, all physical cues are absent, so there is no way to make up for a distant tone of voice with a smile or direct eye contact that lets them know you’re engaged with them and happy to hear from them (whether they are currently known to you or not). If your tone of voice does not make up for the absence of physical body language cues, you may as well either ignore their call (the equivalent of ignoring them when they’re standing in front of your desk) or tell them you don’t have time for them right now (or that they’re bothering you) – because that’s the impression you could be giving with your tone of voice.
Never forget this principle: People want three things from other people. They want to be:
- Listened to
If you treat someone who feels warmly toward you as if you don’t know or recognize them, they won’t feel valued.
If you make them feel that they’re bothering you, they won’t feel appreciated.
And if you don’t enthusiastically respond to what they’re telling you, they won’t feel listened to.
… and that adds up to a whole lot of “OW!” – rather than the incredible “WOW!” you can create by consistently acting in the same warm, welcoming way whether you’re on the phone, in person, or even communicating via e-mail.
But written communications are a topic we’ll cover in another post!