Is the person who usually answers your phone pleasant? Try this. The next few times you call into your shop, pay close attention to the tone of voice and actual greeting used by the person answering. You might also want to check with some clients that you know well and ask them what they think of your telephone response system. They are likely to provide frank input as to whether the first impression left with your clients is positive or negative.
Be direct and honest
So, your assistant has routed a call to you or you're returning a voice mail message. What happens next? Well, if you aren't careful, you really can blow it. No matter how busy you might be, do not ever give the client the impression that he has interrupted you or that you are in a hurry to get off the phone. Be polite. Find out from the customer exactly what is needed in terms of equipment rental. Ask any questions that are pertinent and then give the customer the opportunity to ask you any questions. When it comes time to discuss the fee and availability of the equipment to be rented, try to under-promise and over-deliver. Following the opposite credo has tarnished the reputation of many a rental equipment business.
Follow the sundown rule
This one is simple, but might be the most important one on the list. No matter what system you use to gather phone messages, you should be committed (a little bit obsessive if need be!) to returning all telephone calls promptly. In fact, the Sundown Rule should be followed whenever possible. The Sundown Rule simply means that all telephone calls are returned the same day on which they are received. While you might not get to the ones that come in after 5:00 p.m., you should be able to return most calls on the same day they are received.
Train your employees
It's important to let your employees know (1) that good telephone manners are essential; and (2) what exactly you expect them to say on the phone. If you have a scripted greeting that you would like to see used, share it with the appropriate employees. Likewise, make sure you have a plan for handling call transfers, message taking (if you have ever been given a message with a wrong return number, you know how important this is!), voice mail messages, etc. It's also important to let employees know what they are not to say on the phone. You may not want some employees quoting rental rates or availability. So, make sure all employees are aware of what they can and cannot discuss. Along the same lines of training employees, make sure you pay close attention to an applicant's potential telephone voice in making hiring decisions.
The cellular phone as a sales tool
Unless your name is Rip Van Winkle, you undoubtedly own a cellular phone (or several) by now. But have you checked with your cellular provider lately to see about updating your service? Many of the new services out there will help you increase your revenues by making you and your employees more accessible. Some of these services include fraud protection, multiple phones on the same line, walkie-talkie capability, paging, voice mail, call forwarding, no-answer transfer, digital service and conference calling. There also are improved hardware options that make cell phones easier and safer to use. Headsets and speaker cell phones are now sold that make talking in a vehicle much safer. Other suggestions regarding cell phone usage include price shopping different providers in your area, providing your cell phone number in your voice mail message when you're out, always keeping the cell phone on when you're in the car, and making sure the cell phone service you choose covers your whole geographical service area.
Special considerations for micro-sized businesses
Of course, some equipment rental businesses are very small and employ five or fewer employees. This presents a whole different set of challenges in terms of telephone service and etiquette. Here are some key considerations regarding telephone usage for the owner of a micro-sized equipment rental business: