First impressions: The importance of responding effectively to incoming calls and emails

Image by S K from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

We all know that everyone has one opportunity to make a good first impression. But, do you know what kind of first impression your potential customer or client gets when they try to contact you?

My primary care physician had retired, and my care was shifted to another physician. I had to call to change an appointment. After hearing a standard greeting and listing of phone tree options, I was placed on hold with that mediocre “on hold” music for 20 minutes. I was busy, so I hung up and tried again later. Same scenario. And then, a third time. I went to the office website, navigated their inconvenient patient portal, and left a message. Two days later, someone from the office called to change the appointment. I relayed my displeasure. The receptionist said that the phone lines were down. I asked why they hadn’t conveyed that on their website or social media, and the response was “we don’t know how to change the incoming phone message.” It gives one a lot of confidence in their ability to manage my healthcare. I’ve gone elsewhere.

Doing it the right way

When it comes to incoming calls, get a voice mail system that’s easy to use, and customize the messaging (and the music) to distinguish your business from someone else’s. And, make sure you know how to use it. In these post-pandemic work remotely days, you may no longer have a receptionist to field calls, so make sure you respond to messages quickly, and let the caller know that you’re experiencing high volume. I’ve heard some messaging say “we’re all working remotely, so our next available person will respond as quickly as possible.” And, people do understand that.

The same goes for email “away from the keyboard” messages. Return your emails promptly (most people say the rule-of-thumb is one business day), and let your customer know that you’re away. Give the name and email of someone that they can contact if the issue they’re calling about is urgent. The same applies for messages received via social media. If you use social media, respond quickly.

Train your team to respond quickly, and to respond responsibly. Common courtesies and niceties–pleases and thank yous–prevail, and “I don’t know” is never an appropriate response. If you don’t know, you can always say “May I get back to you with a response?” (and then do get back to them).

Make every caller or responder feel important, and you gain a faithful customer. Rebuff someone, and you lose them forever. That first impression goes a long way.

Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. He also produces the TV and radio series On The Mark and Athenaeum Spotlight with Guy McLain.

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