For most dance schools the first contact with your customers is via the phone. Make the most of it or pay the consequences. The key is to train all of your staff to answer the phone with a technique that will be uniform, pleasant and professional.

For most dance schools the first contact with your customers is via the phone. Make the most of it or pay the consequences. The key is to train all of your staff to answer the phone with a technique that will be uniform, pleasant and professional.


Despite expanded use of the internet, e-mail and electronic communication, people still love plain old telephone service. No one has yet found a substitute for one-to-one, person-to-person real time voice communication. In fact, no business can survive for very long without a phone. At some point customers will want to talk with you, not just a machine. These experiences can become defining moments in your relationships with customers. If they are well executed, excellent telephone techniques can provide great service and build rapport with your callers.


Too often, however, a phone conversation becomes a customer turnoff rather that a relationship builder. Ill-informed or poorly trained employees can cost you tremendously in lost goodwill and lost customers. And the loss does not stop with the caller who has been poorly served. Ripple effects can run deep when a business gets a reputation for poor phone call handling. We have all experienced a negative call to a business that netted bad information relayed by an ill tempered or just totally clueless individual on the other end of the line. Think of how steamed you were after wasting your precious time with such an individual.


Two blanket problems can be found at the root of poor phone service:


1.    Many people have never learned the basics of telephone etiquette, neither courtesy nor effectiveness. There is quite a difference between everyday personal use of the phone and polished phone habits appropriate for business situations. What may pass acceptable conversation at home is often totally inappropriate for business. The ensuing result of customer dissatisfaction can be the loss of caller goodwill and business image and effectiveness.


2.    Many people don’t take into account the fact that callers cannot see the person they are talking with. One serious limitation of the telephone is that, without visual component, it does not permit the nonverbal communication essential to a fruitful exchange. Without visual cues to reinforce or clarify a message, the listener on the other end of the line may be easily confused or create inaccurate impressions based on incomplete information. What they hear or do not hear conveys subtle messages through timing, tone of voice, word choice and interruption. For many people, this ambiguity makes telephone use uncomfortable and even threatening. One key to successful phone use is to simply remember that your customer cannot see you. Your challenge is to make up for all that lost nonverbal communication by using your voice effectively.


Here are 9 tips to improving phone technique:


1.    Start by giving the caller your name. Let the caller know who you are just as you would in a face-to-face situation.


2.    Get the caller’s full name. Write the names down when you ask so you don’t have to ask twice! The caller will be in a better frame of mind when you say their name a few times.


3.    Smile into the phone. Somehow people can hear a smile over the phone! Some telephone pros say this is a key to increasing sales and defusing unpleasant situations.


4.    Keep the caller informed. If you need to look something up, tell the customer what you are doing. Don’t leave them holding a dead phone with no clue as to whether you are still with them.


5.    Invite the caller to tell you exactly how you can help them. Use phrases like 'How can I assist you today?' or 'What can I do for you?'


6.    Commit to the request of the caller. Tell them specifically what you will do and when you will get back to them.


7.    Let your voice fluctuate in tone, rate and loudness. You hold people’s attention by putting a little life into your voice. Express honest reaction in expressive ways. Let your voice tones be natural and FRIENDLY!


8.    Use the hold button sparingly. People hate being put on hold—don’t you? If you must put them on hold while getting them the answer they need, break in frequently to let the caller know what is going on. If you are busy or need more time to find the answer, take their contact information and call them back promptly.


9.    Use friendly and tactful words. Never accuse the customer of anything and never convey that their request is an imposition. If you have a disgruntled customer on the line, listen, take notes and let them know that you will take prompt action.



I recommend that you ask someone you know apart from your business to call in and ask questions from time to time and report back to you. This is a great way to see how your staff is doing and you may find that they have great phrases and ways to explain your classes, programs and policies. Remember that whoever answers your phone can gain and retain clients for you and can just as easily lose them, so be sure they are trained in phone arts.