Category Archives: Marketing

Your voice mail greeting is costing you business.

Angry Business Man Hears Something Annoying on His Phone

Of course, the best customer service is to have any person answer any phone ringing. But if you’ve decided that voice mail is acceptable, does your voice mail greeting sound something like this: “This is XXXX. I am either away from my desk or on the phone. . . ”  or “You have reached the office of . . .” or “You have reached the desk of . . .”  If yours sounds like any of those, then your voice mail greeting is costing you business.

Think like your customer:

  1. In a phone conversation, there are two people on the line – your customer and you. With your greeting, of the two of you on the phone, who are you saying is more important – you or your customer? If you have one of those “I am either away from the desk or on the phone” you’re saying to your customer, “I’m so important that I have to tell you where I am even when I’m not here.” Now really, do you think your customer cares what you’re doing when you can’t take his call? Really?!?
  2. Do you really want your customer to think that you believe your office or your desk are animate objects that actually answer the phone on your behalf? Your customers don’t want a relationship with your office or your desk. They want one with you.
  3. When your customer calls you, do you think he really wants to get your voice mail?

Remember, the customer is paying for his experience, not yours. Whatever you think is your reason for not answering the phone, whether you really are away from your desk or on the phone – your experience – is still perceived as an excuse by your customer for not being there – his experience.

So what should it sound like? How about something like this:

“At Your Service, this is Your Name, Your Position for Your Company. I apologize that I’m unable to take your call personally at this time. Press the one key at any time to begin recording. My email address is S-P-E-L-L-O-U-T @Your Company. If you wish, please leave your name and number and the best time to contact you, and I will return your call. Thank you for calling.”

“At Your Service” . . . It’s a reminder to your customer that you understand what your role is in the business relationship. And it will certainly differentiate you from your competition.

“I apologize . . .” What the customer is hearing is: “Since I’m not here to speak to you as you expected, I want to apologize. . .”

“ . . to take your call personally . . .”. Customer service is all about relationships. Given a choice, people would always prefer to buy from people they know, like, and trust.  And people like and trust more those people who personalize the experience for each individual customer.

“Press the one key. . . ” so that they know what to do on future calls.

“My email address . . . “ Rather than play telephone tag, many callers who can’t connect with you on the phone will send an email immediately after hanging up.

“Thank you for calling.” People also buy from people who want their business. How do you show someone you want their business? Just say “Thank you.”

There is one group who will read this and say to themselves, “Boy, that’s over the top. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s only voice mail. I’ll just stay with my greeting.” There is another group who will read this and will say to themselves and others who work in their organization that they will adopt my VM greeting example because it removes a potential customer dissatisfier. They understand that they cannot begin to truly satisfy a customer until they remove all the potential dissatisfiers. That second group makes every effort to remove any potential dissatisfiers, even what they believe may be a small one because they “think like their customer.” And if it’s a big deal to the customer,  it’s a big deal to them. And that second group, well, they’re competing with the first group for the same customer and differentiating themselves from their competitors. Which group are you in?

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Why being Number One Matters.

Several months ago, I was speaking in Portland, Maine. I flew in the evening before the event, would do the presentation in the morning and be flying back by the afternoon. So I only had one night in Portland. And if you are in Maine for only one night, there is only one thing you want for dinner. Lobster. So what would you ask the front desk agent for your only dinner in Portland, Maine? Just like you, I asked “Where is the best place for lobster?” Not “Where is the second or third best place?” Not “Give me any old place.” “Where is the best place?”

I never met that agent before and most likely will never meet her again, but I will take her recommendation over any of the ads in the local dining guide. Or I’ll use Yelp, UrbanSpoon or OpenTable and check out which restaurant has the highest ratings. Why? We trust their opinion over advertising. Word of mouth advertising, whether in person or on-line, will trump print, TV or radio ads every time.

Some may make a buying decision based on price. They want something that is the least expensive. But if price is not the driver, then people want to buy the best. If you saw a sign on a new salon that read “The cheapest hair coloring in town” would you go in? No, because you equate price with quality. But even in the case of a lobster dinner in Maine, it is not about the product. Maine lobster is great lobster but many restaurants offer it in Maine. Even in your business, your competitors, if they really wanted to, could replicate or create a similar product. So if it not about the product, then it is all about service. Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef says “If I go to a restaurant and the food is okay, but the service is great, then I’ll go back. If the food is great but the people aren’t, I won’t go back  – and I’m in the cooking profession.”

So how do you create a service experience that drives someone to give you a great testimonial or rave review? Your service simply must be the best for each customer. Remember, nobody raves about average. So if your service is not the best in the minds of your past customers, you don’t even get mentioned. Ultimately if you are not the best, if you’re not Number One, you lose. You may survive, but you won’t be building market share.


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When it comes to market share, nobody remembers Number Four.

On a sheet of paper write down all your competitors that do what you do or sell what you sell. And now rank the list objectively according to market share or perceived customer value.

I am here to tell you that if you’re not in the Top Three, you don’t even exist in the minds of your potential customers. Here’s why. Who was the first president of the United States? Of course, George Washington. Who was Number Four? Who was the first person on the moon? Neil Armstrong. But who was Number Four?

Why do we have so much difficulty in remembering who is Number Four? It’s because most of us can only remember easily up to three things. In the very beginning there were only three TV channels using only three letters: ABC, NBC, and CBS. We remember our favorite sports leagues as the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.  How many wishes do you get from a genie? When you were in school, what did they teach you if you were ever to catch on fire? Stop, Drop and Roll. If good things come in threes, what does that make Number Four?

Almost all of us will agree that the greatest form of advertising is word of mouth. So ask yourself, of all your competitors and you, where do you rank? Because if you’re not in the Top Three, when someone asks someone else about where to buy your product or service, you don’t even get mentioned. To the customer, you don’t even exist.

By the way, the answers to who is Number Four are James Madison and Alan Bean.


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Filed under Customer Service, Marketing