Since many senior housing communities are called first for information, our telephone mystery shopping inevitably points out weaknesses that occur from a community’s first hello. Regardless of the time of day, we hear sing-song voices projecting an overall lack of interest in handling the incoming telephone call and untrained personnel trying to provide information.
At independent and assisted living communities, both at the community’s central telephone and then after the call is transferred to the marketing department, there are many examples of a failure to connect with the customer.
Good telephone skills are not a one-time training exercise.
Telephones need to be answered projecting a caring, interested attitude. Asking untrained staff members to perform extensive discovery is an unreasonable responsibility. Asking them to handle a telephone inquiry by getting information for sales to return calls is acceptable.
We encourage staff members to talk with a smile and one of our communities has a mirror set up next to a sales person’s telephone. This helps in projecting a cheerful smile and a smile is seen over the telephone despite being invisible.
We often find the procedures of call transferring from the first person who answers the call to the community’s marketing department ineffective. Callers are lost in voice mail; calls aren’t promptly returned; and people are disconnected. Considering how much the community spent to generate the initial inquiry, this is inexcusable.
There needs to be procedures established for off-hour inquiries and telephone calls. We often hear someone answer the community’s telephone saying, “Kitchen” or “John here.” This is not quite the image a community should project when trying build confidence and credibility from family members.
We like to call those who answer telephones the “directors of first impression”. That explains how valuable they are in the marketing process. Telephone calls are integral to a community’s marketing program since the majority of customers call first before coming to a community to tour.
Mystery shopping and recording incoming telephone calls at a community are very constructive especially when used with training. We recommend that a call be transcribed for training purposes. This way someone can read exactly what they said which helps them improve their skills.
People need to view telephone mystery shopping like having their golf swing critiqued. There’s always room for improvement when you can hear yourself.