In order to stay competitive, and in some cases in order to survive, retailers need to adapt to changes in the shopping habits of consumers and continue to meet the consumers’ needs. As gas prices rise, more and more consumers are shopping from home. While changes in consumer shopping habits present obvious challenges, they also present significant opportunities for retailers who are willing to adapt to and meet the changing needs of their customers. Simply put, retailers have to be able to effectively and efficiently serve remote shoppers, and a critical component of serving remote shoppers is handling inbound phone calls.
Today, most businesses treat inbound phone calls more as an annoyance than an opportunity. The promise of e-commerce led many businesses to direct limited resources away from phone-based sales toward Internet-based sales. However, it is not web-savvy consumers that make up the bulk of new remote shoppers. The fact of the matter is that as more shopping is done from home, inbound phone calls will necessarily become an increasingly important part of a retailer’s sales prospects. Businesses that embrace the change will benefit to the detriment of those that resist. Retailers who are willing can capitalize on inbound sales calls by establishing a plan to handle the calls and convert them into sales.
To a remote shopper, the image projected by a business over the phone is the equivalent of the storefront. It is imperative that retailers project a polished and professional image over the phone. First, every business should have a strict policy for answering the phone. Each person within the business that answers incoming phone calls should follow an incoming call script that is short, cheerful, and professional. The script should identify the name of the business and is an opportunity to thank the caller for taking the time to call. For example, “Thank you for calling XYZ Corporation, how may I help you?” Basic phone etiquette is important and anyone that answers the phone should be trained to be polite, speak clearly, smile while speaking, and use appropriate grammar and language.
Second, businesses should have a method in place for keeping callers on the line during call transfers or call queues. A well crafted on hold program is crucial to every business that receives inbound phone calls. On hold programs should be a combination of short, positive messages that emphasize aspects of the business, its products or services; and cheerful, upbeat music. On hold message content may be coordinated with specific marketing campaigns by adding on hold marketing to a company’s overall marketing mix. However, program formatting is important, as a poorly crafted on hold program might project a negative company image and might actually increase the incidence of hang-ups.
And last, anyone handling inbound sales calls should be trained in basic salesmanship. The goal of a business in receiving inbound calls is to convert as many of the calls as possible into orders. By adapting to changes in consumer shopping habits; challenges such as the rising price of gas can be turned into opportunities to differentiate a business from its competitors and provide a level of service that will keep current customers as well as attract new customers from business that continue to resist the change. While the increasing price of oil presents a significant challenge to businesses and consumers alike, businesses that anticipate and adapt to changes in consumer shopping patterns can take measures to minimize negative effects, or even benefit from the change.