We are often asked by management at senior living communities why they should invest in telephone mystery shopping a sales team if sales are satisfactory.
The value of telephone mystery shop reveals much more than a sales person’s performance. It is a fly on the wall to a wealth of information.
For example at a luxury CCRC, our telephone mystery shop revealed the weakness in their front desk procedures to transfer incoming calls. Sales calls were directed to the main community’s telephone receptionist vs. the sales department.
Sometimes this receptionist was warm and welcoming but other shifts were less complimentary. When calls were transferred, they often were in what we call “voice mail heaven”. Left messages weren’t returned within the same day and took 24-48 hours to be returned, if at all.
Here are some tips:
- Telephone mystery shop a community during different shifts during the day and evening. This is critical since different shifts handle incoming calls.
- Telephone mystery shop a community on weekends and holidays. People call for information when it’s convenient for them. When regular staff may not be available, you want to learn how information is obtained and if callers are helped.
- Set up procedures for incoming telephone calls and empower a front desk receptionist to be able to ask for a name and telephone number before transferring a call. This helps the “voice mail heaven” situation. Many working people don’t want to leave a number especially on voice mail.
- If the front desk asks someone’s name, a second person answering should use the name rather than need to ask again. It is very gracious to use someone’s name. We’ve mystery shopped and found we needed to give our name to three different people.
- Calls should be returned within the hour. If this isn’t feasible, then within the day. Someone should be able to return a telephone call and let whoever know when they can expect a call back if the sales person isn’t available. There should be an alternative plan in place to handling telephone inquiries and an established hierarchy of who steps in in someone’s absence.
- Thinking that nursing personnel can provide community information is unfair to everyone. They should be trained to take messages and funnel requests to the front desk or marketing department for after-hours inquires. There should be procedures in place.
- While training can help someone on the telephone appropriately answer the telephone, it’s a gift to be able to slow down and speak distinctly. We find there are so many receptionists singing their greeting rather than speaking it that you can hardly discern the community’s name. Practice role playing answering the telephone. A recorded mystery shop allows a person to hear themselves.
- Determine if voice mail is the best alternative when a sales person isn’t available. We feel whoever is calling has questions and needs information. Perhaps a cell phone would be a better alternative.
- If a cell phone is used when a sales person is ‘in the field’, it should be answered professionally using the name of the community. It is a business telephones not a personal telephone and a simple “hello” isn’t professional.
- First impressions are lasting impressions. We call the receptionists “Directors of First Impressions.” This title helps them understand how important they are to the community.
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