What should you say when someone calls to ask about your services?

How you and your staff can use phone lead nurturing to turn phone inquiries into paying customers.

1. Respect the Customer’s Preferred Contact Method

Our research shows that about 20% of people searching the Internet for senior services don’t want providers to call them. Instead, these customers request information using online forms (and they don’t provide their phone numbers).

We also know that 20% of Internet searchers won’t ask for information online or by e-mail — they will only call.

Take that first contact as a hint. If she calls you, you call back. If she e-mails you, respond by e-mail.

Respecting the customer’s preferred communication helps to build trust. You’re providing her the information in a way that’s most convenient to her — which makes her research and decision-making process easier and faster.

2. Be Certain Your Team Is Answering Phones Well.

We see complaints about poor phone service in consumers’ negative reviews on Caring.com. Here are a few excerpts from some one- and two-star reviews posted on our site right now:

” . . . customer service is seriously lacking. On hold for a while and then passed back and forth until I finally hung up and called another Home Care Agency.”

 

“The director could use a refresher course in training workers to act professional and have insight as to what is going on in his facility. Maybe he should make a call to the center incognito and ask for information about the services provided and see if he can get an answer. I couldn’t even get the address to the web site. “

 

 ” . . . good luck trying to reach your loved one by phone; you’ll get a recording or a fax machine to answer your call. I’ve called Karen 11 times and she’s never returned my phone calls.”

We hope this customer feedback is enough to convince you: Answering the phone well can be hugely important to the success of your business. Give your team clear guidance about how you’d like the phones answered.

You may not need to develop a formal script, but you can gather your marketing staff together to talk about what’s most important to the business. What do you want to learn about the caller? What do you want the caller to learn about your business? Ask your team members how they’re answering phones now, and what works — then encourage everyone else on the team to follow those practices.

By routinely brushing up on your team’s phone answering skills, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re making the best possible first impression on potential customers.

3. Turn Message Taking Into Sales Generation.

You’ve trained your marketing team — but what about after-hours calls, when you and your marketing team aren’t available? Even if they don’t usually work with new inquiries, everyone who answers your company’s phone should know these basics:

When transferring calls:

  • In case we get disconnected, can I have your name, phone number, and e-mail?

When taking messages:

  • What’s your name?
  • What type of service are you interested in?
  • What’s your timing — when are you looking to move in (or hire a service)?
  • What’s the best way to reach you? (Even if a customer prefers to be called, get his or her e-mail address if you can; more about that later.)
  • When’s a good time for us to call you back?

And here’s the one thing your team should avoid: Never ask the customer to call you back.

4. How Much Time Do You Have to Return Calls?

A major national chain (and Caring.com partner) conducted a study of its inbound phone inquiries. They found that if they called the customers back within 24 hours, they were 40 times more likely to connect with the customer than if they waited until the second day.

When customers are searching online, they expect to connect with you immediately. Especially if they’re picking up the phone — they want help now. If you don’t return that call quickly enough, your potential customer may forget about you.

Worse yet, if you wait too long, by the time you reach her she may have already talked to your competitors. Or, if you’re too slow, she may already be talking to a lead service that’ll charge you a huge referral bounty.

Our recommendation: Return all calls within 24 hours, minimum. Ideally, return calls within an hour or two.

5. Don’t Badger! Instead: Nurture.

This is a tough one. You want to convince the customer to work with you, but he’s not calling you back. What do you do?

Stop calling.

As you know, choosing senior care services is often a long process. Sometimes customers start their research months before they actually need services. If they’re not calling you back after two or three messages, chances are they’re not ready to talk further at this time. But that doesn’t mean they won’t choose your services down the road.

Remember how we suggested that you ask your customers for an e-mail address?  This is why.  That e-mail address gives you a chance to keep in touch with your customers in a gentle way — a “nurture campaign.”

Send messages every month or so — not too often.  Make sure every e-mail provides value for your customer. Include tips and suggestions to help with caregiving. You can invite caregivers and loved ones to have a free lunch and tour, or to help celebrate a special event in your community. If you have a special offer or discount, include that information, too.

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